One common suggestion for improving ear training is to transcribe songs. However, songs can be long and can vary in complexity. As such, I'm looking for a book or website of musical phrases that can be useful for practicing transcription. Ideally, the musical phrases in the resource should have the following characteristics:

  1. Short, maybe only a couple of bars long.
  2. Categorized from simple to complex, so that I can start with simple single-note melodies and gradually move to chords, etc.
  3. Available in audio format (mp3/midi).
  4. Written in standard music notation.

It would be nice if the musical phrases are applicable for the guitar, although I'm open to transcribing phrases intended for other instruments.

And ideas? Thanks!

3 Answers 3


For a while I tried transcribing traditional Christmas tunes from memory to address this. They are tunes that I know by heart, typically have simple melodies and (implied) harmonic structure, it is easy to find sheet music for them to compare my transcription etc. I'd expect that no matter what your cultural background is, you should be able to identify easy songs, that you've heard since childhood, and know by heart to attempt to transcribe.

  • It's either this or nursery rhymes, isn't it? :) At least, Christmas songs come in useful once a year hehe. Thanks for the suggestion!
    – gsmendoza
    Sep 7, 2014 at 1:30

Transcribe a musical phrase from a song. Just pick a verse, chorus, or bridge and transcribe it. Break the song down into pieces instead of searching for a musical phrase. You have to transcribe songs eventually and the way to start is by breaking the song apart.

  • Thanks for the advice. I guess what I'm ultimately looking for is an imaginary book entitled "Learning music theory and ear training through transcription." I could just do transcriptions song by song as you suggest, but I guess I'm looking for some structure that can help guide my progress. Still, thanks :)
    – gsmendoza
    Sep 7, 2014 at 1:35

I recently revisited justinguitar.com, and found that the website fits my needs even if it doesn't fit exactly the requirements I stated above:

  • Categorized from simple to complex, so that I can start with simple single-note melodies and gradually move to chords, etc - The website's lessons start with songs with simple chord palettes to songs with more complex chord combinations. When I go through a song in the website, I try to guess first the chords of the song before listening to Justin's tutorial of the song. Great ear training.

  • Short, maybe only a couple of bars long - Picking the chords of a song is a short exercise, something I can complete in a day.

  • Available in audio format (mp3/midi) / Written in standard music notation - The site provides tutorials on the songs, so I can verify later on if the chords I guessed are correct.

By following justinguitar.com's lessons, I'm taking a chords-first approach to ear training, rather than the note-first approach that I initially wanted. I think this might be what I need though, because as a guitarist, I trained with chords first only learning melodies later.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.