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Topic Options
#1013736 - 11/21/08 05:15 PM Play by Ear
FlatsandSharps Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/21/08
Posts: 2
I've been playing the piano for less than 2 years. A local pianist who plays by ear, with over 50 years playing experience, told me to stop buying sheet music as it was a waste of money. He said there are short cuts to playing based on chords.

Are there any of these methods available on line.

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#1013737 - 11/21/08 05:19 PM Re: Play by Ear
verania5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/08
Posts: 386
Loc: Michigan
I strongly disagree with the statement that sheet music is "a waste of money".

Improvisation is not inherently better than arrangements. I doubt anyone can improvise a Chopin waltz out of thin air for example.

This method is useful to "fill out" songs with harmonizing chords. But that still doesn't make sheet music obsolete.

You can look into "Fake books" those allow you to use chords to accompany favorite tunes. A jazz piano inclined teacher probably would be handy too.
_________________________
Steinway M & Yamaha P120

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#1013738 - 11/21/08 05:37 PM Re: Play by Ear
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
try the search tool...you should find quite a bit

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#1013739 - 11/21/08 06:28 PM Re: Play by Ear
Ivory Dreams Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/12/08
Posts: 210
Loc: Central NC
 Quote:
Originally posted by FlatsandSharps:
A local pianist who plays by ear, with over 50 years playing experience, told me to stop buying sheet music as it was a waste of money. He said there are short cuts to playing based on chords.

Are there any of these methods available on line. [/b]
If he plays by ear..... Of course, He would think sheet music was a waste of money. If you buy sheet music for 50 years..... and put it to the proper use... you will also be able to play anything.

But seriously, if you find something that really, really works.... Let us know.
_________________________


You can own a Chickering, Christifori, or Steinway, but if you can't play it.... It is just a piece of eye candy.

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#1013740 - 11/21/08 06:41 PM Re: Play by Ear
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
Some courses that have been mentioned on this forum include (not in any order):
David Sprunger (Play Piano Today)
Yoke Wong
Piano Magic (Mike Anderson)
Sudnow
Piano by Ear (Matt Stephens)
Duane Shinn (various courses)

There are many more on the internet, and on YouTube. There are also books that teach you how to play from fake books.

If your interest is classical, I would agree with verania5 that one would be hard pressed to figure out how to play a Chopin or Beethoven etc without sheet music. If your interest is pop, jazz, improvisation etc, it is possible to learn to play without sheet music. But that doesn't mean sheet music is a waste.

Have fun on your research and let us know what you decide on.
_________________________

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#1013741 - 11/21/08 07:49 PM Re: Play by Ear
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4841
Loc: Seattle area, WA
I prefer to use my hands. Hurts my head when I use my ears.

Seriously, shortcuts using chord progressions for classical music? - sorry, that's hogwash. The local pianist may be a great improvisor and may even be a delight to listen to, but he's no classical pianist in my book. Reducing classical music to chord progressions isn't a shortcut. It's faking.
_________________________
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Deborah

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#1013742 - 11/21/08 08:12 PM Re: Play by Ear
Psalm23 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/05/08
Posts: 71
Loc: Boston
As Rosanna has mentioned above, I presently own material from:

Piano Magic
Play Piano Today
Hear and Play

These are three different approaches to playing by ear. Hear and Play is geared to Gospel Music but offers a very good approached that stresses theory and knowledge first, then ear training later. Piano Magic is just the opposite and is suited for those of us that want to play something soon. "Play Piano Today" is a course that really does not teach you to play by ear. However, I believe it is a very good supplement to Piano Magic in that it teaches rhythmic patterns that can be used with the Piano Magic method.

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#1013743 - 11/21/08 08:58 PM Re: Play by Ear
coolcomp Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/21/08
Posts: 1
Loc: Canada
I have no problem playing by ear, because of my perfect pitch. If you don't have that attribute, you'll have to develop your interval detecting skills (space between notes) and become very familiar with different keys.

It's a long and enjoyable road. I would also suggest buying sheet music and learning both the notes and the meanings of the harmonic chord symbols that occur over the measures that have harmony changes.

Have fun!
_________________________
Daniel E. Friedman, owner of http://www.musicmasterstudios.com You CAN learn to play the piano and compose in a fun and effective way.

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#1013744 - 11/21/08 11:17 PM Re: Play by Ear
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4269
Loc: Arizona.
coolcomp, you may have "perfect pitch" but I've got a boat that chicks dig! Ask 10 people (guys) off the street which one they would rather have! .....[play along okay! ;\) ]

Seriously, I think the best *method* would be to try them all and cherry pick the best of each.

Being able to read basic music I feel is very important. This way you always have the option to play anything as written, improvise upon it or just make up your own stuff. You can even do a type of hybrid in where you could mix in your own stuff within a score.

I say don't limit yourself to anything but at least learn to read basic music as a foundation to work from.

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#1013745 - 11/22/08 02:05 AM Re: Play by Ear
FlatsandSharps Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/21/08
Posts: 2
I made a search on google for one of the on line courses and was able to email one of its members. He said that it wasn't worth joining as the owner was never around and that although they had a forum where everyone listens to each other, he said it was like 'the blind leading the blind'.

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#1013746 - 11/22/08 04:56 PM Re: Play by Ear
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
There is a kind of shortcut to playing by
ear, and it involves embracing sht. music
rather than throwing it away. You can
buy all kinds of single sheets and anthologies
of popular music today of the "piano-voice-
guitar chords" variety. These have
the melody with the words, guitar chord
symbols, and a full piano rendition below.
These piano arrangements are pretty
good as written, and if you learn them
diligently, they'll sound almost professional.
In any case, they'd be better than anything
that most people could improvise purely by
ear.

And if you memorize one of these arrangements,
you'll in a sense be "playing it by ear."
And if you were to memorize, say, a dozen
of these arrangements, you'd have a sizeable
popular repertoire, "played by ear," that
would rival anything that a purely
by-ear player could come up with.
This is, in fact, what some classically-trained
lounge players apparently are doing.
The bulk of what they're playing is
simply memorized from popular anthologies.

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#1013747 - 11/22/08 11:35 PM Re: Play by Ear
quiescen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/24/04
Posts: 215
Loc: San Diego
Hi Flatsandsharps,

It all depends on what you goal is? Do you want to be able to improvise? Then he's right - a chord-based approach is best. Do you want to play classical music? Then you must learn how to note read.

--------------------------
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
_________________________
Edward Weiss
Quiescence Music
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1013748 - 11/22/08 11:54 PM Re: Play by Ear
Michiyo-Fir Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/05
Posts: 172
Some people can play disturbingly well by ear.

For example Derek Paravicini, an severely learning impaired, blind pianist plays even the most repertoire by ear.

He plays everything from classical to jazz to concertos, anything that is music. I think he's simply amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEV4dvuM6tM

If anyone's interested about him, I suggest watching The Music Genius - Derek Paravicini to learn more about him.
_________________________
Bosendorfer Imperial, Yamaha U3, Yamaha P140, Yamaha CP300

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#1013749 - 11/23/08 12:07 AM Re: Play by Ear
Elssa Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1602
Loc: NY
Duane Shinn and others (Piano Magic) say you need to match the melody notes with the chords to harmonize (play by ear). Would appreciate a discussion on this.

http://www.playpiano.com/music-home-study-courses/match-chords-to-melody.htm

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#1013750 - 11/23/08 02:32 AM Re: Play by Ear
Yoke Wong Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/15/08
Posts: 43
Loc: California
Music is a universal language. We all know that in order to master a language, one needs to learn how to read and speak in that language fluently.

I strongly believe it is equally important to master both music reading and the music making processes.

A piano player who is proficient in playing by ear but has limited abilities in reading music is considered "music illiterate."

A pianist who is a strong sight reader but cannot improvise and play by ear is also lacking the ability required to arrange/dress up his/her music.

Yoke Wong
_________________________
Take Your Playing To The Next Level
http://www.pianomother.com

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#1013751 - 11/23/08 02:51 AM Re: Play by Ear
Ragtime Clown Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/08
Posts: 684
Loc: Ireland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Yoke Wong:
Music is a universal language. We all know that in order to master a language, one needs to learn how to read and speak in that language fluently.

A pianist who is a strong sight reader but cannot improvise and play by ear is also lacking the ability required to arrange/dress up his/her music.

Yoke Wong [/b]
Yoke, I think what you have said is true. I can play from printed music but I am only doing this for 2 years although I can read and understand everything that is written, I find it tough playing it at a reasonable speed. I think I play better by ear but it needs some improvement too.

What I'd like to know is - what is meant by harmonizing melody notes with left hand chords. Is there any magic about this, perhaps I am already doing it.

Can you enlighten me, please.

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#1013752 - 11/23/08 03:34 AM Re: Play by Ear
Yoke Wong Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/15/08
Posts: 43
Loc: California
 Quote:
What I'd like to know is - what is meant by harmonizing melody notes with left hand chords. Is there any magic about this, perhaps I am already doing it.

Can you enlighten me, please.
In music theory, there are a few chords that are most often used to harmonize melody notes, ie, I, IV, V chords.

For examle: In the key of C, you will find that C maj chord, along with F maj chord and G maj chord harmonize well with any melody note that belongs to the key of C.
Sometimes, none of these three chords can harmonize the melody notes; ii min chord, vi min chord, or vii dim chord can be used to harmonize the melody notes.

Often, if you harmonize the melody note with the left hand chord, you can play just the bass note (single note) of the chord (or root and fifth).

If one likes to make the harmony sounds more interesting, one can try chord substitution or different voicing (closed or open, etc) to experiment with.

I notice this is a rather broad topic, the answer may not be complete. I welcome other comments!

Yoke Wong
_________________________
Take Your Playing To The Next Level
http://www.pianomother.com

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#1013753 - 11/23/08 05:14 PM Re: Play by Ear
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
Flatsandsharps,
I quite agree with what Ed/quiescen said:
 Quote:
It all depends on what you goal is? Do you want to be able to improvise? Then he's right - a chord-based approach is best. Do you want to play classical music? Then you must learn how to note read.
Re-reading your orig. post, I am not sure what type of sheet music you were "advised" to throw out.

gooddog said:
 Quote:
Seriously, shortcuts using chord progressions for classical music? - sorry, that's hogwash. The local pianist may be a great improvisor and may even be a delight to listen to, but he's no classical pianist in my book. Reducing classical music to chord progressions isn't a shortcut. It's faking.
I think that's true only to an extent. Our own esteemed Mr. Super Hunky manages his very unique form of hybrid classical-improv. Granted, what he plays isn't 100% note-for-note the original piece of classical music, but his creativity and musicality certain make his playing "art" to me (improvising on an existing classical piece), and not just "faking". (I hope we don't get this thread off topic....)
_________________________

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#1013754 - 11/23/08 05:48 PM Re: Play by Ear
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8585
Loc: Georgia, USA
Interesting thread. It seems that this topic comes up quite often here on the ABF.

Here’s my opinion on this topic… first, let me say that I can’t read sheet music much at all because I have never really focused on learning to read music and it is not a high priority for me. However, I think that learning to read music and being able to apply it with a high level of proficiency is a fantastic skill to have.

It is never a good thing to say that one is wasting their money buying sheet music anymore than it is to say that one is wasting their money buying good books. So, I vote for learning to read music if that is one’s personal goal and objective.

For me, learning to play the piano by ear (if that is what you want to call it \:\) ) is just plain fun. My piano playing (though not very good) is just a fun hobby for me at this point in my life.

However, with that said, at some point in time I intend to learn to read music and read it well. If I never achieve that goal, I haven’t lost anything in terms of enjoying music and learning to play the piano. \:\)

Don’t throw your sheet music away. (If you are going to do that, give it to me \:D ).

Take care,

Rickster
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#1013755 - 11/24/08 12:26 AM Re: Play by Ear
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4269
Loc: Arizona.
Judge my music not by the complexity of the piece nor the means in which I have learned it but rather on the beautiful melodies I am able to perform...[crap that's deep!] \:D

I love music for what I hear, the sounds and melodies created. "finger gymnastics" or overly complicated scores don't equate to a piece that appeals to me more. While I do appreciate someones ability to perform advanced pieces, sometimes it is the simple ones that I like best.

Playing by ear enables you to improvise on existing tunes while also giving you the ability to create your own.

If you can *imagine* a tune in your head and humm or whistle it, you can now also play it virtually instantly.

This is my goal. After 4 years now, I am just starting to get closer in range but have a long long LONG way to go.

I'm not sure if anyone has ever *mastered* playing by ear but instead is constantly improving upon it. Of course, there are a few that are nothing short of incredible but even they might say they have not learned everything yet.

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