Playing along to Recordings.

Firstly download the Guitar or Bass Fretboard Factsheet and this will tell you where to find the notes mentioned below.
Secondly look at the Major Scales shown below and look at the notes in them.
Thirdly – once you have worked out the key/ scale that works with the recording then use the fretboard diagram to work out the rest of the notes and play them along with the recording. The great thing about this is that you can try all sorts of ideas and if they don’t work just start the song again and try something else.

There are some simple rules to being able to play over any song on any recording.

Work out the Key/ Scale the piece is in. To do this you must look at the Major Scales.

KEY NOTES KEY SIGNATURE NUMBER OF # OR b.

C C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C. NO SHARPS OR FLATS. 0

G G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G. F#. 1 SHARP (#).

D D,E,F#,G,A,B,C#,D. F#,C#. 2 SHARPS.

A A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G#,A. F#,C#G#. 3 SHARPS.

E E,F#,G#,A,B,C#,D#,E. F#,C#,G#,D#. 4 SHARPS.

B B,C#,D#,E,F#,G#,A#,B. F#,C#,G#,D#,A#. 5 SHARPS.

F# F#,G#,A#,B,C#,D#,E#,F#. F#,C#,G#,D#,A#,E#. 6 SHARPS.

C# C#,D#,E#,F#,G#,A#,B#,C#. F#,C#,G#,D#,A#,E#,B#. 7 SHARPS.

F F,G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F. Bb. 1 FLAT (b).

Bb Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G,A,Bb. Bb,Eb. 2 FLATS.

Eb Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb. Bb,Eb,Ab. 3 FLATS.

Ab Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G,Ab. Bb,Eb,Ab,Db. 4 FLATS.

Db Db,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb,C,Db. Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,Gb. 5 FLATS.

Gb Gb,Ab,Bb,Cb,Db,Eb,F,Gb. Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,Gb,Cb. 6 FLATS.

Cb Cb,Db,Eb,Fb,Gb,Ab,Bb,Cb. Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,Gb,Cb,Fb. 7 FLATS.

We use a process of elimination to find the Key of the music. Below is described that process.

Look at the order of notes that become Sharps (#) and Flats (b). For the moment don’t worry about the Minor Scales.

You will see that C Major has no sharps of flats.

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

The first Key with a Sharp is G Major which has an F#.

G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G.

So if you play an F# note along to the recording and it sounds alright for about 15-30 seconds then you know that the music cannot be in C Major because it doesn’t have an F#.

If the F# doesn’t sound very good then try the F note. If this works then you know that the music cannot be in any key that has sharp notes in them as all Keys with Sharp notes have an F#. (Check this with the Major Scales. This then leaves two possibilities:-

1 The music is in C Major and has no sharps or flats.
2 The music is in a key that uses flats.

The first key with a flat is F Major which has a Bb.

F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F.

So if you play a Bb note along to the recording and it sounds alright for about 15-30 seconds then you know that the music cannot be in C Major because it doesn’t have a Bb.

If the Bb doesn’t sound very good then try a B note. If this works then you know that the music cannot be in any key that has flat notes in them as all keys with flat notes have a Bb.

If the F# sounded alright then go the second Key with sharp notes (D Major) and play C#.

D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D.

If the C# sounds alright then go to the next sharp Key (A Major) and play the G#. If this note sounds alright then carry on through each sharp key in order until you find a note that doesn’t sound alright. Go back to the last note that sounded alright and this will give you all the Key of the music you are playing to.

For example. If F#, C# and G# sounded alright but D# didn’t work then you will find that the correct Key is A Major.

A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A.

If the Bb sounded alright then go to the second key with flat notes and play the Eb.

Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb.

If the Bb sounds alright then go to the next flat key (Eb Major) and play the Ab. If this note sounds alright then carry on through each flat key in order until you find a note that doesn’t sound alright.

Go back to the last note that sounded alright and this will give the key the music is played in.

If you are in any doubt with any sharp or flat note compare it with the Natural note (the letter note) and see which sounds best.

Go luck. Remember that if it doesn’t work first time just keep trying. You will gradually train your ears to hear what works and what doesn’t.

Once you have mastered it with recordings you can then try and Jam with other musicians using thr same principles.

In the second part of this we will look at how to use music theory and your ears to work out chord progressions and melodies. Enjoy.

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