It’s not necessary to always have an instrument in front of you to learn about music. Here are some things you can learn just by listening to your favorite songs.
The most obvious thing to listen for in a song is its melody. And the first step to learn how to play a song is getting the melody into your ears. Put the recording on repeat and hum along. Try to be precise about pitch and rhythm. Also make sure that you can sing the melody without as well as with the recording. That’s how to check if you’ve got it!
After you’ve learned the melody of a song by heart, pay attention to the form of the piece! Learn to distinguish different parts of the song like verse, chorus and bridge. Figure out what the time signature is and count measures along with the recording. Figure out exactly how long each section of the song is, and learn how the melody fits inside each part. It can be helpful to list each part of the song on a piece of paper.
If the melody is the contour of the song and form is its framework then style is all of its color and texture. Listen to the parts of the individual instruments, also ones that you don’t play yourself. This will train your ears and teach you about how parts function together within each style.
Counting beats in your head (or out loud!) while listening to music can improve your sense of time a lot. Again, listen to what the musicians are playing. Practice by clapping the rhythms of the parts. This is especially suitable for drums but it works perfectly fine for all instruments, including voice. Try to imitate the time feel as closely as possible. Music is not always about keeping the timing metronomic, it is very common for players to play a tiny bit before or after the beat. Also pay attention to how long the notes are, each note has an beginning, length and end.
Listen for the basics of harmony. Let’s start with the bass part. Can you sing along with the bass? Is one of the notes occurring more frequently than others? Are the other instruments gravitating towards the same note? This is in many cases the root note of the key signature. Can you decide if the piece is played in a major or minor key? Put this together and you will be able to decide wich key signature the piece is played in. For example: If you find the root note to be “A” and you find the piece has a minor sound to it, it’s likely played in A-minor. If you’re on the go and don’t have access to your instrument you could use a tuning- or a piano app on your phone to determine the pitch.
What elements do you like the most about the song? Is it the intro? the chorus? Maybe a specific sound the guitar player uses? The great lyrics or the feeling of the song altogether? Try to define some things about the song that you really like. Once you know this you’ll be able to incorporate it into your own playing!
Listening for these things does not replace practicing, but it prepares you for it. You will see how much faster you’ll learn after you’ve familiarized yourself with the song in this manner.
If you need advices about any of these techniques you can contact the teachers at MyMusicSchool.com!