One of the cool things about the ability to download music from sources like iTunes is the instantaneous ability to learn songs you have always wanted to know. I listen to lots of radio while driving and invariably I’ll hear a song on my way home from a session. Something I haven’t heard in a long time like “Lies” by The Knickerbockers or “Love Lies Bleeding” by Elton John.

As an ear training exercise I find it invaluable to transcribe the chord changes and make myself a chart. I may play the tune for a couple of days and then file it along with hundreds of others I’ve collected over the years. My choices may come from simple curiosity over decades of hearing a tune on the radio. Or I might find find myself saying, “I’ve always wanted to know how the harmony works in that tune and what makes it so cool.”  It’s all part of my:  If you dig it you must learn it philosophy.

Going one step further, I sometimes transcribe solos using just my ear, no instrument. Many times on the road you’ll find yourself in a hotel room on a rainy afternoon with nothing but a laptop, pencil and paper.  Start with something easy like “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the MG’s and pull it up on YouTube. Then, after you determine it’s in the key of F, try writing out the organ melody by ear. At first it’s a challenge as you attempt to visualize the notes on your guitar fretboard, but after a while the intervals become more obvious and your transcribing chops improve.

When somebody asks me if I transcribed a song the guitar or a keyboard, I tell them, “on the couch!”

©2012 Carl Verheyen. All Rights Reserved.


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~ by CarlVerheyen on December 10, 2012.

5 Responses to “EAR TRAINING”

  1. It’s that way with me, exactly. Heard The Door’s Spanish Caravan the other day and rememered a classic study I was working on at the time was very similar, so I used that as some sort of reference point to get me pointed in the right direction.

  2. Great to see how simplicity and talent make you be that great guitarist who you are!

  3. So many tips and ideas to follow up and improve myself musically. Many thanks Carl.

  4. Hi, Carl. Looking forward to visiting your blog. Since you’re a respected and indeed qualified guitar player, I was wondering if you’d care to write a little post which discusses what constitutes a great guitar player. As you’ve probably seen on YouTube, whether it’s a video of Clapton or Vai or Tony RIce or Chet Atkins, there’s always a discussion going on in the comments about who’s the better player. Especially when Rolling Stone magazine every so often publishes their lists of “bests”. And very often those discussions just end up in name-calling and futile fights. I guess it all comes down to how we define “great” (technical ability, mastery of many styles, innovation, showmanship, some intangible “x” factor?), but what is it about a guitar player that makes you go “that’s a great player” or even “that’s best player I have ever heard”? Would love to hear what you think about it. Take care!

  5. The process Carl is describing is also sometimes referred to as “mental practicing”. I first learned of this from a classical pianist. Whats happening is the mind is subconciously visualizing the physical movements required to execute a piece of music perfectly before you have even practiced a note. Its been shown that this approach greatly shortens the learning curve because the brain has begun bulding the necessary neurologic pathways to play a phrase or chord whatever. This sort of thing can also be applied to other movements like swinging a golf club or baseball bat. I think I read somewhere that Michael Jordan used it for shooting hoops.

    Just one more reason why Carl is such a great player and teacher. Thanks for sharing !

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