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Ear, TAB, or sheet music?
ear
36%
 36%  [ 18 ]
TAB
12%
 12%  [ 6 ]
sheet music
2%
 2%  [ 1 ]
combination
48%
 48%  [ 24 ]
Total Votes : 49

Author Topic:  Ear, TAB, or sheet music?
David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 5:00 am     Reply with quote

Hi fellow steel players,

I have a question for you guys, When learning new tunes, do you typically learn them by ear, use a pre-existing TAB,or get the sheet music and play from staff notation?

Typically I do all three in no particularly logical way, whatever is easiest at the time.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 5:07 am     Reply with quote

David, I usually go by ear, but I’ll use a chart, too. Never tab, though. I’ve owned some tab, like the Jerry Byrd arrangements, but I never used them.

I like to get the tune in my head asap, so I can hear it in other ways and play around with it.
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Stefan Robertson


From:
London, UK
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 5:19 am     Reply with quote

I'd say they are all different but necessary skills on my journey.

Ear - most important to listen to the way the masters did it.

Sheet music - great for ideas and voice leading - I used to use a lot of guitar notation over the last few months - but it lacked the connection that steels are so famous for glissando from one chord to another.

Tab - hate it but have to use it as pedal steel is written in this form and if you ever wondered how Buddy or Jernigan did it not much other choice but to use them and then try and transcribe the Lap Steel Guitar equivalent.

So I'd say a combination of all of the above methods are necessary on my journey. Maybe not for others but that's why its my journey.
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 5:44 am     Reply with quote

From a beginners perspective, for general learning of new songs...I start out going by ear. Sometimes it helps to know if a song is more suited for a different tuning so a chart or tab can help determine that. There are some songs I'm pretty sure I never would have figured out without a tab (Sand springs to mind). Sometimes I use tabbing to document for my own memory how I worked out a song by ear...at that point it only exists to jar my memory if I forgot how I play it.

Also, door number 4: watching Youtube videos and figuring out what people are doing via observation of left hand...has come in handy a few times!
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 5:51 am     Reply with quote

Nic Neufeld wrote:

Also, door number 4: watching Youtube videos and figuring out what people are doing via observation of left hand...has come in handy a few times!


I consider that to be learning by ear - your teacher is just not sitting next to you!

Thank guys!
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 6:17 am     Reply with quote

Ear. I use tools like Transcribe to slow things down and I take section by section to learn the licks, trying to figure out what they are doing. This weekend I was working on Jerry Douglas's tune Fluxology. I made the assumption that he capoed on the second fret and had figured out the tune until I hit the next to last chord, when I realized it was impossible to play like Jerry was doing. I then realized he was not capoing at all and I had to go back and figure it all out all over again, this time without the capo. But I learned a ton in the process.
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Jack Stoner


From:
Inverness, Fl
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 7:30 am     Reply with quote

I'm mostly an ear player but I have learned some songs from Newman tab.
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James Hartman


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 7:42 am     Reply with quote

Ear. When learning a new tune I typically write out a tentative arrangement. More accurately - a compilation of sketches and performance ideas for the tune than a complete arrangement. It often incorporates choice bits from other's recorded versions. Sometimes I'll transcribe a whole recorded performance, if it's one I want to study. Writing it down, for me, expedites the learning process. Ultimately it needs to be in your head, not on the page.
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Terry VunCannon


From:
Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 9:15 am     Reply with quote

Ear...always.
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Michael James


From:
La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 11:35 am     Reply with quote

There is one option missing. I call it "By Rote". This is where a musician memorizes a song's chord progression, leads ect... and doesn't have the ability to truly play by ear and respond to music by listening in new and unfamiliar situations.
A rote musician can't quickly find a key center, hear the chords and solve simple chord patterns quickly.
We often confuse playing "By Rote" with playing "By Ear".
Ear training takes years to get really good at. Playing by rote is an exercise in memory. I have memorized hundreds of songs so I am essentially playing those songs by rote. But I have worked hard for many years to develop my ear. I do a lot of writing, transcribing and arranging. I love going to jam sessions. All I bring is my axe and my ear and I hope for the best! Smile

mj
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Robert Allen


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 11:46 am     Reply with quote

Mostly by ear but tab and sheet music are useful at times. As I get older my high frequency hearing has diminished somewhat (minus 40dB @ 8000HZ.) I rely more now on printed matter to figure out some things I easily recognized by ear in my younger days.

Last edited by Robert Allen on 4 Dec 2017 1:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bill Groner


From:
QUAKERTOWN, PA
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 12:24 pm     Reply with quote

I play totally by ear. At this point I cannot read music...have no idea what you guys are talking about with a lot of this stuff, but even though I am a novice, I really enjoy this learning process. I am very glad I found this forum. I have met a lot of helpful people in my journey thus far.
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Richard Sinkler


From:
Oakdale, California
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 4:17 pm     Reply with quote

Mostly by ear. Will use tab though.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 8:12 pm     Reply with quote

I learn new songs mostly by ear and occasionally from sheet music. I very seldom use tablature to learn songs, but I do write a lot of tab for students.
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Paul DiMaggio


From:
Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada
Post Posted 4 Dec 2017 9:17 pm     Reply with quote

By ear and sheet music in equal proportions. For some reason Tab doesn't work very well for me.
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Larry Lenhart


From:
Ponca City, Oklahoma
Post Posted 8 Dec 2017 5:43 pm     Reply with quote

Depends on the song...I find it fun to play drop the needle (I am showing my age) and learn the song lick by lick that way. I also enjoy taking sheet music to the song and working it up from that...I probably get the most pleasure from that. But I also use tab to find out how others have interpreted the same song. Many times I will use several tab versions of the same tune and combine them into one the way I like it...either because one is easier than the other or because I like the way someone harmonized it more interestingly.

So, bottom line, combination...all 3.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 9 Dec 2017 5:46 am     Reply with quote

Michael James wrote:
There is one option missing. I call it "By Rote". This is where a musician memorizes a song's chord progression, leads ect... and doesn't have the ability to truly play by ear and respond to music by listening in new and unfamiliar situations.
A rote musician can't quickly find a key center, hear the chords and solve simple chord patterns quickly.
We often confuse playing "By Rote" with playing "By Ear".


You are correct and I am sorry to have overlooked that possibility in the poll.
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Michael James


From:
La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 9 Dec 2017 8:53 am     Reply with quote

Hi David, No need for an apology. I think most of the players here on the forums have great ears. Having a good ear is a must if a person is going be proficient at steel guitar. It was probably better that you didn't include it.
mj
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James Hartman


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 9 Dec 2017 9:22 am     Reply with quote

Michael James wrote:

We often confuse playing "By Rote" with playing "By Ear".

mj


This is a distinction worth examining. I'll wager most steel players (recreational players, at least) do in fact mostly play "by rote". Which is to say they learn a tune, by whatever means, memorize it in a fixed arrangement, and play it the same way (with perhaps a modicum of varied embellishment) every time. What Michael is pointing to in contrast, and calling "by ear" is really the ability to improvise within the context of a song. That requires a whole different level of mastery of the instrument.

But the topic here was how do you learn a new tune?. And yes, most of us learn from recordings "by ear".
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Andy De Paule


From:
Saigon, Viet Nam & Eugene, Oregon
Post Posted 11 Dec 2017 5:51 pm     By ear but... Reply with quote

By ear but my ear ain't nowhere near as good as I wish it was. In our family my little brother got the perfect pitch and I was left with the little talent that remained.
Also being dyslexic, (No joke there) when I use tab I tend to drift off when a run or chord combination reminds me of something unrelated to the tune I was intending to learn. Strange as that may seem, it sometimes gets me into something nice.
Once in a while I'll learn a whole tune from tab. I can't really sight read music at all.
Sometimes I'll learn by someone showing me something cool or watching another player for some ideas.
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Steffen Gunter


From:
Munich, Germany
Post Posted 12 Dec 2017 1:42 pm     Reply with quote

By ear (on sessions), by rote, by chord sheets and by tab only when studying how the masters did it (e.g. JB's instruction course).
But by rote with some slight improvised variations is how I play my repertoire.
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Andrea Tazzini


From:
Massa, Italy
Post Posted 13 Dec 2017 10:51 am     Reply with quote

By ear and sometimes I use tabs.
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Steve Marinak


From:
Ocean Ridge, Florida, USA
Post Posted 14 Dec 2017 4:23 pm     Reply with quote

Interesting thread.
As a newbie, I have been learning songs with Tab.
At first I was memorizing the entire melody without being able to look up at the sheet.
Being new to this I did not know my positions on the fretboard very well so I concentrated on my intonation and could not look up at the Tab as I was watching my hand placement. This was deadly if I forgot my place.

As I am getting more familiar with the fretboard I am able to "sight read" the Tab without looking at my hands constantly; (I look up and down quickly). This allows me to know what chord is coming too. I hope this will lead me to playing by Rote as mentioned above.

The more I get to know the fretboard the better I am at quickly composing a melody without any Tab or sheet music (i.e. a quick Christmas song). I've been able to do this by knowing my first, fifth and seventh position and the major scale and my 3rd and sixth intervals.

I am looking forward to progressing to anywhere near the level some of you are.

What would some of you recommend to practice in order to "hear" those notes in your head and "see" them on the fretboard, in order to play a song by ear or by Rote?

Once you memorize the melody, do most of you hear the changes in your head and do you think, "here comes the I, VI, II, V", etc.

Thanks
Steve
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Tod Johnson


From:
Hawaii, USA
Post Posted 15 Dec 2017 12:39 am     Reply with quote

I prefer to learn by watching video of the song being performed.
If the tab is available to correspond with the performance that's the best.
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Tod Johnson


From:
Hawaii, USA
Post Posted 15 Dec 2017 12:40 am     Reply with quote

I prefer to learn by watching videos.
If the tab is available to correspond with the performance that's the best.
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