Your guitar ear training starts as soon as you start to play guitar. You don’t realize it when you first start playing guitar but your brain is remembering these pitches you play.
As time goes by you learn to recognize chord sounds and progressions simply by repetition. The blues progression is most likely the first one you will recognize when you hear a song using it on the radio or TV.
This progression also shows up in Country and Rock songs too but played with a different rhythm.
Staying in Tune
When you started playing guitar you were learning by ear without paying attention to your tuning.
To play guitar by ear you must train your ears right. You must play in tune all the time. If you don’t your brain will be remembering several different pitches for the same note. Your brain doesn’t know the right pitch from the wrong one it only knows what you teach it.
Stay tuned to concert pitch. This is the standard around the world. It’s usually the A note at 440 hertz.
Here’s a link for more info on tuning and tune up.
About Guitar Tuning
Here is a link where you can tune up and check out the different tuners available.
Tune Up and Guitar Tuners
I use a metronome that has an A note in it for tuning so if your thinking of getting a tuner check out the metronomes, some have tuners in them.
This is a good way to go because you get two tools in one and you should use a metronome. They aren’t just for beginners they can be used to work anything up to speed accurately.
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There are some people born with the gift of perfect pitch. These people can recognize a pitch. They must learn what the pitch is called by studying music and know what the note names are but even not knowing what the notes are called they know the difference.
As for the rest of us we must learn to recognize these pitches through practice.
Jimi Hendrix and Frank Sinatra both had this gift along with a lot of others. That would have been a Duo huh?
Relative pitch is what most of us learn although the terms absolute and perfect are also incorrectly used to explain this hearing expertise.
It’s called relative because we need a pitch to start from to determine what the distance from the first pitch is. Ever see a teacher use a pitch pipe to give a choir the first note of the song?
Learning to recognize individual notes is harder than learning to recognize the difference between two notes because you have a starting and ending point.
You will be able to recognize a I to IV chord change but not know what pitch the chords are unless you have the individual notes aurally memorized.
Music intervals is how we recognize the difference in pitch.
Here is a page explaining the music intervals in detail.
Learning to Recognize Notes
Learning to recognize individual notes takes a lot of practice and you must make sure you are in tune to concert pitch or you will never learn.
People with Perfect pitch can recognize different notes because to these people the notes each have a certain different audible texture to them.
The octave doesn’t matter. All the C notes have this characteristic to them to the people with Perfect pitch.
As you practice learning the individual notes it’s a good idea to give them a second name or characteristic.
It can be a taste or a color like orange or a mood like mad or sad or a fruit/ vegetable name.
Get the idea? Business people use a similar technique to remember clients names by associating something about them with their name as a reminder.
To make it even easier you can use the same letter as the note but you will need some doubles for sharps and flats.
You need 12 of these, one for each note.
Fruit-Vegetable-Herb Note List
Guitar Ear Training
Here is one I made up. With foods you will also think of a smell and a taste to help you remember better. The food starts with the note letter.
C = Cherry
D = Dates
D♯/E♭ = Dill
E = Eggplant
F = Figs
F♯G♭ = Fennel
G = Grapefruit
G♯/A♭ = Grapes
A = Apple
A♯/B♭ = Apricot
B = Banana
Dill and Fennel are spices. I couldn’t find 2 fruits or vegetables that began with D and F.
Dill is used for dill pickle spice and Fennel is a spice used in Italian sausage.
When you play a C note think of Cherry or whatever you made your list from. Then do the same with the rest of the notes.
Guitar Ear Training-Testing Yourself
To test yourself you need another person or some software because someone or a program has to play a note and you have to say what it is.
Before computers having another person was the only way to find out if you were learning these pitches. Now a computer program can test you for single notes, intervals, chords, scales and more, plus you don’t have to beg them.
Guitar and Bass Ear Training Software
I use a program that is good for all of these. It will give you years of intensive ear training. Ear training is not an overnight skill it takes a long time but 10-15 minutes a day will do it. You will notice yourself picking things up from songs on the radio just by listening.
This program also works for bass guitar. Check it out for yourself.
Song Learning Software
There are three software programs that I have used and they all work good. They have different looks but they basically do the same thing and are all priced close to each other
They slow down the music but keep the pitch the same. It makes it easier to learn riffs, leads, chords and lyrics you can’t understand.