Learn To Play the Acoustic or Electric Guitar by Ear – an Intro

Jan 2, 2011 Steve Farmer

Photo: Guitar – Petr KratochvilPlaying a guitar by ear is not as hard as you might think. after learning to tune a guitar, a few chords, and finger placement, you’ll be on your way.

If you are interested in learning to play the acoustic or electric guitar keep reading. This article explains the basics of guitar and playing guitar by ear, which can be done by just about anyone with even the slightest musical talent. All you need is a guitar and a little free time on your hands to get started.

Acoustic or Electric Guitar – It’s up to you

When you decide that you want to learn the guitar, it’s your choice whether you play electric or acoustic. Both guitars play the same except the electric guitar connects into an electric amplifier and an acoustic guitar uses the body or “box” of the guitar to generate the sound.

Most beginners start playing on an acoustic guitar because acoustic guitars can be played anywhere, and without the need for an external amplifier. Both guitars are tuned exactly the same and the same chords are used on the two guitars. Before deciding on which guitar you want to begin with, take a trip to your local music store and try them both out. someone there should be able to assist you in making the decision.

You purchased Your Guitar

Now that you have purchased your guitar (acoustic or electric), you are ready to begin learning its basic components.

The body of the guitar is the larger part of the guitar where the strings are plucked. On an electric guitar, the pick-ups will be found here; on an acoustic guitar the sound-hole can be found – which naturally amplifies the sound of the strings.

The neck of the guitar contains the fret board. The frets allow the strings to be “stopped”, by pressing down between them with the finger – allowing different sounds to be generated from each string. The neck connects directly to the body of the guitar, and at the end of the neck you will find the head stock.

The head of the guitar is where the strings are most commonly tuned, and where the maker of the guitar normally places their company name or logo.

The guitar has other components, but we’re not going to cover those in this guide. Let’s stick to the basics of getting started playing a guitar by ear.

Tuning the Guitar Strings

Tuning the guitar by ear is a task some people find hard to do. Before tuning, let’s cover string placement. Guitar strings (the 6 string guitar) are installed with the smallest string on the bottom (this is the #1 string). They are most often identified on the packets in which they are purchased and are installed with the smallest string on the bottom and the largest string on top.

When tuning the guitar, it is easiest to use one of the affordable digital tuners. it will allow perfect tuning every time. But if you don’t have a tuner, you can tune the guitar by ear. Start by making sure all of the strings are fairly tight. at this point they don’t need to be tuned; just fairly tight.

Press down on the top string (the #6 string) at the fifth fret. Pluck this string and the #5 string simultaneously (with the #5 string open), and tune the #5 string up or down until it sounds exactly the same as the #6 string. Perform this for the #6, #5, and #4 strings. once the #3 string has been tuned to the #4 string, press down on the #3 string on the fourth fret – and tune the #2 string to this sound. once you accomplish this, press the #2 string on the fifth fret and tune the #1 string to this tune. Repeat this entire procedure again to accomplish proper tuning.

If you have issues with this tuning procedure, you can always resort to a digital tuner. But, before you decide to use the digital tuner, make several attempts to tune your guitar by ear. The strings, when plucked open, are #6 (E), #5 (A), #4 (D), #3 (G), #2 (B), #1 (E).

A Few Simple Guitar Chords

No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to play the guitar in a single day. it takes time to learn the guitar – even when playing by ear. Your finger tips will hurt when you begin to play but calluses will eventually develop and soon you will barely feel the strings when you chord them. When you get to this point, keep playing.

Look around on the Internet and download a standard guitar chord chart. The chords should be a through G – the standard chords. for now, just concentrate on three chords: G, C, and D. many songs are played with these three chords; they are probably the most common. once you have learned these three chords, begin to work in the E chord.

Using the Guitar Chords

Once you have memorized those three chords, practice strumming and picking through the chords while changing in-between them. This will take some practice but don’t give up. keep plucking away at it and within a few weeks you will have mastered those chords.

Guitar chords are most commonly strummed or picked.

Picking chords is done by using a guitar pick to “pick” each individual string or the fingers can be used to pluck more than one string at a time. This method is common in classical guitar.

Strumming the guitar strings is done by simply running a pick or your finger down the entire set of strings – up and down – contacting each string according to the chord you are using. Picking and strumming can be used simultaneously in certain songs or styles of playing.

Playing the Guitar by Ear

For anyone who can actually “hear” music, they can probably play a guitar by ear. When I type “hear” music, I’m talking about hear and mentally process all of the components of a song. If you can hear a song, you can distinguish the vocals, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, lead guitar, drums, keyboards, or any other instrument playing while the instruments all blend together. You can also determine when the chords will change and when a beat of drum needs changing. It’s really hard to explain, but anyone that can do this will understand what I’m trying to type.

When you decide to learn a guitar by ear, attempt a simple song – specifically a song you are really familiar with. to make your first song easy, you can download and print the song’s guitar tablature, which will show you which chords are used in the song. Some songs that sound really easy to play can be very difficult, so do a little research on the song before attempting to learn it.

If you find that one of your favorite songs contains the three chords mentioned above (D, C, and G), you will be ready to start playing. Listen to the song and play around with the chords at the same time with your guitar. Listen to the song for the changes of the 6-string guitar and bass guitar – they will tell you how to tune your guitar to the song (if you can hear them).

When the bass and 6-string guitars are changing in a song, you must try to match those changes. Start with the #6 (E) string. Place your finger on the third fret when the song should be in a G. If it sounds different, you are likely not in tune with the song. Adjust the tuning of the guitar until this string (on the third fret) matches the sound of the song when they are in G.

From this point, re-tune your guitar and try the song again. most likely, you will not achieve good results the first time – but keep trying. You will get it but it’s going to take some time. I’ve been playing for 21 years and sometimes still have issues learning new songs – by ear.

A few Tips on Playing the Guitar

If you are having issues tuning and playing your guitar, resort to some on-line videos. The Internet is full of instructional videos that are really detailed in giving instructions on playing the guitar as well as many popular songs.

Practice, practice, practice! You will never learn to play the guitar if you don’t practice everyday. Spend at least one hour each day to practice your guitar.

And finally, take care of your guitar. If you properly maintain a quality guitar, it will provide you a lifetime of enjoyment.

Extra References:

  • Photo: Guitar – Petr Kratochvil

Learn To Play the Acoustic or Electric Guitar by Ear – an Intro

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