My guitar teacher, Jim Goelitz, suggested that I listen to songs I’m interested in learning and do a music analysis of them. He said this would be good ear training and would help me learn to pay attention to more elements of the music. Based on his input, I developed a form that I use to record my analysis. The elements include the name of the song, the composer, the performer or band, the instrumentation, the time signature, the tempo, whether it’s “swing” or “straight” rhythm, the form of the song (e.g., 12-bar blues), the key of the song, the chords in the song, and the tuning. I also add the source album, release date, record label and length of the song.
On early recordings such as those of Howlin’ Wolf on Chess Records, it can be a challenge to hear all the instruments. It can also be difficult, especially in the beginning, to hear the chord changes and work out the progression. It’s much easier on recent recordings where instruments are on separate microphones. To determine the key, I work my way up the neck of the guitar until I find something that seems to fit. I missed a few at first, but have gotten better at it. It’s a very useful “exercise,” but requires having a good teacher.