Ear Training Exercise - Single String Playing

This week's tip is inspired by an unlikely source - my 8 year old nephew's quarter size First Act guitar. He got it last Christmas and has since managed to break all but one of the strings on it. His mom brought it over to the house so that I could put some new strings on it for him.

Of course, I couldn't resist the urge to have a go at this one-stringed mini-guitar when I came home and found it leaning against the wall. The only problem was figuring out what to play with only one string! Chords were obviously not an option. All my go to warm-up licks weren't happening with just one string.

Since it was Christmas Eve, I decided to play some Christmas carols. The thing is, it was much more difficult than I imagined. I'm usually fairly accurate playing melodies by ear. I've done it for long enough that it comes pretty naturally...assuming I have all six strings to work with. With only one string at my disposal I was forced out of all my comfortable interval patterns. I was forced to think about the scale degrees of the melody.

I played each tune 3 or 4 times, and my accuracy improved with each round. I noticed that each song seemed a little bit easier than the previous.

The more you narrow your focus and limit yourself in the practice room, the faster you'll see results.

So your tip this week comes in the form of an exercise...

  • Choose a familiar song or melody.
  • Pick a key and play the tune on only one string.
  • Repeat until you can play it with 100% accuracy and no hesitation.

    Over time this exercise will help fine tune your ear and give you more confidence in your improvisation. If you've never done any work on ear training, this is a great place to start!

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