• My Advice To A Student About Learning Songs

    in Playing By Ear,Playing songs

    After yesterday’s post, I received an awesome comment from Chris Johnson.

    I quickly replied and after re-reading our exchange, thought it appropriate to share with you.

    Chris wrote:

    Well you’ve done it again Jermaine. You know how close I am to my goals! I pretty much do all of this already but I still struggle at times and I always struggle with the bass.

    I have all of these skills under my belt except for picking out those darn bass notes!

    I think I’m still trying to do it all in 10 minutes… Trying to do it too fast ya know.

    When I get home tonight, I’ll pick a song and really bare down on the bass because I know this is where I get lost.

    Example: I’ll pick a few out and then I’ll get lost somewhere along the line and that’s usually the end of my personal training as far as understand a song in full. :)

    But I just gotta stick with it like I did with everything else. I’m so close… so close….. But I’ll get there. You know I’m not giving up, not at this point!

    My reply to him:

    Thanks for your comment Chris.

    The cool thing about it is the more you pick out songs, the bigger repertoire of patterns you build. The same patterns are going on over and over.

    It’s not a random picking of bass notes. Once you’ve found your key, you’re down to 7 notes that will most likely occur. That’s not to say others won’t because we use bass notes outside the scale to take us to various places. If a chord outside the scale is present, you’ll hear it… like the b7 or the b6. Those are borrowed chords.

    Also don’t forget about the circle of fifths. Majority of movements will be to next door neighbors on that circle of fifths chart. Search for “circle of fifths” in the search bar above for more pointers. If you remember this order of notes, you’ll find more often than not, your bass moving in this direction (there are exceptions as there are with anything in life):

    C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G C

    And if the bass isn’t moving like that, it’s moving relatively close… from one tone of the scale to the next tone of the scale up or down… maybe leaping over a note or two at most (if not moving in circle of fifths flow).

    Use your ear to hear up —or— down. Ask this ONE question first:

    “EAR, did the bass go up or down?” Answer that question internally, then remember what I’ve said about:

    -circle of fifths movement
    -next door “scale tone” movement
    -very close movements (at most, usually 2 notes of scale)

    And you’ll be golden. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition is the mother of skill. Just keep at it. And retain what you learn because it will most certainly come up again. All songs draw from the same pool of patterns.

    After learning a couple dozen songs across different genres (or probably way less), you’ll probably have every chord and progression you’ll ever need.

    Keep up the great work Chris,

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 27 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 obert

    hi JG
    Well your courses are very rich and informative but one thing i’d encountered, without a person who can also guide as the chords get bigger, it become a bit harder to apply these chords in practical. however i don’t want to give up cause i just got inspired and bought myself a YAMAHA portable grand piano and make every effort to make time to practise although my time is limited due to 12hrs shift work


    2 Chris Johnson

    Hi Obert,

    My time is also limited so I completely understand. Just do as much as you can with the time you have. Like Jermaine says: “Perfect practice”…. This way you don’t waste any time. I would suggest that you Identify your weakest areas and focus your time on that.

    I would probably be a lot farther along if I had more time to dedicate but we all have things that prevent us from going full speed.

    Needless to say as time goes on things do start to make sense. I promise you that. Don’t worry about the bigger chords, they’re really not a big deal and you will understand in time.

    It’s just a matter of stacking one type of chord on top of another.

    Stay inspired and you will get to where you want to be..

    All of the information available can be overwhelming.


    3 Obinna Peter

    Yes Chris, it is no doubt that we all here at hearandplay.com, have an encyclopedia on Jermaine Griggs, when it comes to world of musical languages and its interpretations. I personally go to him because he’s just an awesome teacher to me/us all not only in music stuffs but, also to other areas that has to affect our thinking mentality on our journey to life for good!

    Until nxt time all.


    4 Kenneth

    Hi sir, i luv all ur stufs, but after almost six years of playing, am still an amateur. Pls i need ur help. I luv playing to worship GOD.


    5 Ruth Martin

    Every time I visit your site I get a bit scared, so much of this stuff is still so FAR over my head! It is like trying to learn a new language, frustrating, and it makes my head hurt. I can see that it takes real commitment, and love of music, to learn everything. Sometimes I wonder if I really have it in me…


    6 CL Johnson

    God Bless you Bro. Jermaine, the courses you offer are very helpful to all music Lovers as well as first time students. I have over 25 years of playing and (Yes) there were times I felt dated with the changes to today’s music. What I was able to learn from your sharing and offering in dvd books, (etc.) you break it down (Chords 7th/9th/13th) how the proper way on playing songs. I am amazed on how fast I was able to become updated and playing along with the (Big Dogs) the latest in gospel music. The hymns I still play leaving then to sound like they were written (ok maybe with a little added flavor). I enjoy each and everything that you have sent out. Loving how musicians are sharing and networking music.
    I Love God with all my heart, gospel has always been my Goal in music. I’ve learn now even in Jazz & Classical there is chords being played that are being used in Gospel. The Bridge is wide open!
    Stay Encouraged


    7 Pat(Troubleclef)

    Hi JG,
    May I echo the sentiments of the members.Praise the Lord that He has given you the ability to teach us the way you do. Lessons that are available on CDs,DVDs and the internet.
    I have been playing piano for many years but since becoming a member of hear and play, my playing and knowledge of music/theory has improved quite a lot.
    I have been given the task to transcribe six songs for the Easter weekend. Oh boy, what a challenge it was. But I completed all, most of the chords that is.
    I play the song several times till I can play the melody right thru to the end. Then I listen to the bass and synchronize the note with the keyboard. With the melody note and bass note together, it’s just a matter of finding the other notes that closely matches the song.
    All the best.


    8 Vir

    Hi guys,

    For a beginner, once I go to my keyboard, what is the first thing that I should learn?




    9 william morgan

    Say Vir just thought I would encourage you to learn your keys first .Then move on to other things. Your keys are the foundation of what you are going to do with that keyboard…I personally learned how to play chords and other things before I learned how to recognize keys, scales and chords. Wish it had happened the other way around for me because I now struggle with putting keys to note sounds..Wish you the best…


    10 barbarademry

    jermaine,This BD finally commeting something to you Everything seems very nice but some of your student’s still are at the very bottom of the basement. I never got the Basic 101 for begginers I’m sttill going to order it I did recive the 300pg Book and I’m truly looking forward to getting close to every one else with my lessson E-mail me again on my catching up. Thks BD


    11 jeffrey bledsoe

    Mr. J

    I have been down and out in my spirit since the last lesson. Due to work I got so far behind that I haven’t had a chance to caught up. I want to be able to be able to log in to be able to caught up on the lessons that I have a page for on my computer. The problem I am having is, everytime I click on the lesson I find a page that says, it cannot be found. Is there any way to fix or repair this? Tell me what it is that I need to do to get back into the lessons.


    12 BADASERAYE Oghenetejire

    I leave in Nigeria and need a copy of the complete learning pack, right from beginning to mastering.
    Sir please how do I go about this?


    13 vitamins

    I thought posting this trackback incredible gadget


    14 Print Derry

    I considered sending this trackback excellent feature


    15 Mothers car wash wax

    Greeting appreciate your work have a ganders of mine


    16 Derek Lamb

    Hi Jermaine,

    I’ve been a fan of Hear and Play every since the day I made up my mind to become a serious musician. I mainly do it for composition purposes, seeing that I’m a young music producer really trying to be able to compose on that next level. I know theory pretty well, I’m even at the point to where I can find the key to any scale and quickly figure out the scale and even notes outside the scale that make a good fit. My biggest problem though is fingering issues. I really want to be able to play with the speed, accuracy, and confidence that so many great musicians have. So my question is, what are truly some of the most promising methods and practice technique to gain that true finger independence ? I would like to know the ones you used, if that’s not too much of a secret haha. Get back as soon as possible, thanks.


    17 Derek Lamb

    I mnto say “key to any *song”


    18 Derek Lamb

    I meant to say “key to any *song”


    19 Aion hack

    I am actually thankful to the owner of this website who has shared this wonderful post at at this place.


    20 joseph wilkins

    Thank you man ofGod.


    21 king solomon

    mr, griggs, u are one of the best music teachers in the world,


    22 johnson

    Thanks Jermaine


    23 segun

    You are great.




    24 Braz

    Hi Jermaine

    I am so glad with your answer. I am like I am born again. These days I missed my teacher, He was away. Let me clarify the matter I never stay a day without checking the post. And I always exercise it over and over. Because I have realise that I have to learn more from you still. Thanks a lot it a good advice. I will take it up so that those struggles can be shared.



    25 Davidson

    Tanks JG,please i need someone to show me a lot of chord voicings, most of the voicings i use sounds boring and they are not rich,pls send it to my email


    26 Edward Eaton

    I have ordered several of your products and have not recieved them. I always choose to get a CD when availible. I have ordered your products which are excellent and patiently wait for these products. Thanks Edward L. Eaton


    27 friv

    English is not as difficult as you think. If you study properly, it only takes one year to address all requirements for English at university. ‘
    Start learning English early

    Learning from listening and always remember pronunciation is important
    You are the most important person in determining your success


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