The biggest debate among music enthusiasts usually doesn’t rage over what genre or artist is the best, but rather whether it is better to learn music by ear or by learning music theory. Of course, many of the best musicians will be skilled to the point that they are fully competent when it comes to music theory, but are also equally capable of listening to something and replicating it immediately.
Learning by ear tends to be associated with more simple types of music. Although many people might learn guitar or other instruments by ear, doing so will often be accompanied by reading tablature, or some other literature that directs them along the way.
If you’re planning to learn music by ear, then it is worthwhile getting to know your instrument or the style prior to doing so. Even if you have a loose idea of notes, tone, and chords, it will help you to pick up what other people are doing quickly and easily.
From here, all you are left to do is to begin listening to the music you want to learn and replicate, before trying to put it together yourself. However, it isn’t as simple as just putting in your earphones and getting on with it. That covers the basics of what you need to do, but, as with learning music theory, breaking down music and training your ear will make things much easier.
You might have heard someone be described as being ‘tone deaf’. You might have even been called this yourself! However, musical ability isn’t something you’re born with and either have it or not; you can train yourself to de-construct music and identify notes and sounds, all of which will help you when it comes to learning by ear.
Chords and rhythm will be the big things you need to be able to pick up, which in turn will help you to train your tonal memory and become competent at learning music by ear.
While most people want to clearly define the differences between music theory and learning by ear, there are a number of music software platforms designed for theorists that are also excellent for learning by ear. EarMaster is a good example of such a service, although others are available.
Learning music by ear can be challenging, but it is possible, even if you have in the past found yourself a little ‘tone deaf.’ Start by knowing the basics of your instrument, and how music is constructed, and you’ll find you quickly start to pick it up a lot easier. Most people who want to learn by ear would prefer to leave music theory alone, but it can actually be a great help in getting you started.
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