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#1135588 - 12/15/07 12:27 PM Playing by ear
tulleh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 35
Loc: N. Ireland, UK
I guess I'm not a true pianist, since I can only play what's written on the sheet in front of me. How many people here can play by ear, and how did you do it? Did it take a long time?

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#1135589 - 12/15/07 01:53 PM Re: Playing by ear
Astra Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/08/06
Posts: 391
Loc: Slovenia
Hi tulleh!

Some people learn playing by ear by themselves, but even if you arent so talented you can learn it.

Search archives in Adults Beginner Forums for Piano Magic or pianomagic.

Hope that helps!
_________________________
ex - pian00b

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#1135590 - 12/17/07 09:57 AM Re: Playing by ear
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
PASSION, PATIENCE, PERSEVERANCE = Talent.....I think you can play by ear if you can hear the song in your brain and for me it is that ultimately I can sing it and find the matching notes. Personally I much prefer to learn the music from the score. Over time both of these methods will improve if you keep at it.
rada

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#1135591 - 12/17/07 12:22 PM Re: Playing by ear
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Just as when you sing, you can subconsciously form the sounds from your vocal chords. You put your fingers on the notes that give the sound you have stored in the subconscious brain with the piano.

This is a factor of memory and co-ordination between brain (memory) and the sounds all the notes on the piano represent. Whether chords or single notes they all are part of a pattern that the brain remembers. Each octave is the same sound just a differing scale range.

Singers have to practice voice box sound abilities and surely that is difficult? Certainly for me as I cannot sing at all.

To sum up I find the subconscious brain does it all for you, if you're lucky. It takes time too, of course.

I'm sure this subject will never get properly explained it's a strange thing.


Alan (swingal)

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#1135592 - 12/18/07 10:16 AM Re: Playing by ear
Bradley Sowash Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/06
Posts: 95
Loc: Columbus, OH
It's not that mysterious. If working from a recording, do it from the bottom up.

1. Identify the bass line by listening and comparing to the keyboard with frequent use of the pause and play buttons.
2. Hunt and peck the melody.
3. Find the chords which are likely to mostly be in the key. Start with the assumption that the bass is playing mostly roots.

The process is slightly different and somewhat more advanced if playing it purely by ear without a recording.
_________________________
Bradley Sowash
Jazz pianist, Composer, Educator
www.bradleysowash.com

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#1135593 - 12/19/07 02:05 PM Re: Playing by ear
tulleh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 35
Loc: N. Ireland, UK
I'll check out the Pianomagic, thanks everyone \:\)

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#1135594 - 12/19/07 06:23 PM Re: Playing by ear
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
I often have my students (adults and kids) figure out nursery rhymes and children's songs by ear, in order to learn to play by ear. Stuff that they know well: Twinkle Twinkle. Row your boat. Mary had a little lamb. Three Blind Mice.

I get them to harmonize the tunes using the I IV and V chords (in the key of C, that's C, F, and G)

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#1135595 - 12/20/07 02:09 PM Re: Playing by ear
tulleh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 35
Loc: N. Ireland, UK
Which brings me to another

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#1135596 - 12/21/07 02:20 PM Re: Playing by ear
Linds Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/16/07
Posts: 14
Loc: USA
That's how I taught myself to play piano. I listened to the song, sang them and then just played. But if I hear a solitary melody, I can play that without singing or even checking. I just play, and the melody comes based on what key is logical to press.
_________________________
"For many years, I was a tator farmer, but the painful truth is, the TATORS FARMED ME!"

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#1135597 - 12/21/07 07:29 PM Re: Playing by ear
Gilbert Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/06
Posts: 442
Loc: Ireland
Tulleh, its strange but I've been playing without printed sheet music for a couple of months now and I've made some great advances. I've mastered the chord progression of the songs I really love. The sheet music I have for these same songs is complete rubbish. Where about in N.I. do you live?
_________________________
"If your only tool is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail!"

Piano: Roland FP-7

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#1135598 - 12/24/07 03:24 AM Re: Playing by ear
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
One factor springs to mind here. Now we have Digital Pianos, how much more easy is it to play by ear. Or even by the music score? For,when I bought my Kawai es4 I was simply amazed how much easier they are to play. The fingering is so much easier because you do not have the need to use varying pressure (though I know they are pressure sensitive) but not to the extent the acoustic pianos need.

Alan (swingal)

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#1135599 - 01/07/08 09:47 PM Re: Playing by ear
keithmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/18/07
Posts: 129
Loc: Atlanta, GA
You can think of playing by ear as using a language. Words and phrases come from your long term memory and can be reproduced in the subconcious act of improvisation. What you "input" you can also "output".

Keith Phillips
http://www.keithphillips.net
http://www.keithphillips.net/SleepyRiverStudio.htm
_________________________
Keith Phillips

www.keithphillips.net
Piano technique for all levels
www.keithphillips.net/AdvancedPianoSecrets.htm

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#1135600 - 01/07/08 09:56 PM Re: Playing by ear
keithmusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/18/07
Posts: 129
Loc: Atlanta, GA
I would also say develop a sense of the scales in the style you enjoy. If it's mainstream music then get a sense of the pentatonic scale that is related to the major scale. Play them in all 12 keys. Train to long term memory "licks" in the style you enjoy. This will be your "bag of tricks" that you can pull from when you create music. Also in that style get a feel for the rhythmic patterns that make that style sound correct. Analyze what makes a style unique in any facet.

Keith
http://www.keithphillips.net
http://www.keithphillips.net/SleepyRiverStudio.htm
http://www.freepianoresources.com
_________________________
Keith Phillips

www.keithphillips.net
Piano technique for all levels
www.keithphillips.net/AdvancedPianoSecrets.htm

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#1135601 - 01/09/08 08:12 PM Re: Playing by ear
h2obuff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/05
Posts: 80
Loc: kansas city area
Tulleh,

I had to learn that it was/is possible to learn by ear! Actually practicing scales is great as is picking out simple melodies as also suggested by someone above. Most important though is to get over that need to have the music in front of you. Practice your scales etc without any music. Take a simple tune/melody and transpose it through all 12 keys. Do this and after a while you will differentiate the keys better and also find yourself more quickly finding melodies you hear on the keyboard. It is not a far stretch to see that in time you can think of a line you want to play then play it (I believe that is possible though I have not achieved it yet). I have read interviews with improvisers that indicated they are only a fraction of a second ahead in their mind as to what their fingers will play.
_________________________
Charles Walter model 1500 upright

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#1135602 - 01/11/08 10:44 AM Re: Playing by ear
Disciple Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/07
Posts: 288
Loc: NYC
 Quote:
Originally posted by h2obuff:
Tulleh,

I have read interviews with improvisers that indicated they are only a fraction of a second ahead in their mind as to what their fingers will play. [/b]
When improvising, if I were to think of which path my fingers will take, the route from musical thought to realized sound would be short-circuited.

The goal of spontaneous creation, or instant composition (which is the ultimate realization of the highest form of improvisation), is to bring to the piano enough technical ability to transcend the fingers in translating the music within.

When playing in this state, my fingers don't exist; fingers as such that I'm aware of, the piano becomes part of me, and I have a sense that if I were to lift my hands from the keyboard, the piano would continue to speak my thoughts, the music continuing to fill the air on its own.
_________________________
My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user

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#1135603 - 01/11/08 02:38 PM Re: Playing by ear
Serge88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 775
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by Disciple:
When improvising, if I were to think of which path my fingers will take, the route from musical thought to realized sound would be short-circuited.

The goal of spontaneous creation, or instant composition (which is the ultimate realization of the highest form of improvisation), is to bring to the piano enough technical ability to transcend the fingers in translating the music within.

When playing in this state, my fingers don't exist; fingers as such that I'm aware of, the piano becomes part of me, and I have a sense that if I were to lift my hands from the keyboard, the piano would continue to speak my thoughts, the music continuing to fill the air on its own. [/b]
That is an interesting explanation of improvisation.

Serge
_________________________

“Being able to hear recorded music freed up loads of musicians that couldn't necessarily afford to learn to read or write music. With recording, it was emancipation for the people.”
-Keith Richards


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#1135604 - 01/11/08 05:33 PM Re: Playing by ear
Disciple Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/07
Posts: 288
Loc: NYC
 Quote:
Originally posted by Serge88:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Disciple:
When improvising, if I were to think of which path my fingers will take, the route from musical thought to realized sound would be short-circuited.

The goal of spontaneous creation, or instant composition (which is the ultimate realization of the highest form of improvisation), is to bring to the piano enough technical ability to transcend the fingers in translating the music within.

When playing in this state, my fingers don't exist; fingers as such that I'm aware of, the piano becomes part of me, and I have a sense that if I were to lift my hands from the keyboard, the piano would continue to speak my thoughts, the music continuing to fill the air on its own. [/b]
That is an interesting explanation of improvisation.

Serge [/b]
Serge, it's the truist explanation and exactly what happens when one plays in the moment. The intermediary link, your playing mechanism, between what your mind hears and the piano strings ceases to be and the piano sounds as though of its own accord.

You are in complete synergistic, cooperative feedback loop with the piano, a zen state, the sound of the piano directing your path and guiding the music in your mind. The sound produced by your fingers affecting your direction just as much as you are affecting the keys of the piano on a very sub-comscious level.

This takes letting go and acheiving a completely relaxed symbiotic state. A true spontaneous composer (instant composition) always hears and feels the music in the air. It's already there. Seated at the piano, the improvisor can join or redirect the flow sure as a Jedi can always sense the flow, join it at will, and bend it to reflect his own will.

I always hear music around me. When I'm seated at the piano, I can share with others what it is that I hear that's already there and put my own spin on it.

That's why with my students I stress deep relaxation, the ear, and listening first and foremost. Filling the mind with music. If the music isn't there to begin with, there will never be a flow to join, let alone influence.

This is the only thing that transforms the piano from a 1000 pound hunk of metal and wood into a living, breathing entity. What the musicians brings of himself to the instrument.
_________________________
My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user

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#1135605 - 01/16/08 03:54 PM Re: Playing by ear
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
Disciple, I just want to say I love your description of improv. It really describes anyone being in the zone while engaged in any creative activity. And your youtube clip is awesome!
_________________________

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#1135606 - 01/16/08 04:31 PM Re: Playing by ear
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Yes, I agree completely with Disciple's explanation. One of the best I have read on this PW forum, on the subject of playing by ear.

This is the precise truth of what makes music, the artist has to be the boss of the instrument. Jazz music being almost always relying on improvisation and what a pleasure it is to be so creative.

Alan (swingal)

PS tulleh's question about "did it take long/" Well how about 60 years in my case. One never stops learning in most events. Of course many of the great pianists did reach perfection to general ears but perhaps they are never satisfied and keep looking for new challenges.

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#1135607 - 01/16/08 04:38 PM Re: Playing by ear
Disciple Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/07
Posts: 288
Loc: NYC
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rosanna:
Disciple, I just want to say I love your description of improv. It really describes anyone being in the zone while engaged in any creative activity. And your youtube clip is awesome! [/b]
Thank you, Rosanna. That's correct. Actually joining[/b] the zone that already permeates your surrounding. You live within your own zone, this zone being a byproduct of all of your past experiences, everything you've ever heard and absorbed, conciously or subconsciouly. It's always there, and each one of us has their unique zone. First, the mechanics of neccisity must be learned to express oneself, then left on the ground if one is to leap into the zone and fly without the weight of the tools, our training, to weigh us down.

Most musicians let their expression be dictated by their training alone, automatic playing. This is why I always stress listening and developing listening skills along with complete relaxation, first and foremost.
_________________________
My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user

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#1135608 - 01/16/08 04:41 PM Re: Playing by ear
Disciple Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/07
Posts: 288
Loc: NYC
 Quote:
Originally posted by swingal:
Yes, I agree completely with Disciple's explanation. One of the best I have read on this PW forum, on the subject of playing by ear.

This is the precise truth of what makes music, the artist has to be the boss of the instrument. Jazz music being almost always relying on improvisation and what a pleasure it is to be so creative.

Alan (swingal)

PS tulleh's question about "did it take long/" Well how about 60 years in my case. One never stops learning in most events. Of course many of the great pianists did reach perfection to general ears but perhaps they are never satisfied and keep looking for new challenges. [/b]
Al, I see my relationship with the piano as an equal, synergistic, symbiotic cooperative. When I play in the zone, at some point I no longer sense the piano as a separate entity. I'm no longer consciously aware of my having to manually depress the keys to fill the air with sound.

I'm 54. Been playing since I was 2 and still always find new challenges. The more you know, the more you become aware of just how little you really know!
_________________________
My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user

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#1135609 - 01/16/08 06:04 PM Re: Playing by ear
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
My question is how long does it take before one can "leave the mechanics" behind? I am talking about for someone learning to play-by-ear from scratch. Presumably for the first months and possibly the first year or two, one has only enough "CPU cycles" to focus on the mechanics - getting the melody line out, finding the right chords, getting some variations in. If one were to leap into the zone at the early stage of the learning process, I assume there just won't be the foundation for the musician (and the music) to "flow by itself", so to speak? Is this a fair assumption?
_________________________

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#1135610 - 01/16/08 07:18 PM Re: Playing by ear
Disciple Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/07
Posts: 288
Loc: NYC
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rosanna:
My question is how long does it take before one can "leave the mechanics" behind? I am talking about for someone learning to play-by-ear from scratch. Presumably for the first months and possibly the first year or two, one has only enough "CPU cycles" to focus on the mechanics - getting the melody line out, finding the right chords, getting some variations in. If one were to leap into the zone at the early stage of the learning process, I assume there just won't be the foundation for the musician (and the music) to "flow by itself", so to speak? Is this a fair assumption? [/b]
Yes, that's correct. Because you hear something in your mind, doesn't mean that you'll be able to play it. Even with a very advanced technique and ear, there's still things that I hear that I can't possibly play. This is why I'm always challenging myself with technical and mental exercises of execution, to lessen the physical "sandtraps" that at times prevent total control of the flow.

Mind you, you don't control the flow, you join it, yet you want to consciouly hone the tools necessary, the knowledge, the ear, and enough technical ability to avoid as many "sandtraps" as possible when you're in the flow.

Trying to remain aware of the tools and join this zone, which is a byproduct of the music and experience you have absorbed, isn't possible from my experience. It would be like becoming aware of each and every little movement when you walk! If you do that, you'll move awkwardly instead of with your natural flow.

Remember, these tools you left behind will still be a part of you on a subconscious level, but the music in that zone will be far more significant than the awareness of your joining and influencing that zone.

I always hear music. Sometimes I hear music even when there's other audible music. I hear music I've already heard and music I've never heard in my head so luckily I have a zone around me rich with sound that's very easy to join and/or alter.

This is key in understanding playing in the moment. There's got to be music inside or there's no vocabulary. Only finger mechanics.
_________________________
My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user

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#1135611 - 01/23/08 02:01 PM Re: Playing by ear
PianoNoob Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 42
Loc: Utah
I do as described above, with one change...I'll transpose it into the key of C.

I am MUCH better at figuring something out in the key of C than in any other key. Once I figure it out, I can transpose it back or to where ever I'd like.

I can sort of play by ear and I feel I'm a pretty average musician with an average ear. Been playing for a year.
_________________________
Self taught with a Yamaha Clavinova CVP-303

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#1135612 - 01/25/08 08:38 AM Re: Playing by ear
mario 08 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/28/07
Posts: 26
Loc: Australia
Once you become confident at playing following the music then you can be a little more adventuresome. Try changing the music in front of you a little. Just a simple change her and there. Playing by ear comes about gradually. You find at first you are able to memorise a melody and then add an accompaniment to it ( Bass and chords ). This does not have to be in any specific order. As you create it you dedide what goes into the composition. This can be a great source of enjoyment for you. Never consider the fact that you are not able to play by ear as a shortcoming in your playing. This skill will come eventually. Enjoy your playing in the mean time.
_________________________
Maurice

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#1135613 - 01/26/08 09:56 PM Re: Playing by ear
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by tulleh:
I guess I'm not a true pianist, since I can only play what's written on the sheet in front of me. How many people here can play by ear, and how did you do it? Did it take a long time? [/b]
You're in good company.
The majority of graduated concert pianists freeze at place and are unable to go on when they're confronted with the challenge of playing by ear, improvizing or creating personal arrangments.

It seems like (to me vital) aspect of piano playing that you must cultivate on your own.
I'm a beginner at playing by ear and yet I'm a conservatory student with an advanced repertoire, so I don't know how long it will take \:\(

The piano magicians here seem to have gained a lot of skills in improvizing, harmonizing and playing by ear in 2 to 3 years.

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#1135614 - 01/26/08 10:10 PM Re: Playing by ear
Disciple Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/07
Posts: 288
Loc: NYC
How much music do you listen to?
_________________________
My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user

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#1135615 - 01/27/08 08:15 AM Re: Playing by ear
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 507
Loc: Louisiana
quote:
[The piano magicians here seem to have gained a lot of skills in improvizing, harmonizing and playing by ear in 2 to 3 years.]


You ain't wrong!! \:D Typically, a lot quicker than 2-3 years, I might add. \:\)
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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#1135616 - 01/27/08 07:54 PM Re: Playing by ear
monkmonk Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/08/07
Posts: 84
Loc: Osaka, Japan
For many people I think it's a matter of learning to recognize the sounds they already know. So just doing concentrated aural perception excercises along with really learning to love harmonic movement will get you quite far toward playing by ear.
For instance I was at a session the other day, and they called a tune I didn't know in a different key than usual. It was matter of listening to the bass player and the melody and connecting my knowledge of theory with what I was hearing in the moment. This was unthinkable for me one or two years ago. This kind of thinking is very conscious, but finding the voicings and lines has to be very automatic.

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#1135617 - 01/27/08 08:07 PM Re: Playing by ear
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
I think that when we say "playing by ear" we mostly mean harmonizing and arranging. I say this because playing a single notes melody by ear is very easy. And almost everyone has enough ear to being able to find in a small amount of time a melody.
The problem is actually the arrangement and accompainment of the melody in order words the harmony which is at the very foundation of music itself. But being able to play harmony by ear (where by ear we mean without sheet) has in my opinion more to do with theorical knowledge of harmony construction than ear itself.

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#1135618 - 01/28/08 11:56 AM Re: Playing by ear
monkmonk Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/08/07
Posts: 84
Loc: Osaka, Japan
 Quote:
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:

The problem is actually the arrangement and accompainment of the melody in order words the harmony which is at the very foundation of music itself. But being able to play harmony by ear (where by ear we mean without sheet) has in my opinion more to do with theorical knowledge of harmony construction than ear itself. [/b]
Yes theoretical knowledge is great, but it won't do you much good when it comes to the really interesting sounds, try transcribing Thelonious Monk's exact voicings when he plays solo piano. He destroyed my voicing concept at the piano, "stock voicings" ie "theoretically correct" you can chuck em out with the compost, they're no good for Monk. Besides your "harmony" will be banal at best, and irrelevant at worst if you don't hear the energy of every single note, it's gravitational tendencies in the implied key center(s).
I'd rather hear a beautifully voiced triad played with perfect precision and control than a string of arbitrarily altered dominants any day. That is one of the factors that makes your typical jam session so banal and incoherent, beginning players throw their "theoretically correct" harmonic lines around with little respect for the soloist and other rhythm section players.
You'll really limit what you can hear if you define your harmonic vocabulary by some theory rather than by the music itself.

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#1135619 - 01/28/08 05:38 PM Re: Playing by ear
Late Beginner Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 588
Loc: West Australia
Hi,

I'm trying to develop both styles as I learn piano - reading piano music, and playing by ear. So far, playing by ear seems to be one of those Good News/Bad News situation.


THE GOOD NEWS

The good news is that there seems to be a Very Simple Trick[/b] to learning to play by ear. \:\)

Cheers,

Chris
_________________________
Who needs feet of clay? I can get into enough trouble with feet made of regular foot stuff...

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#1135620 - 01/28/08 11:10 PM Re: Playing by ear
gdguarino Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/20/07
Posts: 317
Loc: New York City
I'd like first to agree with the posters that describe playing by ear as akin to speaking a language; a natural process of letting the music you "hear" (not think) flow into the instrument with as little attention to the mechanics of chords, scales and fingering as possible.

Secondly, I'd like to remind you of how you learned your first language. You absorbed it from all around you. You learned by using it, even when you had only grasped a few scraps. You learned which sets of words "worked" and which didn't not by studying grammar, but by trying them out. Some got you the juice, others didn't. Those that "succeeded" started to just "sound" right to you.

Since you're not two years old anymore you can make use of certain adult shortcuts: dictionaries and phrasebooks for a foreign language, chord charts and scales for music. Instructors for either.

But don't mistake the shortcuts for the main component of the method. You need to play along with the music you want to play. As with a language, there are simply too many permutations of notes and chords to use conscious computation to divine what to play in real time.

Our brains allow us to cope with tasks like that, but only through lots of repetition. Well, not exact repetition. Think of it as repetition with variation. When you play along with records, or (even better) with other musicians, ALL of what you play is valuable, even the mistakes. You're building up an aural picture of what works, and what doesn't, and eventually the strong two way correspondence between notes and sounds that is the essence of playing by ear.

Thirdly, I'd like to relate a truly extraordinary experience that was made possible by the ability to play by ear.

A friend's mother died a week ago under sudden and unexpected circumstances. Her family (adult children and grandchildren) as well as close friends were shocked and grief-stricken. There was a very emotional church service which continued at the funeral home and at the luncheon that followed.

Many of the people who attended were from out of town and were staying the night in the same hotel. We decided to meet in the hotel lounge that evening. My friend used to play guitar and sing in a band we were in thirty years ago. Someone's teenage son had an acoustic guitar. There happened to be a digital piano there too.

We started off playing songs he knew. Over the next three and a half hours we must have taken fifty requests. At least seven or eight people came up to sing songs individually, some doing several songs. Other songs turned into group sing-alongs among the twenty-five or so people that were there.

There were rock songs, folk songs, a couple of standards and a show tune or two, even disco. One guy did at least 75% of Alice's Restaurant. Some songs sounded pretty good. Others were glorious, almost lyric-free train wrecks. But all of it was therapy.

I don't know if I've ever been in a situation in which doing something so effortless and enjoyable could do so much good.
_________________________
Greg Guarino

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#1135621 - 01/29/08 03:38 AM Re: Playing by ear
Othello Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 121
Thanks everyone for their wonderful input. I am too learning to play by ears. I have been transcribing a lot of Monk's tunes, and you bet that they are difficult!

I have a question, though: when you play by ear, do you sing either in your heard or out loud the solfege? I feel that if I don't, I tend to lose the sense of position within the tune. But by merely going by intervals I tend to fare much better with Monk's works, albeit very slow. Any thought?

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#1135622 - 01/30/08 05:34 AM Re: Playing by ear
gdguarino Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/20/07
Posts: 317
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by Othello:


I have a question, though: when you play by ear, do you sing either in your heard or out loud the solfege? I feel that if I don't, I tend to lose the sense of position within the tune. [/b]
I've been playing entirely by ear since I was a teenager. That would be over thirty years ago, so when I have engaged in these discussions, it hasn't always been easy to remember how I learned to do it, or what the mental process is now. It is mostly like speaking; a natural activity that I don't need to think through.

I have noticed one key bit of the process though, especially when I try to figure out a song with unusual chord changes from memory. I do indeed have the melody in my mind, along with the bass notes. Those two things alone can usually define the basic chords, and even some of the color tones.

This "method" has the advantage of employing the two easiest parts of the music to hear, and in the case of the melody, the easiest to remember. A lot of beginners seem to get stuck on trying to hear a "chord" instrument like piano or guitar in the middle of a dense mix. It's not only difficult to pick it out, on some pop records, it doesn't exist. The "chords" are spread over several instrumental parts.

Try it sometime. Just play the melody over the root notes. See if that doesn't narrow down the list of possible (basic) chords to just a couple, or even one. Armed with that information, you can refine the color tones much more easily. Now it's just a matter of listening for a specific note or two, rather than trying to pick out a whole chord.

Greg Guarino
_________________________
Greg Guarino

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#1135623 - 01/30/08 09:29 AM Re: Playing by ear
Sir Lurksalot Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 1235
Playing by ear is difficult and painful. Jazz pianist and comic Pete Barbutti was a frequent guest of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. I never saw him play by ear, but he was very good at playing by nose, which made him sound a bit like Count Basie.

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#1135624 - 02/05/08 07:13 AM Re: Playing by ear
Zsolt Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/04/08
Posts: 5
Loc: Hungary
Hy all.
I really need help. My wife like very much Depeche Mode. Her favorite song is: Sister of night. Can find on Youtube. The original is only with piano. I want to surprize her, so I searched the web for sheet music, but nothing found. Other problem is that I can't learn the song by ear, so if anybody is good is playing by ear, please play, record and contact me.
Big thanks in anticipation.
_________________________
Usicheze na simba, ukamtia mkono kinywani. When you play with a lion, do not put your hand in its mouth (swahili)

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#1135625 - 02/05/08 07:52 AM Re: Playing by ear
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
You can look at this chord sheet and figure it out from there (note: H means B chord):

http://www.azchords.com/d/depechemode-tabs-1090/sisterofnight-tabs-135200.html
_________________________
No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!

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#1135626 - 02/07/08 02:37 AM Re: Playing by ear
Zsolt Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/04/08
Posts: 5
Loc: Hungary
Thank you, but unfortunally I already tried this sheet, but is not workig. I mean that is not sounds like the original. That can mean, that I'm bad, or the sheet music is not correct... \:\( .
_________________________
Usicheze na simba, ukamtia mkono kinywani. When you play with a lion, do not put your hand in its mouth (swahili)

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#1135627 - 02/07/08 02:43 AM Re: Playing by ear
Zsolt Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/04/08
Posts: 5
Loc: Hungary
also tried the music sheet on the 911 tabs... \:\( .
I thought on Valentine's day will be a perfect gift... but in this way... \:\(
_________________________
Usicheze na simba, ukamtia mkono kinywani. When you play with a lion, do not put your hand in its mouth (swahili)

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#1135628 - 02/07/08 05:07 AM Re: Playing by ear
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
Hmm, cool song. I didn't know it.

Let me see what I can do. I should be out looking for a new job but this is more fun. \:\)

No promises, though.
_________________________
No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!

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#1135629 - 02/07/08 05:18 AM Re: Playing by ear
Zsolt Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/04/08
Posts: 5
Loc: Hungary
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
\:\)
_________________________
Usicheze na simba, ukamtia mkono kinywani. When you play with a lion, do not put your hand in its mouth (swahili)

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#1135630 - 02/07/08 09:18 AM Re: Playing by ear
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
I don't know how romantic playing this particular song for your girl will be, but here it is:

http://www.box.net/shared/28ipz7rk8w

This is not a real transcription because the piano doesn't play the vocals in the original song. So I made it into a simple arrangement. After the verse I got bored by it, so you'll have to do the chorus yourself. \:\)

Enjoy! \:D
_________________________
No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!

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#1135631 - 02/11/08 07:05 AM Re: Playing by ear
Zsolt Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/04/08
Posts: 5
Loc: Hungary
THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Sorry for that, but I'm the happiest man on earth now:D:D:D.
Mahlzeit, I'm your now:).
And thank you again:).
_________________________
Usicheze na simba, ukamtia mkono kinywani. When you play with a lion, do not put your hand in its mouth (swahili)

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#1135632 - 02/11/08 03:57 PM Re: Playing by ear
Jared88 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/07
Posts: 56
Loc: Cincinnati
If you memorize the chord progression to Canon, you will be able to play ANY modern/traditional song as well as all the Christmas songs. I kid you not. Almost every modern song (major of course) will resemble Canon. It's the most famous major chord progression and every piano player should know it.

I,V,vi,iii,IV,I,IV,V.

Then all you have to do is pick song to play...Use C major at first. Just use the left hand to be aware of what chord your playing to. You can play the full major chord arpeggio's with your left hand and play the theme or voice with your right hand. With the right just think of 3rds and 5ths at first. Its real simple, but it works.

The most important thing is to experiment, find out what sounds good together and what doesn't. This will help your ear training also.

Then all you need to do is learn how and when to use inversions and then you'll have a real sold basis for piano improvisation.
_________________________
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#1135633 - 02/12/08 10:58 PM Re: Playing by ear
John Mila Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 245
Loc: So California
I had 3 years of accordion lessons starting when I was 7. Hated it. Quit at 10 and picked up a guitar. Started strumming and singing my favorite songs. On my 11th b-day I got a spinet piano. I started playing the piano like I was playing the guitar. Playing chords and singing the melody. By 12, I had my first garage band, playing the newest Beatle hits. Now in the mid-50s and still play in Garage bands, just bigger garages.
I think the key is to play the chords with Ez play music to start. If you don't know the chords, get a chord book. The big note music makes it easy to get started. If you can sing, you'll use that to help develope your ear and teach it to coinside with the keyboard.
Play your favorites,because you'll know the 'feel', this will help you teach yourself timing.
As you play, you will start to develope the 'what to do's with each song.
Get a metronome, or keyboard with drum machine. Use this to help you develope consistent rhythm.
And Have Fun!
_________________________
John Mila de la Roca, Manager
Keyboard Concepts, Tustin CA
714-544-0088
Yamaha-Schimmel-Bosendorfer
Piano Tuner/Tech 30 years
john.miladelaroca@keyboardconcepts.com
keyboardconcepts.com

Yamaha C3-KorgN364-Kurzweil K2500-Yamaha P200-Roland Ax1 & Les Paul Custom gold Top 57 re-issue and 6 nameless guitars.

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#1135634 - 02/14/08 06:27 AM Re: Playing by ear
Piano-pianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 50
Loc: Rome, Italy
If a pianist knows music harmony and has a good ear he can play by ear very easily.
Moreover, if he has a bit of experience in music it is yet easier.

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#1135635 - 02/14/08 07:00 AM Re: Playing by ear
Gilbert Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/06
Posts: 442
Loc: Ireland
I was looking at the music for Simon and Garfunkels 'Bridge over Troubled Water' last night. The opening melody moved through three inversions of Eb in order that the melody note was on top. I thought that if every songs is like this, I don't need to buy sheet music any more - my ear can tell me where the melody moves and I can arrange the chords/chord inversions to suit the melody note. Have I just caught on to something or is it different with different songs?
_________________________
"If your only tool is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail!"

Piano: Roland FP-7

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#1135636 - 02/14/08 08:13 AM Re: Playing by ear
Astra Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/08/06
Posts: 391
Loc: Slovenia
Hi Gilbert!

When playin solo piano you dont have voice or other instrument to provide the melody, so you have to play it. You can play it as single notes, or you can add additional tones below the melody. And inversions are just that - adding chord tones below the melody so the sound is fuller.

An answer to your question: It depends on the arranger - some people use inversions, in 'easy piano' sheets theres usually only melody etc. etc.

If you want to know, whether you need to buy sheet music or not, then pick a song and try to arrange it by yourself. Use inversions, arpeggios etc. (whatever you like). And if you like your arrangements then you dont need to buy sheet music.
_________________________
ex - pian00b

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#1135637 - 02/15/08 05:50 AM Re: Playing by ear
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Most professional pianists in the non-classical field,like dance band musicians, have to be able to improvise and play in various keys. It's part of the required ability.

I think they,in by far the majority, are trained musicians,unlike me an amateur, non score reader, never taught. No classical either.

I think they (the proper pianists) memorize the score in some way. They do perform in a 'by ear' a little,

I for sure have to memorize the song and be able to play it in several keys if I wish to play-along to a recorded band or soloist. It is pointless for me to try and do it any other way.

That's fine, up to a point but very limited. I have never heard of anyone playing classical music by ear. Unless we talk of simple popular tunes that people sing etc.

I never fail to admire high profile classical pianists who remember note for note great long concertos.

In the matter of John Mila's way that is again different from me as chords basic is more suitable for playing along with others or singing groups. The filling in is where the single note process begins and with the improvisation effect of melodic scales and arpeggios.

Just a few of my thoughts.

Alan (swingal)

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#1135638 - 02/21/08 03:16 PM Re: Playing by ear
gdguarino Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/20/07
Posts: 317
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by swingal:
Most professional pianists in the non-classical field,like dance band musicians, have to be able to improvise and play in various keys. It's part of the required ability.
[/b]
Many non-classical styles, like pop, rock and jazz are based on varying amounts of improvisation over chord changes.

 Quote:

I think they,in by far the majority, are trained musicians,unlike me an amateur, non score reader, never taught. No classical either.
[/b]
"Trained" covers a lot of ground. Many, if not most have taken lessons, probably learning some classical pieces.
 Quote:

I think they (the proper pianists) memorize the score in some way. They do perform in a 'by ear' a little,
[/b]
I may not be a "proper" pianist, or a professional. I do play 2-3 paid gigs a week. In my case, ALL of my playing is by ear, at least these days. I don't think that non-classical musicians necessarily need to "memorize" the songs they know. It is usually enough to remember how the song sounds. My experience playing by ear allows me to translate that mental "sound" into the notes I play.

It's a great deal easier than remembering all the notes to play. I can't even imagine how I could memorize by rote all the many hundreds of songs I know.
 Quote:


I for sure have to memorize the song and be able to play it in several keys if I wish to play-along to a recorded band or soloist. It is pointless for me to try and do it any other way.
[/b]
I'm not convinced that it is pointless. Everyone who can play by ear learned to do it at some point. It required a good bit of work to learn the first few songs, but each one you learn makes the next one easier.
 Quote:

That's fine, up to a point but very limited.

[/b]
I agree. If you want to play pop styles, you really need to learn to play by ear, at least enough to convert a lead sheet into an acceptable piano part.
_________________________
Greg Guarino

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#1135639 - 02/25/08 10:38 PM Re: Playing by ear
Master_Z Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/07
Posts: 28
Loc: USA
I can. Playing sheet music is just way too hard for me. I listen to the notes and they come to me. I take lessons by ear as well, by a woman who is very talented and blessed with the gift.
_________________________

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#1135640 - 02/27/08 03:53 AM Re: Playing by ear
Piano-pianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 50
Loc: Rome, Italy
If you know music harmony playing by ear is very simple.
However if You develop your ears with ear training it is also easier.
Most of music we hear is tonal music.
So tonal music is generally based only on three main chords , or tonal centers: tonic, sub-dominant and dominant.
When I do not understand with my ears what chord I have to play I try one of those chord and I find it!
It is easy.
(Obviously NOT all music or songs we hear is so)

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