Yes, You Can!
Certainly! Beginners can learn a song by ear. In fact, it’s a great way to start learning how to play music. The sooner you start training your ear, the better.
To learn this, you don’t have to wait until you’re a pro; start developing the skill. After gaining the ability, you gradually become a pro. That’s why beginners should take the risk and learn a song by ear.
By following these simple steps, you’ll be on your way to being able to play your favorite songs by ear in no time!
How to Learn a Song by Ear: Tips and Tricks
Have you ever wanted to learn a song by ear but didn’t know where to start? Here are some tips and tricks to get you started!
1. Listen to the Song
This is probably the most important step and also the most difficult. You have to be patient and listen to the song on repeat. This process takes time and patience, but it is worth it in the end.
- Learn the Melody
The melody is the most important part of the song, so it’s important to try and learn it first. Once you have the melody down, the rest of the song will fall into place.
Play the song on repeat and try to learn the melody. Hum the melody or sing it out loud. Don’t be in a hurry, take your time with this step. Establishing yourself with the song’s melody is a major part of the whole process.
- Sing Along with the Lyrics
If you’re not a singer, you may feel that it’s unnecessary. However, if you do, it will assist you a great deal. This will help you learn the melody faster.
This step is helpful because it allows you to learn the melody and the lyrics at the same time. Once you have both of these down, you’re one step closer to playing the song by ear.
Start with the chorus or the hook of the song. These parts are usually easier to learn and will help you get a feel for how the melody goes. Once you’ve memorized these parts, move on to the verses.
- Listen for Repeating Phrases
Many times, melodies will repeat themselves in different parts of the song. If you listen carefully, you’ll start to hear these phrases repeated over and over again.
Chances are, the song you’re trying to learn by ear follows a common chord progression. By listening for these patterns, you can figure out what chords are being used in the song.
- Determine the Song Sections
This is a helpful tip for when you get stuck. Breaking the song down into smaller chunks will help you learn it better and faster. Start with small sections of the song and then put them all together once you’ve mastered each part.
As you listen, you’ll also start to notice that the song has different song sections. For example, there might be a verse, chorus, and bridge. Determining these sections will help you learn the melody faster as well.
The best way to learn a song by ear is by taking it one section at a time. Once you have mastered a section, move on to the next one. It might be helpful to write out the lyrics and repeated sections as you’re learning it. This will give you a visual representation of how the song goes.
2. Listen Closely to the Drums and Bass
If you’re having trouble with the melody, try focusing on the drums and bass. These parts are usually easier to hear and can give you a better idea of the song’s overall feel.
As you listen to the drums and bass, pay attention to the rhythms they’re creating. This will help you understand how the melody fits into the song.
- Use Rhythmic Patterns to Help You Out
This is a great way to learn a song if you’re having trouble with the pitch.
To do this, start by tapping out the beat of the song on your leg or table. Once you have the rhythm down, start humming along with it.
Oftentimes, songs will follow a certain rhythmic pattern. Once you learn the basic rhythm of the song, it’ll be easier to learn the melody.
- Determine the Beat’s Tempo
Once you have a sense for the melody and rhythm of the song, determine the beat’s tempo. This will help you learn how to play or sing along with the song.
A great way to find the tempo is by using a metronome. This will help you keep a consistent beat as you learn the song.
If you don’t have a metronome, you can also use your phone or a drum machine. There are many apps that will allow you to set the tempo of a song.
- Take Note of the First Beat of the Bass Drum
The first beat of the bass drum is usually the strongest and most important beat in a song. If you can learn to play or sing along with that, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the song.
This is especially true for songs with a lot of instruments. By taking note of the first beat, you’ll be able to follow along with the song better.
This is also a great way to find the tempo of a song. Simply count how many times the bass drum hits in one minute. This will give you the tempo of the song.
3. Finding the Key
Once you have the melody of a song in your head, the next step is to find the key of the song. The key of a song is what gives it its flavor and tells you what notes to use.
- Start with the Bass Line
The bass line is usually the easiest part of a song to learn by ear because it’s relatively simple and anchors the melody. If you can find the bass line, it’ll be easier to find the key of the song.
To do this, start by playing or singing along with the bass line. As you do, pay attention to which notes sound good together. These are the notes that make up the key of the song.
- Find the First Chord and Last Chord
The first chord of a song is especially significant since it is generally the song’s key. Once you find the first chord, it will be easier to figure out the rest of the chords in the song. The last chord is generally the same as the first.
- Determine the Mood of the Song
Once you know the key, you can start to get a feel for the mood of the song. Is it happy or sad? Upbeat or mellow? It’s also crucial to know the note quality in order to determine if the key is major or minor.
Happy = Major, Sad = Minor
If the song is in a major key, it will sound happy. If it’s in a minor key, it will sound sad.
- Check it Again by Playing the Scale
This time, start on the note that you think is the key center. Play the scale of that note while listening to the song in the background to verify the key.
If the song sounds good with the scale, then you’re in the right key. If it doesn’t sound quite right, try another key until you find one that works.
4. Check the Key’s Family Chords
After you have found the key of a song, start using common chords to fill in the gaps. These chords are called the key’s family chords. The chords in a song’s key family usually sound good together.
For example, if you’re playing in the key of C major, these chords will work well: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am. For a complete list of family chords, see our previous articles on major and minor family chords.
This will help you eliminate a lot of guessing work and you’ll learn how to play a song by ear much faster.
5. Try Some Chord Progressions
Now that you know the key and the family chords, it’s time to start piecing together the melody. One of the best ways to learn a song by ear is to find some simple chord progressions.
Try picking out some simple chord progressions and get a feel for how the chords sound together. Most songs follow a simple chord progression, so once you learn a few basic progressions, you’ll be able to play most songs by ear.
6. Play Along with the Song
Once you have a basic understanding of the chord progression, try playing along with the song. Listen to the melody and try to match it on your instrument. You may need to listen to the song a few times before you can get all the notes perfectly, but that’s okay!
This is probably the most important step in learning songs by ear. By playing along with the original recording, you’ll be able to learn the melody and chords at the same time.
As you play along, pay attention to how the melody and chords interact with each other. This will give you a good idea of how the song should sound.
If you’re having trouble playing along with the recording, try slowing it down or transposing it to a different key. This will make it easier to learn the melody and chords.
Listening + Music Theory + Experience
The more you listen, the better you’ll get at picking out melodies by ear. As you learn more music theory, you’ll be able to figure out songs even faster. And as you gain more experience, you’ll develop your own unique way of learning songs.
So there you have it! A few tips for learning songs by ear as a beginner. The more you practice, the easier it will become to learn songs by ear. Soon you’ll be able to play any song without ever having seen the sheet music.
So, what are you waiting for? Give it a try and see how easy it can be to learn a song by ear!