Figuring out songs by ear LIVE!

Today I went live for quick YouTube stream and spent most of it figuring out a song by ear on the spot. This is something I want to encourage folks to try and I’m not quite sure how to teach it yet so this is kind of my sandbox.

I’m looking forward to picking a day and doing more of these learning a song by ear streams. I would love to hear what you all think regarding what I should include in the lesson, what songs to work on, etc.

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I missed your advance warning of this LIVE stream if there was any. But I did manage to accidentally stumble onto it while it was in progress. I will difinitely be watching from the beginning as this topic interests me a lot. I have listened to songs that I have always liked and wondered if I could strum along, but have never managed to figure out the key or the chord progression. This practice will be incredibly valuable if I can possibly manage to trust my ear and persist long enough to figure it out. Thanks Brad. I look forward to other examples of this and certainly more live streams.

I like doing this sort of thing. Frequently I’ll get a song in my head or hear one played and try to figure it out. First I figure out the key by trial and error, and try to find the beginning note (root, 4th, 5th?) I usually start off picking along the first string as in your Single String Picking class, sometimes the notes appear easily, other times I have to practice the root scale a bit to find the notes. Once the basic melody line is figured out, it is fun to try and play in both the higher octave along the first string and in the lower register. For instance if it is in the key of C the melody can be in the scale between the open C string and the third fret of the first string, or can be in the C scale from the third fret of the first string up to the 15th fret. Sometimes the melody bridges both octaves. Once the melody is figured out it is fun to add chords to parts to make it more interesting. I can usually get it to work but sometimes I can’t, but it is a lot of fun trying.

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Howard, thank you for sharing your method. So you start by figuring out single notes in the melody, rather than chords? I was trying to find the I chord, the IV chord and the V chord, but not having luck. I’ll attempt it with your method and see if that works any better for me. Sounds like you are having fun in any case.

Got another live stream in the hopper this Tuesday, April 16th:

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Brad, I really appreciated today’s YouTube LIVE lesson. Your tips about how to figure out the key that the song is in was super clear and handy. In the past I have tried just playing every chord that I could think of and with all the options it was obviously a disaster. So starting by finding the I Major chord and limiting it at first to the I, IV, V and finding notes that “fit” has put me on a much quicker path to a solution. Having practiced the I, IV, V chords in many keys, I can now hear the relative relationships of those three chords to each other. I will definitely be adding this challenge to my daily practice. Trying to stay off the page and work from what I know and continuing to build on that.
And if you are looking for any suggestions for future lessons on Figuring Out Songs by Ear, I personally would love to have you do a lesson on something from John Prine.
But in the meantime, I will try a few of his on my own. :_ukulele:

Wow!! I just tried your method and I can’t believe what just happened. I listened to John Prine and Emmylou Harris singing, “Magnolia Wind”. I have no sheet music or tabs, and really didn’t know this song at all.

First I tried finding notes that fit and came to the conclusion that the song was in the key of C#. A key that I have NEVER played before.
So next I tried the IV, and the V and they fit!!!
What I ended up with was this. I, IV, V = C#, F#, G#

I’d rather sleep in a (I) box
Like a bum on the (V) street
Than a fine feathered (IV) bed
Without your little ol’ cold (V) feet
And I’d rather be (I) deaf
Dumb and stone (V) blind
Than to know that your (IV) mornings
Will never be (V) mine
And I’d rather die (I) young
Than to live without (V) you
I’d rather go (IV) hungry
Than to eat lonesome (V) stew
Brad, can you confirm this? Would you give this song a listen and see if those chords and key are accurate? Am I hearing this correctly or am I just fooling myself. Then I should be able to play this in any key by substituting the I, IV, V from the key that I choose, assuming that I can sing in that key.

Looks good! There’s a little timing goober on the “Will never be mine” line. But otherwise I think you’ve got it. Good job! Glad you could apply this successfully.