Different Way to Practice Ear Training, Works great for me, could help your ear training a lot

Just as a background, I’ve been Justin’s student sense about the beginner stage of my guitar playing. Went through all of the blues courses and some of the advanced courses. I did practice ear training at first but, found the transcribing to take a long and gave up with it after a while.

Fast forward years later I was learning new songs out of tab books, ( I found that faster than videos and I understand the time signatures) and creating my own songs. I would spend about 15 minutes a day trying to create a riff or lick I liked and record what I was fiddling around with using my phone. I found that I could play it again later without any major issues because I had created it myself and had already played it.

After doing this for a while and listening to Justin on the site expressing the importance of ear training I decided to give ear training a go again, but with a subtle difference this time. My plan was to not write anything down. Writing things down was time consuming, I really didn’t enjoy it, and it was one of the main reasons I gave up on ear training in the first place. Also when learning a song to perform I need to have it memorized anyway, so why bother writing it down.

Anyway for the last month and a half my guitar practice has consisted of playing songs (usually at %75 percent speed or 50% if the guitar is fast or I’m having trouble) and trying to copy what I hear for about 15 to 30 minutes a day per song I was learning. I had been spending months trying to learn complex songs from tabs before this, but despite having the technical ability (thank you Justin) I was having a very hard time with memorizing and timing.

In two weeks I had the song Aint Fit to live hear, by graveyard, completely down and It only took a month to learn Pride and Joy by Stevie Ray Vahn. I had been trying to learn pride and joy from a tab for darn near a year. I restarted learning the song by listening and playing what I heard for 30 minutes a day. It was very different from the official tab book and sounded night and day better. I also expect to have red house (Hendrix) down solid in the next couple of weeks. Essentially practicing this way took my playing from pretty good to sounding almost pro in a very short period of time and I’m learning songs at very fast rates, at least for me. I would recommend this to any one that has the basic technical skills for the type of music of the song they want to learn (Put another way: don’t try to learn Stevie Ray Vahn songs if you’re not comfortable bending strings or basic soloing, stick with something a little easier or wait until you’ve finished Justin’s blues course).

Here’s more detail on how I’m pulling it off in case anyone else thinks it would be useful to them. I practice trying to create a riff or lick for 15 minutes a day. Record it when I get something I like and then play it back copying what I hear on the recording with my guitar at the start of that 15 minute block a couple of days later or when I want to build on it. This is essentially the easy method of learning by ear because the same person creating the riff is just finding it again on the guitar.

The second part is finding a song that I want to learn and following how Justin teaches to transcribe songs except I don’t write it down. I just keep trying to match a small portion of the song until my playing sounds right and then repeat the riff or lick enough times until I think I might remember it later and then move on to the next one. I’ll just keep working on the same song in the way I described every day for about 15 to 30 minutes until it’s memorized.

One cool thing is that a lot of times I make mistakes transcribing, but sometimes my incorrect transcription sounds better to me than the original song I’m working on, so I find myself accidently adding my own style to a song I’m covering.

Anyway, I hope this helps some fellow students.


Thanks Dan. Have you done any music theory? Does it help any knowing which notes to ‘expect’ in a chord progression or are you literally going note to note?

I do know some theory, but I find when learning songs by ear I’m not using it much. If I’m making my own song I would generally have to decide on a key and look up the chord progressions in that key because I don’t have them memorized. (Except for standard blues chord progressions, which I know very well)

I am learning the songs note by note or chord by chord depending on what I’m hearing. I’ve been finding that while a large portion of a songs parts will follow a scale or chord progression I’m used to there are other times where it goes somewhere else. I try the notes that fit the scale or chords I know first, but if it doesn’t sound right, I’ll try something off the scale.

When learning Aint Fit to live here, I just found the notes on the guitar slowly day by day until it sounded right. I still don’t know what key its in, but I’ll look it up or figure it out when I start playing that song with other people.

When I’m learning songs by ear, what has really helped me so far is memorizing and learning licks on blues scale and minor pentatonic boxes, knowing basic open chords, power chords, bar chords and to a lesser degree memorizing a lot of the major and minor triad shapes.

Also Justin’s technique lessons are helping a ton. When learning pride and Joy I was hearing different string bends with and without vibrato done in different ways, so looking up the technique lessons on vibrato and string bending did wonders.