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> Transcribing Tips, Tips on learning songs and solos by ear on the guitar
The Professor
post Jul 1 2013, 02:38 PM
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Learning Licks by Ear



One of the roadblocks that many guitarists face when they are learning any theoretical concept is that we learn it off the guitar, but then have a hard time applying that knowledge to the fretboard. Because of this, one of the best ways to see theory and theoretical concepts in action, is to transcribe licks, riffs, chords and solos from your favorite players in order to see how they tackle certain chords, modes, arpeggios and other theoretical ideas in a musical context.

While we may know that transcribing licks, chords and solos from recordings is an important part of the guitar learning process, it can sometimes seem like a daunting task to hear these idea on a record, figure them out on the guitar, then analyze them to see what the soloist was thinking when they laid down any particular riff or run.

Over the years I’ve developed a number of short-cuts, and helpful tips, that I’ve found work great when you are hitting the wall with any transcription or analyzing a transcription that you’ve recently worked out. Here are some of my favorite ways to practice, analyze and internalize any solo or riff that I have taken from a recording by ear.


Sing Along First - Try singing any lick or solo you are working on along with the recording before trying to get it on the guitar. Sometimes you might struggle with finding the notes on the neck right away, but if you can sing them then you can slow things down and find one note at a time on the guitar from your voice. Then go back to the record and check your accuracy from there.


Write It Out - One thing I always do is write out any lick or solo I am working on as I go. This helps in two ways. The first is that I won’t forget what I learned the day before, and won’t need to go back and redo anything I’ve forgotten since I have it on the page. Secondly, writing out solos can help you visualize the shapes on the neck and memorize each line as putting things to paper is a great visualization exercise for any concept on the guitar.


Learn the Chords - If you want to figure out what a soloist was thinking, then you’ll need to know what chords they were soloing over so you can analyze the riffs and licks. If you transcribed a line that used the C major scale you might think the soloist was thinking C Major at that point. But, if you knew that the chord sunder that riff were Em to F, then the soloist would have been treating those notes as E Phyrgian instead. So it’s always good to know what chords are underneath any lick or solo you are learning by ear.


There are 3 ways that I like to work on transcribing with my students, and that I’ve used myself over the years, to make learning any lick or solo by ear beneficial and fun in the practice room.


What do you think of these transcribing tips? Do you have any tips of your own for learning music by ear from records? Share your thoughts and/or questions below.

This post has been edited by The Professor: Jul 1 2013, 02:39 PM


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dark dude
post Jul 1 2013, 03:20 PM
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Solid post on an important topic - thanks, Prof!

Using software such as the Amazing Slowdowner to (suprise!) slow everything down can be invaluable when transcribing faster licks.


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The Professor
post Jul 1 2013, 04:28 PM
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Thanks man, glad you dug the lesson. Slowing things down can be great for fast licks. Just have to make sure we don't become too dependent on it for slower stuff just because it's there. Otherwise it's a great use of technology for learning licks!


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Mertay
post Jul 1 2013, 07:23 PM
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Nice post smile.gif

Back in the day I had to use cassette's (I'm that old tongue.gif ) and hated waiting for rewinding.

The focus I adapted in the process (to finish things faster) later on was like having super powers biggrin.gif

This works amazing for eartraining smile.gif


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The Professor
post Jul 1 2013, 07:36 PM
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That's a great way to work your ears! I did that at Uni, but with a record. Transcribed a whole album by moving the needle back each time. I hated it at first, but it was a huge help to my ears after I got through it!


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dark dude
post Jul 2 2013, 02:03 PM
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QUOTE (The Professor @ Jul 1 2013, 06:36 PM) *
That's a great way to work your ears! I did that at Uni, but with a record. Transcribed a whole album by moving the needle back each time. I hated it at first, but it was a huge help to my ears after I got through it!

With a record? Wow, haha. That sure does sound painful!


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The Professor
post Jul 2 2013, 03:01 PM
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Yeah, it was painful, but I actually got used to it and enjoyed the process. But the first few days were a pain that's for sure!


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