Guitar Lesson 12 – Playing Guitar By Ear

Hello, World! It’s another day and it’s another interesting topic to discuss about. Today I would like to call this as discussion not really a lesson. I would like to tell you about such an essential thing in music that is all above the course we’ve gone thru this far. This is time for talking about playing guitar by ear.

By ear is a part of everything you play. I mean that doing this practice; it rules out popular questions that guitarists may have, such as:

  • How to play this song?
  • In what key is this song?
  • How to learn it?


  • How to play by the ear that song or something my own?

Don’t worry, once I also had that question. There’re a lot ways to learn that and develop your hearing. In some time these questions will disappear and will definitely say:

“Aha, I know how to play that music at all!”

Of course this is up to you to dedicate 10 maybe 20 years of guitar practice to be able play everything by ear. Personally, I’m not doing that. I’m doing much less to the ear training, but I don’t forget about it. Let me guide you today thru simple steps and help you how to play guitar by ear much easier.

Types of ear pitch

From my teachers I know two ways of humans’ pitch in music World. These are:

  • Absolute pitch or perfect pitch;
  • Relative pitch;

Absolute pitch – is very rare gift by Mother Nature or God (if you like) and it’s given to maybe one person from 100.000 or even more. This pitch allows naming any note, from any fret, from low note to highest one. Play any note or chord progression and person with that kind of hearing can name everything you’ve played.

“How do you do that? How do you know that this is … note or … chord?” Yes, it’s rare gift, but people with absolute pitch often live in their own World and they don’t listen to others what they say. They even manage to give no answer to your question. They don’t hear you! I’m not talking about everyone, but about those persons with perfect pitch that I’ve met personally or talked about with other musicians. They use to be “hard” people. It’s very taught to communicate with them.

If you can name all notes correctly, listening to the music by other guitarist, then maybe you have that pitch.

Relative pitch – is the opposite one. It has everyone from us. Most people are born with this type of hearing. It also allows naming all played notes anywhere on the guitar fretboard, but it requires doing a lot ear training. It can’t be achieved in a month or in 6. It happens slowly, but it trains your guitar pitch effectively. Doing that for about 5 – 10 minutes everytime you practice will help you to develop your hearing and in some time to play incredible things on just by ear.

  • “What’s that chord in this song?” Your answer – “it’s the D one!”
  • “How do you know?”
  • “I don’t know, it’s just the D chord and that’s it!”

It’s called relative pitch. When you work on your guitar ear training, then you will be able to “find ones bearing” in the music and play right notes easily.

Exercises for guitar ear training

Here are some examples guides that I use in my guitar ear training program. These are good for relative and prefect pitch also:

Singing and playing the guitar – it’s very good example as a whole. It’s one of the best. It really helps working on strumming, singing and ear train. Do that once a week and it will help.

Sing along guitar intervals in warm up – guitar warm up is perfect way to prepare yourself physically, mentally and develop hearing. Play guitar intervals on G, D, A and E strings. Take, for example, G major scale as basis and play its intervals on 4 string positions. Sing along with them. Try to be in tone with the notes. Do that for about 10 minutes. It’s the best way to play and sing along notes, because it trains your ear.

Sing with chords in warm up – another great way to warm up and work on your relative pitch is to play whole key and sing with chords. Play C major key, and sing with chords. It will help you strengthen guitar key and your hearing.

Do a test – best way to do that is to use your mate. Let somebody play any beginner chords and you must guess them. For example, your task basis are C, Dm, Em, F, G, A, Bdim chords (C major key). You must not see what your partner is playing. He plays, for example, 4 various chords. Let him play all chords few times. After he has played one chord, write down it in your notes. After that compare results. If can guess 2 chords of 4 then it’s 50-50. It’s not so bad, and it can be better. If you can guess all 4 chords, then go to more challenging test. Let your partner play C7, Dm7 chords and so on. I’m doing this test myself and it really helps in my relative pitch training.

Let’s collect everything in the main point:

So, playing guitar by ear is such an essential thing in the music. It not only allows playing and creating music but it helps to tune the guitar, name notes, chords in songs, stay in tune and find best licks in your playing.

It’s such a big topic that can be discussed for hours, but you’ve got the main point. I hope that these types of exercises will be taken into account. Use them few times a week and your ear will develop very quickly.

If you do these things in right order, then very soon, you’ll be able to know how to play guitar by ear and tell it to your friends. Wish you luck!

There’s left one more topic in our guitar basics course that will be covered next time. It’s called rhythm guitar practice.

Guitar Lesson 12 – Playing Guitar By Ear
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