How long does it take you transcribe the average song? Are you better at transcribing tunes by your favorite bands? What if you transcribed every Dimebag solo, but somebody offers you 2500 bucks to recreate the parts a George Jones tune... could you pull it off with conviction?
There are two skills to master in ear training. Relative Pitch and Perfect Pitch. Just because you are good at one, does not mean you can do both.
Relative Pitch is being able to hear the distance between two notes, without actually knowing name of either note. For example. If you memorize the sound of the first two chords of the verse riff from Iron Man (2nd fret, 5th fret / B to D), you are listening to a minor 3rd. The next time you hear two notes that can be played 3 frets apart on the same string (3 half steps apart), you can relate that interval back to that riff. Using relative pitch, you will need to search on your instrument to figure out what the first pitch is and play the next one 3 frets higher.
Perfect Pitch is being able to recognize the notes, by just hearing it. With perfect pitch, you will be able to recognize the root of the first power chord in the verse riff of Iron Man as a B and the root of the next chord as a D, but you will need to some more in depth studies in theory to understand that the distance between the two notes is a minor third. Just because you can recognize the note, does not necessarily mean that you have mastered the concept of intervals (Relative Pitch).
Here are the first five intervals. They can be identified using any string:
Root minor 2nd Major 2nd minor 3rd Major 3rd Any String Tab ----1--------2-----------3----------4------------- ---5
Example: Distance between pitches of 1st fret and second fret is a minor second. Distance between pitches of 1st fret and third fret is a major second. Distance between pitches of 1st fret and fourth fret is a minor third, etc…
The order of intervals is as follows: Root (unison), minor second, Major second, minor third, Major third, Perfect fourth, diminished fifth, Perfect fifth, minor sixth, Major sixth, minor seventh, Major seventh, Octave.
The Suzuki Method begins with ear playing and eventually moves to reading notation when the abilities of the individual student permits. It can be started as soon as toddlerhood. Just like learning a new language, we can more effectively learn to recognize rhythms, intervals, and chords at a very young age. Unfortunately, not everyone is the fortunate child of a music professor. Being the only musician in my family, I encountered several unexpected challenges on my way to a music scholarship, but these are some tips that helped my ear training in the beginning.
1. If you are learning from a tape (audio or video), tune to the tape player. Find a song that you know with an open string that you already know the note and tune to that. Many people tune to One by Metallica (open D string).
2. If you are learning from digital format (CD or iPOD), use an electric tuner.
3. Check your tuning at least once every 15 minutes.
4. Write down what you learn, or preferably use a program like PowerTab or Guitar Pro.
5. Slow the audio down. You can do this by ripping a song to your hard drive as an mp3 or wma. In your Windows Media Player, click on VIEW --> ENHANCEMENTS --> PLAY SPEED SETTINGS.
6. Use an electronic piano/keyboard to find notes. It has more accurate tuning than a stringed instrument and you can find lower notes, if the guitarist tunes down.
7. Sing with scales on your guitar daily (if you know any), other wise play riffs and melodies that you know on your guitar extremely slow and sing with them. This will help you to recognize intervals.
8. Unless Blues is the only style you want to play, don't play I IV V (ex. A D E) Blues riffs too much. You will deceive your own ear and turn every song into a blues song.
9. If the guitar is buried in the mix and you are having trouble hearing it, figure out the vocal melody. It can give you great clues to chord changes.
10. After you finish... return at least 2 hours later to check your work.. Your ear gets tired and your mind will tell you anything just to get away from all of the confusion and stress of ear playing.