Essential Secrets 47: Play By Ear
Play By Ear
The Importance of Playing What You Hear
Jazz, pop, and rock bassists play by ear on a regular basis. But, you may still rely on charts, tab, and video instruction to learn most songs. Playing by ear offers you many benefits, including memorizing music more quickly, matching the phrasing of other musicians, learning new genres of music, and strengthening your ensemble skills.
In your practice room, listen to a recording and try these techniques:
1. Play the bass lines you hear. Do more than focus on pitch. Pay special attention to matching the rhythms and octaves accurately.
2. Listen to the melody. Find its first note on your bass. Play as much of the melody as you can. Playing the first phrase may take several attempts; it’s normal for this process to be challenging!
3. Figure out the key of the music you’re hearing and play scales and arpeggios in that key.
4. Carefully match the tone, tempo, dynamics, and phrasing of the musician you hear on the recording—even if they’re not playing a bass guitar.
5. Pick out parts you normally would not play (like keyboard or horn lines), and see if you can play them.
You may not have time to try all of these ideas at a single practice session. That’s fine. Pick just one of these techniques and try it today. The first technique on the list is especially important when you’re listening to a song you’re learning right now.
Music is sound. It is not notes or tab printed on a piece of paper. So, try learning an entire song by ear, with no outside help. Your practice room is the perfect place to hone this skill. There is no one there to judge you, and you can work at your own pace. It’s fun and empowering to hear something and be able to play it on your bass.
Books by David Motto:
THE TEN MINUTE
FOR ELECTRIC BASS
COMPLETE 3-VOL. SET