Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Taking just by ear

I have been as some call it noodling around with playing by ear , after all I have been playing long enough I should be the next Chet but alas I am what I am nothing more. I enjoy doing this or I would not be here. I play for my enjoyment almost all the time . I have entertained in the past with a small measure of success. But just thinking of a tune in my mind and being able to play the melody right away is gratifying. It is nothing special to most people but I do add enhancements along the way and it seems to sound good to me . a hammer on here a slide there and a pull off here and there . Just wondered if any one out there does the same thing? At best I am a mediocre player. The main thing is never give up keep at it you may become the next player to succeed . At 73 years I am not looking to make it big LOL. I had an instructor in the past that told me to listen to jingles on TV and radio and learn to play them by ear and it will help . Ah what a waste of post space !!

I’ve been playing guitar for 40 years now. For a very long time I was completely reliant on tab. And with the mandolin, which I’ve only been playing for a little over 4 years, I’m still reliant on it, although not completely.

These days, with the guitar especially, I am more likely to listen closely to something I want to play, figure out the key and progression, and then use my ear and rudimentary knowledge of theory to take it home. I like this approach over staring at a tab and trying to map it to my hands. I’ve been finding it harder and slower to learn a new piece using tab. Plus I don’t understand what’s really going on with a tune as well if I learned it with tab.

I’m getting there very quickly using this approach with the mandolin as well. I do use Ben’s mando tabs fairly often, because some of his licks I’d never tease out otherwise. But nearly as often I’ll closely watch the left hand of the mandolin players I’m trying to emulate, instead of my ears. I don’t know why I can hear a chord progression or a riff played on a guitar better than I can on a mandolin, but I do.

And then there’s my new Octave Mandolin. I’m going to have to completely rethink my approach. There is not much to steal from youtube with this instrument, nor much tab. So far that’s left me with noodling. It’s going to take a while I think, to get where I want to be with this instrument.

In the end, it’s all good. I’m not in it for the money or the fame, and I already have the woman I want, so I’m not in it for the Chicks either. :wink:. I do love playing with other people more than anything else. Playing for them, not nearly so much, depends on the crowd. If I were still just sitting on my couch playing to my cats I’m not sure I’d still be playing. At least not daily like I do now.

I only recently stepped into this realm of “hearing” and “listening”. Use to stare at tab, now I’ve pretty much sworn it off and only occasional look at tabbed out licks.

I guess it was 2 years ago, I had ran my scale practices up and down the neck, knew the “CAGED System”, practiced arpeggios, learned theory along the way (besides for reading sheet music). I was getting nowhere close in being “creative”. Then I started practicing scales over actual songs to get the “timing” right. At some point I began to not have to “think” about friendly notes around me, my fingers knew them… I could finally becomes “creative”.

A big part of that to me is working out simple melodies on your instrument, be it in your head, on TV or on a slow song. This really helped with me being able to use my ear and say “next note higher” (or lower) that is in my head and I can see what note it is on the guitar, can call it by name, and this is all in my head. My left hand just moves to that note with rest of hand in proper position and the right hand hits the correct string…I can’t say that my hands, ear and mind are all thinking as one. But what I can say is that I’ve really slowed down time/the actual song in my head and can think of all kinds of things between the next note or passage.

200 BPM is starting to feel like 100 beats a minute…there is time enough to bake a cake in between those quarter notes as they come back around. My ear can tune into the rest of the group playing if I think I am getting lost or don’t know where I am at. I can focus my hearing back over and immediately know where we are in the progression and get back on it and think of ideas to throw out before we get there.

There is an amazing amount of thoughts and decisions to be made in between notes. I can think about my right hand and what it’s doing, my left hand and where is it/in what position, can lay my ear on the song and each instrument and hear their parts, can think of melody, and think of me singing it, all in between quarter note beats of a moderate speed

I woodshed a lot of melodies. I’m still slow at this but am gaining ground. I aspire to have never heard a song, hear the first verse then chorus, know enough about it at that point to then play pretty close to the melody.

Keep on practicing those simple melodies, they will pay off big time if you want to “jam” and improvise.

CAGED is on my list. Of course it’s been on my list for at least 5 years now. Maybe I’ll make it my New Years resolution for 2017. It worked well this year, I got 5 lessons into learning French. :stuck_out_tongue: