Re-Active Listening ™ Lesson on JustinGuitar

This was a super excercise, showed me, that I’m able to recognize the different tones quite reliably. Surprised by that. I like the attempt of feeling and hearing music, not to set theoretical principles on top.

Definitely found this difficult (3/6 on the exercises at the end, so not much better than random). Something I hit on that helped me was to play the notes in pairs, so ‘open string - first fret’, then ‘first fret - open’. Not sure how to explain it but sometimes the second in the pair sounds like ‘coming home’ to the chord, while the other way it sounds like ‘stepping away for a second’.

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I really enjoyed this lesson, and the whole module as we have been starting to break down the chords a bit and thinking about why they sound good. I started the ear training and music theory courses on the site too, and I think they definitely have helped me in lessons like this one. Thanks for putting out so much great content!

This reminded me of my jazz band lessons in high school. When I was a beginner, learning to improvise on the piano and vibraphone, I learned which notes were the “landing” notes (R, 3rd, 5th, or sometimes 7th), and which notes were the “in the air” notes. I learned to jump from each “landing” note to an “in the air” note. When you’re in the air you’re going a lot faster than when you’re on the ground. Kind of a weird way of thinking about it, but hopefully it helps someone.

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What a wonderful lesson. So interactive. I really felt like I was in room with Justin. I was responding and punching the air when I got one right, hoping to please the teacher (lol). I totally got lost in this and I am now starting to understand something that was once so unattainable/ mysterious. (I am 1 full year in to this and I have enjoyed every minute).
What a fantastic learning moment.
If this is what the lessons are going to be like going forward I will never leave. Forget worrying about the end goals, the journey itself is so enjoyable.

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I’m really sucking hard at this. It feels like listening to a foreign language and the teacher telling me to “just listen carefully and you will get it”

Oh well, nothing good comes easy, so back to it.

Also. I wouldn’t mind if this section had a short example on how this is applied when improvising.

Really enjoyed this lesson. What a great interactive ear workout! Had trouble with the final two exercises in Am. Thanks Justin!

Amazing lesson! This is the first time I got confirmation that I am making progress on my ears :smiley:

I have no idea why, but I did really well on this, got them all right and even on the last one I was trying to decide between open and third fret, and it turned out to be both

I love love love this type of exercise - it’s also so crazy to realise how different the same note sounds when accompanied by a different chord, totally different colour and feeling.

As an extra little challenge I also tried to figure out what was the chord being played.

I’ve just revisited this lesson and my response to this (again) is the same as yours, in that nothing really sounds bad. I can play a chord and a note after and they all sound OK to me.

Do you notice a difference if the note is in the correct scale or not?

The honest answer is I don’t know as no idea where scales fit into this as the questions/answers are about chords/notes.

Hi Stuart.
This lesson is about developing your ear. Like everything else guitar it takes time and practice.
You’re maybe not able to identify the chord tones by ear yet but if you keep doing a bit of practice with it you’ll eventually get there.

Play any chord, strum it slowly a few times so you can hear the individual notes. Really focus your listening on the notes.
Now play any note, open or in the first three frets. Alternate between the chord and the note, listening intently.

Can you hear your chosen note in the chord? Yes or No ?

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OK. Done that.

Depends on the note picked I guess, but my question is why does it matter. All notes sound good to my ears!

@Stuartw Hi Stuart.

I was wondering whether you would be having a go at this. Good to hear that you are!
Yes,exactly. It depends on the note you’re playing and the chord that you are playing it over.
When you say all notes sound good, do you mean notes that are in the chord or just any note.
Notes that are in the chord will all sound good because they blend well with the chord. The root note will sound the best one.
Notes that aren’t in the chord will vary as to how much or little they blend with the chord. Some will sound okay, some will sound okay…ish and some will sound terrible - they will really clash with the chord. Can you hear the ones that really clash?... If you can hear some notes that sound good and some that clash, then there’s nothing wrong with your musical ear. It just needs developing.

It matters because when you are improvising you can play any note you like over any chord as long as it fits your melody phrase but it will sound far better if the last note of your phrase, the landing note, is a note that is in the chord. It’s a chord tone and is in harmony with the chord.

Any notes.


As I said they all sound good.

Perhaps you can give me an example, using a C chord of what notes you feel sound good and what notes don’t.


Try Eb with that C major. It will sound off because its the minor 3rd.
Then try E which is the 3rd and one of the chord tones. It will fit like a glove. :sunglasses:

When I’m playing the C chord, the notes on the first string that sound good are the open E and G on the 3rd fret. They blend well with the chord. F and F# don’t sound good. They clash with the chord or sound off.
The only note on the second string that sounds good is C on 2nd fret. It’s the best sounding of them all - the root note. The D on 3rd fret sounds okay ish. It doesn’t blend with the chord but it doesn’t clash either. Open B, C# on 2nd fret and Toby’s Eb on 4th fret all clash and sound off.

If you look at these notes more closely -
C E G sound good and are chord tones.
B C# Eb F F# all clash and are 1 semitone above or below a chord tone.
D doesn’t blend and doesn’t clash. It’s exactly halfway between two chord tones.

Try this-
Use the strumming machine on the website. Set it to play a C chord on Beats 1 and 3 at its slowest tempo.
Listen to the chord and then start playing the notes on the first two strings. Play them slowly, let them ring and listen to how they sound over the chord.
Hopefully, with time and practice, you’ll be able to hear the blending and clashing.


Well I can kind of hear what you mean by that but to my (plastic) ears (that don’t have a full frequency range) the Eb/D# note doesn’t sound that bad.