02-05-2013 11:47 AM - edited 02-05-2013 11:52 AM
I learn guitar primarily by ear, with the occasional bit of tab or a video to help me out.
Recently though, perhaps as a result of having less time available to play guitar, I've become conscious of just how long it takes me to decipher and learn parts. It has occurred to me that perhaps my approach is too 'slavish', in the sense that I'm not happy to proceed to the next bar until I've sussed out every nuance to the best of my (limited) abilities – not that the result necessarily comes out perfectly when I play it back – but I try!
Those of you who learn by ear, what's your approach? Does the end result have to be as near as dammit verbatim to the recording or are you happy to use a bit of 'artistic license' by making the thing ultimately recognisable, but with your own embellishments, touch, whatever else you want to call it?
To put some numbers on this, it has taken me the best part of 4 x 1hr sessions just to 'get' the intro to Hendrix's "Little Wing"... , and I still haven't gotten to playing it consistently smoothly, which seems a bit poor for someone who has played guitar for a quarter of a century! No doubt I'd have it down a little quicker if I weren't so out-of-practise (stopped gigging about five years ago).
So yeah, no right or wrong answer here, but interested to read about how you approach things, and your opinions
P.S. WTF is with these new emoticons?!
02-05-2013 11:56 AM
Oh shucks, I've just realised that Hendrix's Strat was tuned to Eb when he recorded that song!!!
Nah, just messing – looking forward to reading your replies (assuming any)
02-05-2013 11:56 AM - edited 02-05-2013 11:57 AM
Well, it's a matter of choice really. I find if I learn it myself, I never forget it and it becomes part of my arsenal. However, I have been using youtube lessons for licks that I'm having trouble figuring out and they are great tools, far better than tab as far as I'm concerned. Just be thankful that you can figure things out by ear, many can't.
PS My comfortably numb solo isn't quite right but I can live with it.
02-05-2013 12:01 PM - edited 02-05-2013 12:07 PM
One-armed Alec wrote:
...are you happy to use a bit of 'artistic license' by making the thing ultimately recognisable, but with your own embellishments, touch, whatever else you want to call it?
That's closer to my usual approach - I go for as accurate as possible within reason. Don't get me wrong, I do try to learn things correctly and accurately, but time is a factor so sometimes I just have to be okay with "close enough." It depends on the artist and genre, too. Some genres, like blues, I don't want to do everything note-for-note (although it's good to learn what was actually played on a given recording). That's not the spirit of it. I may want to do some signature phrases note-for-note, but doing an entire solo or something just would't be right. If it's a song I'm learning to do as a solo-acoustic piece, I'm not going to be too worried about learning every single guitar part note-for-note because that's not what I'm going to ever play. I'd be a good excercise, certainly, just not the best use of mylimited practice time.
I've also noticed that a lot of times I *think* I have it right, until the next day when I listen again I realize I was just not hearing it right and have to go re-learn it the "real" right way. Definitely a skill I need to keep working at.
02-05-2013 12:11 PM
billybilly, I find the same – by-tab stuff rarely sinks in, while by-ear stuff tends to stick... almost as if I don't really know how most parts sounded in the first place until I've learnt them by ear. Incidentally, the first half of my CN solo is 'reasonably accurate' and the second half is 90% improvised
BydoEmpire – totally agree with your point about the blues. In fact, I don't think I've ever learned a whole blues solo note-for-note. "Steal licks, invent licks and improvise" is my approach (and improvisation is the ultimate expression IMHO).
Some parts, I reckon, just have to be spot-on though... e.g. "Sultans of Swing" or the catalogue of Shadows instrumentals that I murder on a semi-regular basis...
02-05-2013 01:26 PM
I have absolute pitch and I can sight read music, and for classical, score is the only way to go, but for pop music? I can say that the majority of scores and tabs I've seen for much of the music I've looked at aren't that great. That said, it's best to not rely on your ears only. Even if it's fantastically accurate, your ear has a way of hearing things that it wants to hear rather than what it actually hears. I think it's best, if possible, to look at how the person is playing the piece, through a live recording or something, and then to use your ears to fill in the gaps and maybe read a tab or two.
02-05-2013 02:00 PM
I was a clarinet player in high school, and I've never really been able to shake that mindset. There were nine of us and we had to sound the exact same way every time. So yeah, I like tabs.
Another issue is that I look on YouTube at players who are much better than me, yet they sound nothing like the recording. It's fun for me to sound like my heros, and if tab gets me there I'm going to use it.
But the real reason is my technology addiction. If I put any kind of gadget near my playing space I spend more time with it than with the guitar. If I find myself spending time futzing with a cd player or MP3s it's just not fun for me, it becomes some kind of sad OCD session.
02-05-2013 02:01 PM
02-05-2013 03:04 PM - edited 02-05-2013 03:05 PM
jtr654: Yes, it does seem like a long time, but only a small fraction of it was spent working out which chords the various licks/phrases are based around. Getting the 'exact' nuances of timing, picking out exactly the right strings, accentuation, etc. are the parts that take me a lot of time to get right.
02-05-2013 04:40 PM
I mostly butcher tunes. I also spent a good 1/2 day trying to nail the little wing intro. There's a great video lesson on youtube. once I get through the intro its all improvised.
For me it depends on the tune. Take the solo from Little Wing. There's a few notes that you have to play. The rest of the tune doesn't matter though. Something like the Crazy Train solo I do note for note or close to it.
If its a simple tune I will take a lot of liberties
02-05-2013 04:50 PM
There is more to it than just the notes so I find it better to learn by ear as much as possible. To get those hard to find notes and fill in the blanks I like to refer to sheet music, tab or watch someone else play the part.
It is important to listen to the parts and not just read them in order to get all the nuance.
Music is sound and, ultimately, we all end up playing by ear.
02-06-2013 11:05 AM - edited 02-06-2013 11:06 AM
If its a simple tune I will take a lot of liberties
Fair enough. Actually I'm not sure of my personal criteria for whether to take liberties or to stick rigidly to the recording. For example, "Wipeout" is a simple tune, but I'd feel as if I was cheating if I didn't play it note-for-note...
Sometimes it's fun just putting your own slant onto things – e.g. I like to play Steve Hackett's "Spectral Mornings" note-for-note, but I (would like to think that I) put a bit more blues into the bends and a bit more 'swing' into the timing (it's a great track, but he plays lead very dryly on the record, IMHO).
02-06-2013 01:01 PM
I'm not a gigging musician but I have been playing a long time so, take this for what it's worth.
A lot depends on the complexity of what I want to learn. Without trying to sound to boasty, if it's not super complicated (average blues, rock, funk, r&b, country, rockabilly, etc.) I can learn stuff pretty quickly. It's when you get into say, trying to cop Wes exactly that it would take me a long time. That or I'd be totally at sea and just give up. LOL!
As for exact or taking license, I do both as it strikes my fancy.
02-06-2013 01:05 PM
I like to approach it like a jazz player. Play the bits that are part of the song and improvise the parts that are improvised.
For straight covers, if I feel that I can't do a better solo than the one that is on the record then I will try to cop the recording.
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