Episode 7 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how you can develop your sense of pitch on guitar.
It also takes an important look at why some people believe they’re tone-deaf and the benefits you can enjoy when you work on your sense of pitch.
If you have any doubts over whether you can learn to play music by ear, identify chords or scales by ear, or similar ear skills, listen to this episode.
Listen to the podcast using the below player or search for Bite-Size Guitar Podcast in any podcast app.
Ask a Question
If you have a question about this episode or any other question about learning or playing guitar, ask it here and I’ll answer it in a future episode.
Use your Android/PC/Mac (iOS doesn’t work) to record your question below and send it to me to be included in a future episode.
Tips for asking a question for the podcast:
- Introduce yourself at the start (eg: Hi, I’m Aaron from Australia …)
- Try to record in a quiet environment to avoid background noise
- You have up to 90 seconds to record, so take your time providing any details you want
If you want to send me a question in text instead of voice, you can send it here.
Here are some helpful guides to get you started on working on your sense of pitch:
- Guide to Ear Training: this guide explains ear training and how you can work on your sense of pitch
- 3 Ear Training Apps for Guitar: explains three good ear training apps and how to use them to work on your sense of pitch
Building your sense of pitch isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a gradual process and the more you practice, the faster you will learn.
If you’re interested in improving your sense of pitch, read through the above two guides to get started.
Podcast Episode 7 Transcript
Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 7 of the Bite-Size Guitar podcast.
In this short and to-the-point episode, let’s have a look at how you can improve your sense of pitch and why it’s worth the effort.
In this episode, you’ll learn three things:
- How your sense of pitch impacts what you can play on guitar
- Why so many guitarists avoid working on their sense of pitch
- How to get started working on your sense of pitch
Let’s start by looking at what I mean by a sense of pitch.
The Myth of Being Tone Deaf
I’m going to play two guitar licks. Listen to each one and think about which one sounds better.
Here’s the first lick:
(listen to the episode to hear the examples)
Okay, here’s the second lick:
So which one sounded better?
If you think the first one sounds better, well done. I’m pretty sure anybody listening to this can easily tell that the first lick sounds much better than the second lick.
Some people may not be able to say exactly why one sounds better than the other, but it’ll still be obvious to them that there’s something wrong with the second lick.
If you think the first one sounds better, good news – you’re not tone deaf.
This is the first lesson I want to leave you with – you are not tone deaf.
When people hear I teach guitar, some people tell me that they’ve always wanted to learn guitar, but they can’t because they’re tone-deaf.
Some people listening to this right now may think they’re tone-deaf.
To anybody who thinks they’re tone-deaf, I’ll play two notes and you think about whether they’re exactly the same note, or not.
Here’s the first note:
Now here’s the second note:
Now, were the notes exactly the same, or were they different?
If you can hear that the two notes were different, good news – you’re not tone deaf. You were able to recognize the difference between two different pitches. That’s your sense of pitch at work.
Your sense of pitch may or may not be developed much past this point, but you’re definitely not tone-deaf if you could tell that they were two different notes.
Now have a listen to the two notes again, but this time think about which note is higher in pitch.
Here’s the first note:
Now here’s the second note:
So, which one was higher sounding? If you said the second note, fantastic – you’ve just proven to yourself that you have a decent sense of pitch.
Having a good sense of pitch is a skill you can learn and improve over time.
It’s not something you either have or don’t have. I don’t want to sound harsh when I say this, but when somebody says they can’t learn guitar because they’re tone-deaf, it’s just an excuse.
They don’t want to put the effort into learning guitar, so they blame it on being tone-deaf.
The truth is nobody is incapable of developing a sense of pitch. Everybody can learn this skill.
If you think you’re tone deaf in any way right now, you’re no longer allowed to think that because you were able to tell the difference between two different pitches.
You might say to yourself that anybody could tell the difference between those notes, and that’s true. That’s why being tone deaf is a myth. Those two notes may have been obviously different, but you still put your sense of pitch to work.
Why Develop Your Sense of Pitch
You may feel like you have a poor sense of pitch right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better. Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been playing guitar for decades, you can improve your sense of pitch.
You might only be able to tell the difference between two obviously different notes right now, but with practice, you’ll learn to tell when your guitar is slightly out-of-tune. Or you’ll learn to recognize the difference between a major and minor chord in a song by ear.
Eventually, you might learn how to figure out how to play guitar licks or riffs completely by ear.
Developing your sense of pitch is a fantastic skill to work on because it can open up so many doors for you.
If you develop your sense of pitch, you can reach the point where you can instantly jump into any jam without needing to ask what the key is. You can learn to play songs without having to rely on Guitar TAB or sheet music. You can learn to play the melodies and ideas you hear in your head.
Developing a good sense of pitch can be much more than just playing bends in-tune. It can have a massive impact on how good you sound on guitar and what you can play.
Now the reason so many guitarists avoid working on developing their sense of pitch is that it’s a weird skill to work on. It’s not immediately obvious how to even start working on this skill.
Learning techniques on guitar such as hammer-ons, bends, or slides is easy, you simply practice playing those techniques over and over and you gradually get better at them.
But how can you get better at your sense of pitch?
So many guitarists avoid working on their sense of pitch because nobody clearly explains that it is something you can learn and improve, and how to start working on it.
Well, I’ve already explained that nobody is tone-deaf and this is a skill you can learn, so let’s have a quick look at how to start working on it.
How to Develop a Good Sense of Pitch
Here’s how to think about developing your sense of pitch.
Learning to play guitar is a skill. To learn that skill, you break that down into sub-skills such as fretting notes, strumming, slides, bends, chords, and so on. You practice chords, or strumming, or vibrato and each of these sub-skills helps you learn to play guitar.
It’s the same with your sense of pitch.
Your sense of pitch is a skill. So to learn that skill, you break it down into sub-skills to work on. Skills such as identifying the difference between two notes, or hearing the difference between major and minor chords, or the difference between an out-of-tune bend and an in-tune bend. You work on these sub-skills to develop your sense of pitch.
People get intimidated by this topic because it seems overwhelming. But it can start off as simple as learning the difference in sound between an A minor chord and an A Major chord.
If you are interested in getting started with developing your sense of pitch, the easiest starting point is to get an ear training app on your smartphone or tablet.
There are a few good free ear training apps that start you off with some simple ear exercises, and gradually work you up to more complex skills.
Using an ear training app is how I developed my sense of pitch and continue to develop it today. The exercises might feel weird at first, but with enough practice, you’ll start to notice a change. Once you start to notice this change, you’ll see why ear training is so powerful.
In the page for this episode at guitargearfinder.com/podcast, I’ve included links to two guides to get you started with developing your sense of pitch.
The first guide talks about ear training, perfect and relative pitch, and other things you might be interested in.
The other guide explains ear training apps and I demonstrate three popular apps and walk through how to use them in a video.
The main lesson I want to leave with you is that your sense of pitch is a skill you can learn and develop, just like any other skill on guitar.
There’s no such thing as being tone deaf because everybody can tell the difference between two notes.
If you want to take your sense of pitch further so you can learn to play songs by ear or sound better on guitar, then check out the ear training apps I cover in my website.
Get started with some basic ear training and while it might feel weird at first, if you stick with it you’ll start to notice your sense of pitch improve.