how do you learn to play guitar just by listening to records or songs?

I hear musicians talk about how they taught themselves how to play guitar just by listening to blues or other genres. How is this done? Dont they need a teacher or tabs or something to help them? Or can you just sit with a guitar and play stuff to teach yourself?
If you teach yourself, how would you know what the chords are?

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2 Responses to “how do you learn to play guitar just by listening to records or songs?”

  1. dani-elle said:

    This is called “playing by ear”, not everyone can do it, but those that can will simply listen to a song and figure out the notes on guitar/piano/whatever. Its mostly just cutting down a song and listening to it bit by bit and trying to find the note on the guitar (in your case) that sounds most like it. I play piano this way and have learned many songs all my simply playing by ear. But remember, not everyone can do it :/

  2. Norm Jones said:

    Hello there,

    What you describe is called playing by ear. That means they hear the notes and can recognize what is being played. That takes some skill, a perfect sense of pitch and practice. I do not have perfect pitch and have some trouble doing that. But, friends that can play that way, still learned the chords. They were able to determine what chord was being played just by hearing it. Then they knew with chords to play for a chord.

    Self taught does not mean you do not have to learn the chords, scales and modes. It just means you learned those without formal lessons. However, nearly every self taught player I have known has had some guidance. Other players discussing how to play or showing them techniques. That was more common back in the 50s and 60s than it is now. Back then rock guitar teachers were not common. So, if you wanted to play rock you learned it on your own (no formal teacher). Most of us started by what friends who played showed us. We learned their good skills and their bad habits. It is the bad habits that a teacher will help you avoid (among other things). We did not have tabs back then. Don’t recall when tabs became popular. I used to sit an play stuff, just experiment with different things trying to find new (to me) things that sounded good. I learned a few basic chords from my buddies. Enough to play a few songs. Eventually, I got a chord book to learn more chords. It is one thing to hear a chord played and identify it as a G major chord. It is something else to know there those notes are on the fretboard so you can play that chord. The same goes for scales and modes. You may hear someone playing and identify that he is playing mixolydian. But you still have to know what a mixolydian scale is and where those notes for that key are on the fretboard.

    Later,




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