Learning To Play By Ear


Interesting! May I ask which bands you’re referring to?


A lot of the early 90s death metal and black metal bands. Emperor, Dissection, Suffocation, Burzum, etc. The guitar tones are either so thick and/or layered that it sometimes causes you to miss a note. And at some of those speeds if you miss a note or add an extra one the entirety of the phrase can be technically impossible.

Should also add that a lot of unofficial tabs have unmetered tremolo picking notated as 16th notes, or even worse, sextuplets notated as 16th notes. You can’t really sit down and make an exercise out of them because some of the performances are recorded without a click and it’s more of a by feel thing. As a result its very challenging to do these covers and I suspect that’s why there are so few quality covers from these genres on YouTube, barring the more popular songs.

Another thought and argument for ear training: Because some of the old school sounds are so hard to get note for note it makes me wonder if that quality lent itself to more innovation in metal and songwriting. Bands would learn riffs from other bands and accidentally get them wrong, and then that modified riff might spawn an idea for their own band. It’s kind of like how Paul Gilbert took that one lick in the Scarified series on YouTube from Yngwie, who Paul then claims might have gotten it from someone else.

Nowadays it’s probably even worse for metal where official tabs ensure you’re always correct. Might be another reason for me to stop using tabs - being wrong might not be so bad after all.


Musicians have a rich history of trying to copy others and failing in an original way.

Someone said the secret to being original is learning to hide your source.
Or something like that


The ‘Amazing Slow Downer’ app on my iPhone has been a wonderful tool for ear training. Slow rhythm/lead down, listen to them, get them under your fingers then speed them back up. Anyone that is interested in learning by ear and hasn’t used this tool should absolutely grab it ASAP!


I understand that younglings take the easy road and go straight for tabs, the reward comes instantly. But do you guitar teachers (as the name of this forum’s category suggest) have ever succeed to convince a student to stop using tabs when learning a song by themselves ?


I tried playing by ear but my earlobes are too sensitive.

Ba-dap, pssssh!