Many guitar players spend a lifetime working on
technique and practicing scales. While this is a
neccessary part of practicing, it too often becomes
the focus of the guitar player's regimen.
Our ears on the other hand become the weak link in
out growth as musicians. Since music is a hearing art
form, isn't it ironic that it is neglected so much?
There are many different ways to approach developing
the ear. Listening to many types of music is the
obvious one. Transcribing solos is a great way too.
There is however, a very simple exercise that can
start you on your way to connecting your hands to your
ears. I started doing this as a kid, not being aware that
I was actually learning to play what I hear. I would
listen to commercials on the T.V. and try to play them
back. Even parts from a T.V. show like "Star Trek."
Here's how you start...
Place your 3rd finger (fretted hand) on say the "D"
string at the 8th fret. Now, without moving up or
down the fretboard (but across the neck) play the
melody to "Happy Birthday." Remember to stay in
position and to use finger streches to grab any melody
notes that are not found within the position you are
playing.--- "Not as easy as you thought. Huh?"
Now, play the same melody but this time start with
your 4th finger (fretted hand) on the "G" string at the
11th fret. As you can see, all the relationships have
changed. That is the whole point of this excercise.
Try it again with the 1st and 2nd fingers (fretted
hand) as your starting note (on all strings). Once
you've "nailed" a particular melodic phrase, move on
to another melody of your choice. Remember to play
across the fretboard(not up and down it).
In time you will subconciously start hearing
relationships more accurately and it will begin to
creep into your playing.
The long term benefits of execising your ear far
outweigh the short term gratification of playing some
scale or lick real fast. When you can play what is in
your head, nothing can stop you! Good luck....
Doug Jackson has played with Ambrosia, Marie Osmond, Iron Butterfly, Al Stewart, Dave Mason, Gary Wright, John Ford Coley, Roberto Carlos and also does studio work in Los Angeles.
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