Lately I’ve been doing an exercise in ear training while playing guitar and it’s really improved my listening and lead guitar playing ability. I’ve been listening to songs that I’m familiar with while playing the vocal melodies on the guitar.
Start with something easy. “Get up stand up” by Bob Marley or the chorus of Louie Louie by The Kingsmen could be a good place to start…or pick a song that you have stuck in your head already and can sing the melody to. If you’re a beginner or intermediate guitar player, practice finding a few notes and pausing the track to find them and play slowly. Don’t worry if you hit the wrong notes; that’ll happen A LOT in the beginning and improve over time. Keep trying and find fun songs that you want to practice with.
This kind of practice is kind of like telling a story to remember an important lesson or skill (e.g. in knot tying, sometimes they teach you a story about a snake chasing a frog around a hole). You’ll get to know your guitar and how the notes line up really quickly with this kind of practice. If you’re more advanced and into soloing, you’ll be able to start echoing some of the melody lines and mix in some licks of your own.
I’ve found that this kind of practice really helps you make the guitar speak. I really think the vocalization of your instrument, whether it’s a guitar, banjo, piano, or saxophone is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of playing beautifully and soulfully. You can play a series of notes like da-da-da-da-da (boring) or ba-doo-waa-bop-ba-doo (jazzy!). You’ll begin to understand how doing hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, or bends can sound like certain vocalizations of melodies and how to emulate the awesome sounds that you hear on your favorite records.
Do you practice this or do anything similar? Share in the comments!