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Developing your aural skills is one of the most important things when it comes to guitar playing. If not the most important thing.
It’s something I still work on after all these years of playing. Each time I invest time into ear training it pays off big time.
The ability to identify chords, chord progressions, notes and melodies by ear or creating melodies from the mind and translating it to the fretboard is the greatest asset and resource a guitar player can have.
And to take it even one step further, combining good aural skills and knowledge of music theory will make you invincible. It’s the ultimate combination and makes you a complete musician.
But today we focus solely on the quality of listening. There are many ways to improve your aural skills, but here is a list of the most essential ones:
1 Transcribe songs.
Figure out chords, chord progressions and solos by ear. Work out the pitches and rhythms of a song. Use software like Transcribe to slowdown, loop and change the pitch of the song to make transcribing easier. You can use Anytune to transcribe songs on your Ipad.
2 Sing scales.
– First play a scale on the guitar and then try to sing it.
– Sing and play your scales simultaneously.
– Play a random root note and sing the scale, then play the scale to hear if your pitches were correct.
3 Sing and recognize intervals
Sing thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths and sevenths. Play the first note of the scale and sing it’s interval, play the second note of the scale and sing it’s intervals and so on.
You can also record yourself playing an interval, then pause a few seconds and say the name of the interval. Record 30 minutes of different intervals this way. Then listen back and try to identify the intervals one by one.
4 Play and recognize chords
As with the previous exercise you can do the same with chords. Record yourself playing different chords, major, minor, sus2, sus4, major 6th, minor 6th, minor 7th, major 7th, diminished, open chords, barres, power chords, etc. Pause after each chord and then say the name of the chord. Listen back and and try to identify the chords.
5 Play and recognize chord progressions.
Start with a I IV V progression and play the chords in random order. For example: I IV V IV or I V IV I or I IV I V. Come up with as many different progressions as possible using the I IV V. Same thing here, record a chord progression, pause and name the order of the chord progression. Listen back and try to identify the order of the chords. What is played first the I, IV or V? What is played second, third and fourth? If you nail this take it a step further and try it with a I IV V VI progression.
6 Sing and play melodies
Take three or four notes from a scale. From those notes create a melody in your head, sing it out loud and then try to play it on your guitar. Once you get the hang of it add a note to your melody. Try to imagine a melody with five notes and play it on the guitar. Gradually add a note to your melody once you get the pitches right and you feel comfortable to do so.
7 Sight singing
Learn to read and sing notes on the staff or create melodies and write them down on paper without instrument. Here’s a website that learns sight singing thepracticeroom.net.
8 Ear training software
Ear training software can be a great tool to improve your aural skills. There are a lot of ear training software programs and websites available today. Check out Earmaster Pro 6 or free online programs like www.earbeater.com and www.trainer.thetamusic.com
Keep developing your aural skills, reap the benefits and become a real musician!
”Listening is the key to everything good in music.” – Pat Metheny
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