Jazz Guitar
Learn how to play jazz guitar with our eBook bundle
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 11 of 11
  1. #1

    Learning Melodies

    How do you go about this? Do you pick it up by ear or have another strategy? Learning by ear seems like a good strategy overall but it takes me forever with a simple song. I won't stop working on this for my ear but what other ways are there to approach this?


  2. #2
    Ear is always my preference. Even though it takes longer, it lets me feel the piece as a whole. YouTube is great for me. I'll listen to lots of versions over and over until I know how it goes, what the changes are.
    Having a good ear is really helpful in this way; to be able to say "Oh, the bridge goes up a minor third." Vocal versions seem to help a lot for some reason, and the words give a different feeling to the tune. Words or not, singing a melody helps. I have a lousy voice so if I can, so can anyone.
    Then after I have the melody hummable, I'll learn the chords and the melody-separately but at the same time, as a two part exercise.
    Even though you're asking about the melody, I find the underlying chords really inform the note choice of the melody. It's like the first line of Oh What A Beautiful Morning has an unusually characteristic note line, but with the chord beneath it, I hear it better.
    There are dramatic parts, a peak in the form, repeated lines, a contour to the piece, so I learn it in sections. This way, I can see to myself "Here comes that long run up to high C" and the piece comes alive.
    Before I went to music school, I never knew solfege, but when I was young, I learned to think of notes as numbers on a scale. So learning a piece that way, both as numbers on a key axis, and then as chord tones on individual chords helped me a lot.

    Those are a few thoughts, and of course that's just me and you'll find your own way to do it. I hope this might help and good luck finding your way around!


  3. #3
    Depends on what you're talking about. Can you basically sing the melodies but have more trouble getting them out of the INSTRUMENT, ....or is it the hearing itself? For most it's the "getting it out of the instrument" part, but they're 2 very different things

  4. #4
    It's getting it out of the instrument. I know that finding it on the guitar is good for ear training and don't want to shortcut that but wondered if there were other strategies as well.

  5. #5
    One idea is to create a graded curriculum for yourself of figuring out melodies easy to gradually more difficult.
    Working on more challenging material is possible but will require time and patience at first.

    Another approach: Pre-existing written music.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by bako View Post

    Another approach: Pre-existing written music.
    Interesting! I almost included in my post that I stay away from using written music until the last steps. I find notation splits my concentration, often not to the benefit of my ear.
    Yes the heirarchy of pieces both by harmonic structure and melodic complexity is an excellent point.
    There's also the difference I see in interpreting a piece by linear melody and by harmonic weight and then by phrase and then by form, all of which determines a different strategy of shifts and position changes for me.
    There was a video I saw where the poster played a standard in one position. I thought, how very different from seeing the piece shifting by phrase.

    I'm about to start a practice with some students to learn tunes. Tune choice and order are essential. Blue Bossa at one end, maybe something like Kurt Weil's Leibeslied at the other. Position shifts and ear training are part of the process for sure.

    That's a really big question vashondan. Great problem with lots of answers.


  7. #7
    Music is a sonic art form and notation at best a nuanced symbolic representation.
    We are in full agreement as to the best learning path to learning melodies but when
    time and patience become a factor, why not use all available resources.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by vashondan View Post
    It's getting it out of the instrument. I know that finding it on the guitar is good for ear training and don't want to shortcut that but wondered if there were other strategies as well.
    Yeah. The reason I asked is that that is it's own very specific issue, and isn't solved necessarily by ear training away from the instrument etc. Learning more of the fretboard - in various ways - teaches your ears to "see" pitches on the fretboard and teaches your fingers to "hear" where notes are or might be etc. It's mostly both at the same time.

    Any work you do helps. Apart from randomly learning melodies, additionally practice some scale sequences, arpeggios, and interval patterns. They teach your ears/fingers where things are. Like you say, you already "know" the melody in your head. It's kind of like learning to type or something. You already know words. You need some work on actual sentences (like tunes), but in the beginning, it's more helpful to work smaller, simpler patterns like "asa sas ada dad" etc. That might be analogous to working on scales in thirds, fourths etc. or even just working on much simpler tunes (like children's songs or parts of them). Don't spend all of your time on exercises, but they're helpful in moderation.

    I always saw a lot of recommendations to learn to play a simple tune in "every position". That kind frustrated me personally. I'd say mix in learning several simple tunes in one position as well, so that you begin to see the patterns and get a sense of place. You don't have to do everything at once necessarily. Then add an additional pattern etc.

    Just some random thoughts. Learn the fretboard, and your ears already know the music...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Hatfield, PA. Have also lived in Riverdale, NY, Brooklyn, NY, The Hague, Netherlandd
    By ear, from hearing it played or sung. Then I sing it to myself---a lot, to internalize it. Then I write my own lead sheet, staying very close to the original changes, with rare exception. (An arrangement is not a lead sheet to me). The lead sheet is the final point of the ear-tactile-visual nexus.

    Anyway, that's how I do it...
    Charlie Christian got me in a world of trouble


  10. #10
    Well thank you all! Matt, I can see how there are number of ways that this muscle is developed. Thats great. I'll be working on it.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    Ear is always my preference. Even though it takes longer, it lets me feel the piece as a whole.
    I believe you actually learn a melody faster if your ears is developed to its maximum. I know some people that play stuff back in real time. I think you memorize faster that way too than looking at a piece of paper.
    "If I don't practice for a day, I know it... for two days, the critics know it... three days, the public knows it." -- Louis Armstrong

Join our Facebook Page

Get in Touch

Jazz Guitar eBooks
How To Get a Jazz Guitar Tone?
Privacy Policy



Follow us on:

Jazz Guitar Online on FacebookJazz Guitar Online on TwitterJazz Guitar Online on YoutubeJazz Guitar Online RSS Feed