Transcribing and Ear Training
One facet of practicing that is mentioned, talked about, and suggested often is that of Transcribing and Ear Training.
All ear training is about is working on your ear to make it more perceptive and musically open and sensitive.(That doesn't mean that your ear cries during "Sleepless in Seattle". If it does, seek medical attention and maybe a Priest)
You might hear terms like "Perfect Pitch" or "Relative Pitch" talked about in conjunction with ear training. Perfect pitch is the ability to pull tones and notes out of thin air and know what they are, correctly, the first time you hear them. Relative pitch is the ability to tell the relative distance between different pitches (such as a major third or a perfect fifth).
Of the two of those skills that are sought after by musicians, Relative pitch is generally what most musicians work to improve due to the fact that Perfect pitch is very difficult to acquire and becomes more-so as you age, if it is possible at all.
One of the best ways to develop a good sense of Relative pitch (and one that we work on a lot at school) is transcribing music off of the radio or a CD and learning to play it by ear. This is the main method that I've used to increase my ability to hear more musically and I cannot recommend it enough.
The best way to do this (that I've found) is to pick a song that you like and try to learn as many different parts as possible from that track. When you're starting, try to keep it simple. Some good music to transcribe when you're first beginning to do so is Bob Marley. Try to get the bass line off of "Exodus" or "Could you be Loved?". That shouldn't take you that long and the bass is fairly prominent on those tracks.
Besides, Bob Marley is awesome. Have you ever seen any videos of him live? That guy can move!
A good target to shoot for when it comes to "grabbing" bass lines is to try to learn one line every week. After a few weeks, your ability to hear bass lines will not only improve, but it will improve more that you probably think it will.
One of the advantages to this method is besides the fact that you're listening to and learning music that you like, you also get a more in depth sense of how to create a good bass line in the style of the music that you like.
This week alone, I've had to transcribe six bass lines: Two for school, three for my band and one that I really just wanted to learn for fun ("Whatever it is, I just can't stop" by Jamiroquai).
Seriously, ear training can be fun if you want it to be. It all depends on how you go about it :)
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