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Hey there,

As a private guitar tutor in Brighton, England I have thought a lot about what skills truly make a guitarist set up to achieve their potential. In my last post I was discussing the approaches a guitar tutor can take when giving guitar lessons and some of the results I have seen throughout my time of teaching.

The approaches boiled down to:

  • Learning songs on guitar
  • Learning theory and songs on guitar
  • Just theory
As a student learns the basic chords and some strumming patterns, the question ‘How do you listen to songs and just work them out on your guitar?’ seems to pop up time and time again. At first I found it hard to describe exactly how you go about this, but after a lot of thinking I have devised some ways to work out songs by ear.
Firstly I would recommend that you choose songs that are not overly complicated and that basically means that you should pick simple acoustic guitar songs. You can find many of these songs in the Free Chord Charts section of my website. Choosing a song from an Instrumental artists such as Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, when you only have the basics down, will most likely knock your confidence.
Tips to consider
  • Understand that it is not cheating if you use a capo when playing and that it is important to have a capo.
  • Listen to when you think a chord is changing in the song
  • Try to notice the chord type being used at any time, for example a major chord, minor chord, dominant 7 chord, minor 7, major 7 etc.
  • Try to hear the shape of chord being used for example; C shaped chord, A shape, G shape, E shape or D shape and each of their minor versions.
  • On the low E string play each note for a few seconds one after another, starting from the open low E string then 1st fret low E string, 2nd fret low E string, 3rd fret low E string and so on. Once a note sounds ‘right’ play it for a while to make sure it is the correct ‘root’ of the song.
  • Once you have identified the root note of the song (see eBooks for more information on how to work out the key of a song) it is time to find if you need to use a capo or not.
  • Knowing the notes on at least frets 1- 10 on the E, A and D string is essential so that you know what chord a C shaped chord actually is when you play it at different frets with your capo on.
Once I found my way to explain to a student that may have a few chords down and a couple of songs under their belt, how to work out songs just by listening, I had to create a devise that would train a guitarist to do this.
You will learn to understand chord types, Intervals, chord progressions- all the skills to master working out songs on guitar.
This tool will be available to you  mid- November 2011 completely free and I am very confident you will use it to reach your goal of working songs out by ear. Regular updates will be available to you so that you can grow with the tool and push your ear playing to new levels.
If anything I have written about during this article does not make sense or you need to get your basics learnt then please visit the home page for access to the eBooks where you can learn Beginner and Intermediate guitar.
In part 2 you will learn some more of the tips to master this invaluable skill….
Tom Clark

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