Playing Bass Guitar By Ear

I started playing music from a very young age. It so happened that I grew up where steel-pan music was heard, or if you took a little stroll from my house you would more than likely walk into the steel-pan band room or steel-band shed as they called it.

What I remembered is that I used to take our galvanized garbage pan cover, held it between my legs as if it was a steel-pan, and played with one piece of stick, knocking on that garbage can cover, and what I heard coming out from it at that time was some interesting melodies, I felt some kind of connection to music then even though I couldn’t interpret the experience. I don’t think that others could have heard what I was hearing, but what I heard sounded so good, it made me aware of something greater than myself was happening within me. Looking back now makes me to believe that it was my inspiration, and a fore-taste of what I would be doing in life.

At times the band members would call me into the band room to play a song with them, they thought that I did have a good ear for music, and catch the music very fast, and I loved it. I also remembered playing with a friend who played the acoustic guitar, and I another acoustic guitar, but with only four strings. I think I was in training then, and didn’t know it.

Even in elementary school I had the privilege to play in the school’s steel-pan orchestra.

My ear got better at that time. All this time I lived In Trinidad. Then we moved to live in Tobago which is the sister island of Trinidad. There my cousin and uncle lead me to a combo, a band that had just started, and my uncle and cousin told the band captain that I was interested in playing bass, which I never remembered telling them, however, the captain was willing to give me a try-out.

There were other bass-guitar players in that band at the time, although we were all learning, but with a bass that had all the notes written and stuck to the fret board, as if they knew I was coming, I then made it my duty to take advantage of this opportunity. Well, that interested me a lot.

What did happened next was an experience I would never forget. After classes at school, I would rush to the band room to practice by myself so to learn about that bass-guitar, and after about three weeks or so I took off the paper that had the notes name stuck to the fret-board. I think my desire and dedication made me to become the more used bass player of that band, more used than the other two bass players.

When I actually started to play; my initiation, or rather to learn songs with the band, the leader of the band who was the organist, would ask me to hang the bass around my neck, and while they played the songs would call out the notes which I would see stuck to the fret-board, and I would play them, and even though I didn’t have the correct fingering as all bass players should, (this must be corrected when starting to practice playing the bass by ear: you can find help on some social media sites), I was able to see, hear, and play the notes.

I got better with time and experience, and with the opportunities to gig with other bands that I think liked my style of playing. Being in the island of Tobago, musicians would come from Trinidad, who would have heard of my playing, and would ask me to play with them, which I did. I learned quite a lot from them. All this time, playing with those groups, had never read a note from a music sheet, or bass-guitar tab; I really knew nothing about such at that time. I played many styles of music only by listening, and transferred what I heard to the bass.

I remember a popular night club where I was a member of the resident band. There were situations when I had to play songs I only heard for about a minute or so, and then had to accompany the singers having to play the entire songs only a very few minutes after. As a matter of fact, they only came to us so to give us a sample of what we should expect. I loved that experience also, I think it helped to train my hearing.

The bottom line is, playing music by ear has its challenges, but it’s not impossible to be a good bass player that plays by ear. My only advice is, even though you might like playing by ear, still learn how to read notes from music sheets and bass-guitar tabs, it will help with knowing note values, learn scales, arpeggios, etc… Listen and try to play all types of music so that you might be an all round player; not just restricted to one style of music.

I just thought that I should encourage the beginners who would like to play bass-guitar by ear.

Have Fun!

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Why Generic Guitar Teaching Methods Suck

Why Generic Guitar Teaching Methods Suck And How To Turn Your Guitar Students Into Awesome Musicians Fast

A lot of guitar teachers use generic guitar method books or courses to teach their students. Unless you teach exclusively beginner students, you will come across the following problems using this kind of approach in your guitar teaching:

1. You will not be able to help your students make fast progress in their guitar playing. The majority of popular guitar teaching approaches were made only to teach musical topics, NOT to help your guitar students achieve specific goals. (Almost no great guitarists became great using these kinds of books.)

2. Your students become very unmotivated once they see that what you are teaching them is no in line with their personal guitar playing goals.

3. When the problems from points 1 and 2 apply, you will not be able to keep guitar students from quitting.

4. You will have a difficult time getting new guitar students because you are not offering anything that is unique from any other guitar teacher in your area. This means new students really have no reason to choose you over anyone else.

All of this leads to massive struggles when it comes to making a good living teaching guitar.

The following is what successful guitar teachers do to instruct hundreds of students (avoiding all of the problems mentioned above in the process):

Step 1: Use a different mindset. Rather than trying to cram information down your students’ throats, focus instead on getting them to achieve the goals you set out for them. This will bring far better results. Remember, you aren’t simply trying to “teach guitar”… it is your job to figure out and solve guitar playing problems, then get rid of any frustrations your students are facing. This is what you must do to truly transform your student’s musical lives.

Step 2: Quickly identify the issues that prevent your students from reaching a specific goal. Once you’ve done this, design a customized strategy that will help that student achieve his goal.

Step 3: Design quality guitar lessons that help students reach their musical goals effectively. These kinds of materials can easily be re-packaged for more students in ways that are congruent with their musical goals (I discuss more on this below).

Step 4: Give classes that focus on helping students improve very specific skills that make up part of a bigger musical goal. Have your guitar students join the correct classes that line up best with the things they want to accomplish in their playing.

Common question: “Doesn’t all this give me a ton of work to do?” “Do I need to use extra time creating custom lessons for every single student on my schedule?”

Answer: No and No. Don’t make the mistake of confusing guitar teaching materials and strategy. You can use the same materials with any student (since many skills that students must learn are similar), but the STRATEGY (the order and combination of materials used) has to be completely unique for each individual.

Whenever you hold group classes, you will have various students to teach who need to learn and master the same skills. You can teach in these scenarios very easily even if your students are all at different skill levels. I know this is true, because I’ve helped hundreds of guitar teachers learn how to do this.

By having your students join multiple classes, they will simultaneously reach their goals while you teach less overall hours. Using this approach, you will end up teaching FAR LESS hours than any ordinary guitar teacher who only uses the one on one teaching model.

When you apply these guitar teaching strategies, your business will grow and expand in these ways:

1. You will keep your guitar students for longer periods of time since none of the common problems that cause students to quit lessons will exist.

2. Since your new teaching system helps your students reach their goals, they will become better players faster.

3. You will gain an excellent reputation as the best local guitar teacher because all your students are quickly becoming awesome guitar players.

4. Your new reputation as a guitar teacher will help you grow your student base.

5. You will make tons of money teaching guitar and have hundreds of students, because you deliver the best results.

By Tom Hess

The Jazz Guitar Chords

As a guitar teacher with decades of experience, I know how overwhelming it can be to make the switch to jazz guitar from acoustic. If you can understand the basic chords for Jazz guitar, the sky really is the limit for your mastery over this complex instrument.

Let’s get right into it and outline what a jazz guitar chord is and which ones you need to know about to become a pro on this musical instrument.

What is a Jazz Chord?

First, let’s explain that there is no such thing as a definitive jazz guitar chord. There are specific types of chords that jazz musicians and composers tend to use in their work. Most rock and pop music requires only three-note triads, on the other hand.

So, instead of just playing C, A, Bm, Dm with a m7 chord or two added to the mix, you’ll be doing extensions beyond those triads with four, six, and five-note chord shapes. Playing those same chords as Dm9, A7b12 etc., is the result of these triads. In other words, there aren’t any jazz chords that are specifically for jazz, but you would be using these as a guideline.

You may be new to these chords, but given enough time you’ll slowly begin to gain confidence using them. You’ll also start to pick out these extended chords as you play them over the course of your work with this instrument.

Chords You Need to Know

No matter what, you should know the following chords before you begin your work with jazz guitar:

• Major 7

• Minor 7

• Minor 9

• Dominant 9

• Min7b5

• Dom7#5

• Diminished 7

These basic chords will help you gain a better foundation before you explore the more complex chords in jazz music.

Practicing Beginner Chords

Before you move on to practicing more complex chords, perfect your beginner chords. First, ensure that each note of the chord is clean and easily heard once strummed. Don’t be afraid to take things slowly at first to get comfortable with the new shape of your fingers on the fretboard.

Next, experiment with moving the chord up and down the fret board. This enables you to get a feel of how you’ll play later on, and helps you gain knowledge you previously didn’t have. You can also switch back and forth from different chords. Increase you speed slowly as you change chords. After you’ve done all this, bring together your new skills with a jazz standard that resonates with you.


Jazz guitar chords aren’t completely different from standard guitar chords, but they do require a different set of skills. When you practice your basic chords, you’ll begin to stretch your musical interests and eventually be competent in a new form of musical instrument. Embrace these chords and start practicing today. The sooner you begin to practice, the sooner you’ll master the jazz guitar.