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Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by Zell, Apr 11, 2012.
How difficult is it to learn to "play by ear"?
I've been playing guitar for 30 years. Started when I was 8. Just a (compulsive) hobby these days, but for 10 or 12 years I taught a lot of lessons, and for a few years I played professionally as a solo classical/acoustic act. You can hear me do my thing here if you're curious:
I like to say that the guitar is one of the easiest instruments with which to get started making music; I can have a student strumming Bob Dylan songs within a few hours of lessons. But it is one of the most difficult instruments to really master.
Having taught and taken a lot of lessons, I can tell you that a good teacher can save you a lot of toil and suffering. They can also inspire you. I do think it's possible to become a fine player learning to play "by ear", but it is absolutely The Hard Way. Things go much more quickly and easily with a good teacher.
Usually play by ear means too lazy to learn to read music. Why not do both? You're going to need some minor help with chord's shapes and scales anyhow, so just take the extra step and learn to sight read.
You can easily play by ear to improvise once you get going.
Guitarists and guitars are funny. 90% of the time you can get away with being a hack and nobody(except musicians) will know the difference- until you're asked to sit in with a band, then you're screwed.
Take your time, google some chord shapes and get yourself going.
Don't discount playing by ear as "the easy way out". Playing by ear is the only way to truly be musical, much like speaking is the only way to truly converse vocally. Literacy is important, though. Without your brain's musical abilities already being engaged, you're going to have to train your hearing. Learning to read the some form of notation helps. Tabs are easy to read, and unlike traditional staff notation it isn't based on completely unnatural principles.
The guitar is one of the most natural musical instruments around (aside from standard tuning's irregular interval between the second and third strings, but don't fret about that). If your fingers can take the beating, it's a good place to start. You can be making at least some music quickly.
It isn't your ear. I've got a pretty good one. It's about repeatability.
I watch great guitarists, and half-way decent guitarists, like I watch a guy who can throw nails like darts. It isn't that it's "hard," per se. It's a question of dedication. Are you dedicated enough to see a symbol on a page (or a sound in your head) and repeat it EACH AND EVERY TIME exactly where it is?
I heard someone talking once about life and said as a comparison, most people live as if they are playing piano within the stretch of both hands with the thumbs touching.
Same with guitar. MANY people can play OK (or in my case, poorly) on those 6 strings in the first 3-4 frets. I marvel at those who can just move their hand up and down that neck, knowing exactly where they are and play.
And that takes one thing - practice. You need to "know" where your hand is at all times.
Can you hack by easily? Yeah. I can play a few tunes after 9 months of about an average of 20 min/day. Will you be Roger Waters or Fred Waters.
Very hard for me but I've never had lessons either.
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceb6ahViXdE"]Charo Live at Bally's "Recuerdos De La Alhambra" - YouTube[/ame]
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc_zdOEPZDA"]Chet Atkins "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" - YouTube[/ame]
If your just doing it for fun learn some chords, and then to strum some simple songs. Go from there. I've been mostly learning by ear but I got tabs and chord structures on my favorite songs to get me started. It's fun and frustrating, but you'll notice improvement.
I think most of my favorite musicians had no idea how to read music. They just played and got their own style which made them stand out.
Different people learn in different ways. Some prefer rigor, others intuition. Some can't get dressed until they have a plan for the whole day. Others can't execute a plan to save their lives.
I learned to read music as a child. I played classical violin, but also dabbled in pop, like many other kids. Sight reading came more naturally to me than playing by ear, but the opposite was true for many of my friends.
Your preference for formal vs. street learning of spoken language probably gives a good idea.
That's about it. I'm self taught, but I was able to play rhythm and sing a whole list of Bob Dylan and similar music within a month or so of starting to teach myself.
That was 20 years ago and I'm still not that great, but I was able to form a band and play bars as the only guitarist and singer when I was in law school, maybe a year after I started learning. Depends on what music you like and what level you are happy with.
It depends a lot on your natural inborn aptitude for music.
After 6 months, I can truly say that I can hack through "Wish You Were Here" as good as a 6th grader.
But I'm 100x better than I was 3 months ago. So I figure by 60, the "we're dead, someone else reunion for us" Pink Floyd Tour will be going on and I'm gonna be famous!
If you can already read/understand music - it is not too bad (if you are musically inclined).
The biggest problem is building up the pads on your fingers and consistent practice to keep them up.
I finally gave up. I don't have the talent to be half as good as it would take to be satisfying. Last time I tried playing with regularity my left hand felt like I had arthritis. It didn't go away for weeks and i'm only 26. I finally gave up and started selling my stuff.
To me, the hardest thing is to find a good teacher. I've never found one for classical guitar.
I held my first guitar in fifth grade and was able to play "Smoke On The Water" by the end of the first day. That was almost forty years ago and I haven't progressed much even though I play almost daily. HH
Playing by ear is a skill that can be learned. Certainly, some people are predisposed to it (and as with most things we don't understand how to teach, the majority that do it are those predisposed to it), but it can be learned.
It varies a LOT. If it's your first instrument it will take longer. The piano is easier for most (all you have to do is push a key down). Electric guitars are easier to play than acoustic (easier to push the strings down).
It usually takes a few years to become good enough to entertain, unless you know an instrument already (and that includes voice as an instrument). But some people learn much quicker.
To hard to even try unless you already play another instrument...
I am interested in learning to play bass guitar. Is it easier since it has less strings?