Ear Training Practice For Guitar Players

Ear Training Practice For Guitar Players

In this lesson, we are going to learn ear training practice for guitar players.  These practice methods will help you to improve your ear to hear notes on your guitar.  Recognize melody lines and chord voicings.  You will develop one of the best skills to have as a guitar player because your ears are always with you and you won’t have to depend on reading sheet music.

What is ear training?

ear training

Ear training is where you develop your ear to hear different pitches of musical notes.  No matter if you are a beginner or have been playing a while, ear training should be something to work on when you practice.  As this can be an integral part of your learning.


What ear training does more than anything, is it helps you to recognize intervals.  An interval is a distance between two notes.  And it is this distance of two or more notes that make up everything in the musical spectrum.  Guitar chords and scales.  The better you can train your ear to hear the note intervals, the better you’ll be able to pick out songs.

Study music theory

study music theory

When you study music theory, you start to build an understanding of how the notes work together to create the music that we hear and love to listen to.  Not only that, but you also develop a better appreciation of music in general.  This is because you have developed insight, a “behind-the-scenes” sort of look into how it all works and it gives you that “ah-hah” light bulb above your head moment.


When you become familiar with the basics of how the musical notes work to create scales and chords by studying and applying them daily, your ear starts to become more familiar to hearing the notes individually as well as collectively.  This can be a huge benefit to your ear training practice.

Hum to guitar scales

The G major scale on guitar

All music is rooted in the 12 notes of the chromatic scale, or lamens terms, the musical alphabet.  This is where you want to start.  Then, 8 notes are taken out of this scale to create a major scale.  These 8 notes create the foundation for all chord and scale types.  The reason for this is because all guitar chords are created out of scales.  Usually the major scale.


If you start with the major scale (the Do, Rae, Me, etc) and play that on your guitar fretboard it starts to sound familiar.  Do this with the chromatic scale as well.  When you hum to guitar scales, you’re brain and ear make a connection with the music notes on an individual basis.  They learn to recognize.  Just like when you see something you recognize with your eyes.  Same concept.

Don’t be afraid to sing

singing while playing the guitar

I know singing can be daunting and a lot of people just flat out refuse t do it, but if you can get over this hurdle, it will help your ear training tremendously.  I remember I had this issue myself for a long time, but then when I discovered how it could help my guitar playing, I just decided to go for it. And let me tell ya, it helped a lot!!!  Not to mention, once you build the confidence to sing, you find it to be quite fun.

Watch the video lesson below

Singing goes in line with humming the notes.  Humming is the first step and singing is the extension of this technique.  Listen to blues guitar players, they utilize this technique to the max to develop their ear training.  When you can sing phrases, your ear and brain began to recognize the pitch of the music and the intervals of the notes as they relate to the guitar.  So don’t be afraid to sing.  It can be an excellent tool to help you develop your ear training.

Master common chord progressions

common chord progressions

Most songs you hear on the radio in certain genres are written in certain chord progressions.  The reason for this is because of the way the chords flow within the key sounds the most pleasant to the ear.  This is why certain notes are chosen for guitar chords and this is why certain guitar chords are chosen for rhythm guitar progressions.  You want to master these common chord progressions.


Chord progressions are when you take a few chords from a particular music key and put them into a sequence that flows gently like a river (or violently as some rivers do) but generally in harmony and relatively pleasant to the ear.  I guess that depends on what you call pleasant. But if you master common chord progressions, you’re going to be able to pick out chords easier by ear.

Start with the 1 4 5 progression

The 1 4 5 chords within a key

The best progression to start learning is the 1 4 5 progression.  This is very common in many songs and comes from a blues music background.   It is only three chords in any given key and since it has been so widely used already in a ton of songs, it is already familiar to the ear.  You just need to study the notes of each scale to find out what chords these will be.   In the Key of G, it would be the G, C, & D chords.


By studying the notes in each key, you’re going to be able to recognize what chord comes next in the song because you’re going to know the 1 4 5 chords.  If you know what the 1 is in the key you are playing in, and you know the next chord is the 4 of that key, you’ll know what it is. Do you see how this can help out your ear training?  You will be able to become a better guitar player in the fact that you will be able to “anticipate” your move before you get there.

Tune with a pitch pipe or tuning fork

pitch pipe and tuning fork

This is kind more of an old school way of tuning the guitar since we live in such a digital age and everything has gone in that direction, but it is a great way to help you with ear training.  In the olden days, before lectrov=nic tuners, they tuned stringed instruments with a tuning fork or pitch pipe.


A tuning fork is designed for a specific pitch (like A in 440 which is called concert pitch) you strike the fork against something, the pitch rings and you tune one string to that pitch and then tune the rest by ear.


A pitch pipe is very similar but has the pitch of all six strings individually.  You blow into the pipe, hear the pitch, and then match the tuning to the pitch.  This method works as a great ear training exercise.

Lesson conclusion

There are many more ways you can work at improving your ear training practice, but these would be the best to get started with.  Learn your notes, practice the scales, hum to them as you play them to find the note.  Sing as this will help your whole body absorb the vibration of sound.


Tune your guitar by ear.  Learn with a tuning fork or a pitch pipe.  The more you practice these techniques discussed in this lesson, the more you are going to develop your ear.  It does take time so be patient.  Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t come quickly.  This can take many, many hours of study and practice to develop this skill set.

Take lessons if need be

I would highly recommend taking private lessons of some sort if it is in your budget and you can find the right teacher.  Sometimes a good tutor can help keep you on track to learn and practice the exercises need to achieve the goal of good ear training.


If it’s not within your grasp, get a good book, or video course that can help you take it step-by-step so that you can progress at a proficient rate.  Like for instance, my guitar method books.  Once you get ear training down, you’ll have a great ability that will always be with you no matter where you go.

Dwayne Jenkins Guitar Method Books

If you have any questions about any of the lessons that I teach, you can contact me on my website.  Also, be sure to follow me on Social Media for my latest lesson updates.

Until our next lesson, take care.

Dwayne Jenkins

Dwayne Jenkins