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#1137869 - 11/24/05 01:33 AM How to play by ear?
MDes Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/05
Posts: 30
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Hey, I'm just beginning to learn how to play piano, and playing by ear seems really interesting to me. I can't really do any playing by ear though, except for very simple melodies. I was wondering if anyone knew of any ways to approach this, other than just playing random notes and figuring it out? Maybe some books or something that can help? I heard about pianomagic.com in the other thread, but it's kind of expensive for me right now, so I was looking for something a bit more affordable. Basically, how to get started with the whole "playing by ear" thing.

Also, I don't know a lot of theory (at all), so I was wondering if anyone knows a good way to get started on that? Should I just ask my piano teacher to teach me theory? Or is there another way I can learn it (effectively), without wasting lesson time?

Thanks for any help!

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Piano & Music Accessories
#1137870 - 11/24/05 02:02 AM Re: How to play by ear?
soberkenny Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/23/05
Posts: 5
Loc: green bay, wisconsin
MDespot, if its a book your looking for to teach playing by ear, isn't that contradictory? lol

i would suggest memorizing a few chords, c, d , e , f, and g and playing them with your left hand using bass c for the root, then trying your right at a melody starting around middle c.

i would highly recomend spending as much research time with music theory as possible, and no i don't believe any lesson time is wasted.
_________________________
so much music...so little time...

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#1137871 - 11/24/05 06:12 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi MDespot

I you want to play by ear?...then pianomagic will enable you to...in the simplest most straightforward way ;\)

Is it expensive? see-ing as you can have daily interaction with Mike and all the other members in the forums for a YEAR and ask a zillion questions (like me, if you want to) until you get it.

I'd say its priceless.

I've been playing Mikes way for a little over 2 years and its definitely working so far and I'm only scratching the surface as I'm getting into the more advanced stuff.

I could prattle on and on about how good it is, and how its changed my life, and how I've lost thirty pounds in 4 weeks on the pianomagic diet blah blah, but, the proof of the pudding is in the eating (so they say)

So, take a listen to a couple of my latest recordings (played by ear the pianomagic way) here:-

http://uk.geocities.com/lee.holt@btinternet.com/

If thats the kind of thing you'd like to be able to do?...then give it a try ;\)


Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137872 - 11/24/05 01:21 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Most books that I've seen promote playing by using fake books. While it's nice to be able to play thousands of songs (eventually) by using the fake books for the chord progressions; that is not playing by ear. To play by ear, you not only have to be able to pick out the melody (which takes practice all by itself) but you also have to know what the chord changes are on-the-fly.

So far I've looked at two true play-by-ear courses: PianoMagic.com and "Mel Bay's You Can Teach Yourself Piano" video course.

Mel Bay's course is very inexpensive (about $10 for the hour long video). If you are *EXTREMELY* self motivating, then you could probably learn how to play simple songs by ear with this course.

PianoMagic, while initially more expensive, is an on-going course that teaches step-by-step from the very beginning and also teaches how to know what the chords are going to be in the song that you're humming. (If you can't hum the song, then you won't be able to play it by ear.)

There are challenges to learning to play by ear for those of us with prior piano experience:

1. We're used to fully voiced pieces that we learn or read from sheet music. It's tough to go back to the basics and learn from scratch. But if you want to make music from thin air, this is what you have to do.

2. Some *think* they know lots of theory, so they rush in to add advanced chords before they're ready. They may know that an advanced chord goes in a particular spot in a particular song, but they don't know why, so it's not going to help them in a different song.

So, if you really want to learn how to take a tune that you have in your head and play it on the piano, and you want some guidance while doing it, then so far, PianoMagic is the only course I've seen that does that. As I said, other courses use fakebooks as a crutch.

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#1137873 - 11/24/05 02:27 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Oh yeah

forgot to mention..you get Bob and I thrown in for free!! (thats got to be worth a couple of bucks at least? ;\) )


Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137874 - 11/24/05 06:40 PM Re: How to play by ear?
MDes Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/05
Posts: 30
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Ok, thanks guys. What do you mean I have to be able to hum the song or I wont be able to play it by ear? Like, I can hum the melody to the star wars theme right now, does that mean I'll be able to play it? And if I cant hum it, will I be able to play it after listening to it then?

Also, are there any more people who have used pianomagic on here? I think I'm gonna need a bit more support for it before I can convince my parents to order it.

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#1137875 - 11/24/05 06:53 PM Re: How to play by ear?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I'm just starting to work on more improv. so I have barely got started. If your humming a melody like Star Wars, just go to the keys and try to pick out the tune.
Sight-singing (trying to play a note and see if you can sing the next as in intervals) helped me a lot with picking out tunes a little better. I would think the more you did it, the easier it would become.
Don't be afraid to ask your teacher about showing you some theory. Theory can be taught also in the context of the music your learning . . . looking for scales, intervals, chords within the music. Your teacher should be able to give at home assignments without using lesson also. Start learning intervals, scales, and basic chords, then go to chord inversions, then progressions, and your on your way!

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#1137876 - 11/25/05 10:26 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi MDespot \:\)

 Quote:
I think I'm gonna need a bit more support for it before I can convince my parents to order it.
Hey...you could always ask Santa , Xmas is coming thick and fast! ;\)

And yup, sarabande is on the right track, if you know a song? hum whistle and sing it and then try and hunt and peck out the single melody notes. However, that is unfortunately only half the battle I'm afraid to say, you also need to find matching chords to harmonize the melody ...(its a heap of work to figure out on your own but to some it comes easy)

If you want to play by ear there's any easy way or a hard way...unless you are born with a natural ability to do it off the bat (which definitely ain't me)...then we've shown you the door to an easy way. ;\)


Good Luck


Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137877 - 11/25/05 10:36 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"What do you mean I have to be able to hum the song or I wont be able to play it by ear?"

Exactly that. How can you possibly play a song at the piano if you don't even know it enough to be able to hum it?

Like, I can hum the melody to the star wars theme right now, does that mean I'll be able to play it?

Well, you're comparing an orchestral work with just a piano, but yes, that's the idea.

"And if I cant hum it, will I be able to play it after listening to it then?"

As long as you can hum it accurately after listening to it, yes.

"I think I'm gonna need a bit more support for it before I can convince my parents to order it."

Christmas is coming up. ;\)

Why don't you spend a few weeks dinking around on the piano before and after practice. See if you can pick out the melody to some tunes you know. Star Wars, Mario Brothers, the Star Spangled Banner, whatever. As I said, that's the easy part. The hard part is knowing what chords to play.

Once you can pick out the melody to a few songs, ask your teacher if they can spend a few minutes learning how to find the melody. Can your teacher play by ear? If so, that would be very helpful. Unfortunately, even if they can, they may not be able to explain why they pick a particular chord to play during a tune.

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#1137878 - 11/26/05 02:16 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Greenlee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/05
Posts: 89
Loc: Virginia
What do you mean I have to be able to hum the song or I wont be able to play it by ear?[/b] You don't need to be able to hum it perfectly, but you have to know how it goes in your head. For me, I often find the song lyrics online, print them out and take them to piano. Using the lyrics, it jogs my memory of how the song goes.

It's something that can probably be learned, but I think it's one of those things that you just need to "have an ear for". Honestly, I have no idea how I do it. No one ever taught me-- I just sit down at the piano and it comes out. I know that doesn't sound like much help to you, but if you have a lot of patience, just sit there and try playing around until you have something that sounds like the song. And like someone mentioned, knowing how to play the chords (and common chord progressions) is really helpful.
_________________________

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#1137879 - 11/26/05 05:54 PM Re: How to play by ear?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I would just think the more you "do", the easier it would get to "hear" the notes you want or like.

For melodies, I could always pretty well figure them out. I've always been able to remember lots of tunes and all the words probably from listening to so many "tunes" on records, via singing songs, etc. as a kid. However, I have never had a natural ear for just picking out chords or adding anything interesting along with the melody. It wasn't until I learned chords, inversions, and chord progressions before I thought I might be able to put some chords with a tune, varying rhythms, adding to it overall . . . with a lot of practice!!!

For melodies as well, I found I could more readily pick them out by training myself to identify intervals by ear. For example, the beginning of the Star Wars theme is an interval of a 5th and if you remember what that sounds like you can hear a 5th elsewhere.

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#1137880 - 11/26/05 06:00 PM Re: How to play by ear?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Greenlee:
What do you mean I have to be able to hum the song or I wont be able to play it by ear?[/b] You don't need to be able to hum it perfectly, but you have to know how it goes in your head. For me, I often find the song lyrics online, print them out and take them to piano. Using the lyrics, it jogs my memory of how the song goes.
[/b]
That's an excellent idea!!!!

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#1137881 - 11/27/05 07:40 AM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
I aways used to think that playing by ear meant you cannot read music. So that meant having to master the piano keyboard until you can sit down and play to a standard, that becomes variable according to your ability, in the art of playing the instrument and degree of mastery of it.

Many hours of practice are required but it is said that it is a gift one is born with (in the genes). Hard to describe to those that hav'nt got it,or indeed what it is that we have.

In my case I first learned the sounds all the keys in an octave produce. Chords are the same. The practice hour time numbers would be very high.

'Greenlee' desribes exactly as with me on her way of playing.

It can annoy others that this is possible and especially if they are dependant on the score for their playing. But equally, I wish I could sight read and do all that classical stuff.

I quite often play along with jazz from the Hi Fi player in order to learn new compositions. Like Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson and so on, as two of my heros. I need to practice scales and the fingering constantly to keep up with the natural ability to master the keyboard.

Finally, I fill my day by playing all the jazz 'standards' I like so much on the CD and tape players whilst I earn a crust for the table.

It's a good job I restrict my jazz to the more mainstream and trad for that's my era.

Alan

PS. I sometines watch another pianist trying to find the correct note while sight reading and I think well it's 'that note! why are they stumbling?

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#1137882 - 11/27/05 08:22 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Margareth Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/04/05
Posts: 99
Loc: Estonia
You can accompany many songs using just three chords - tonic, subdominant and dominant. For example, if you play in D-major, you use D,G and A. Try it with a simple melody! If you get more professional you can learn how to put melody in there. It comes with practising.

Maka
_________________________
Attitude is everything.

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#1137883 - 11/27/05 11:47 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi swingal

 Quote:
it is said that it is a gift one is born with (in the genes). Hard to describe to those that hav'nt got it,or indeed what it is that we have.
Thats the way it used to be? ;\) ...now it can be taught to and learned by the "not so gifted" (like moi) \:D

I'm living the dream (today) and I was one of those people that thought (wrongly) for the past 30 (ahem) odd years that I couldn't play by ear! (WRONG!)

Up until ten years ago "Mike" also believed he had a god given gift and couldn't describe what it was he did...then, he had a dream and the rest... as they say "is history"! \:D


Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137884 - 11/28/05 03:30 AM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Lee, I'm most intriqued by your new playing by the 'PianoMagic' method. Glad to see it works. I would be very interested on reading more about your new found piano playing as it progresses and wish you all the best for the future.

Alan

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#1137885 - 11/28/05 08:18 AM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
Seaside Lee

I have no doubt that PM can teach how to
play by ear very simple stuff if you can hum or sing a song.

However, any intermidiate can plunk out a melody on a piano keyboard, and most can put a simple I-IV-V 3 note chord progression behind that melody...but this is certainly not always the standard on many songs, maybe hymns, not pop songs. Which BTW I have yet to hear just ONE
pop song someone was able to play using the PM
method. Is there any out there to listen too?

Is PM mostly geared toward the piano
beginner?

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#1137886 - 11/28/05 08:57 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Howdy swingal \:\)

I knew you'd be intrigued ;\) I've read many of your posts and I often get a sense of your inner battle (that you can do what you do, but, don't really know how to explain it). You remind me of Mike (pianomagic) in that he was exactly the same up until about 10 years ago and his dream (where he dreamed of a way to show people what he did)

I am just a small part of his "on-line workshop" where we are all learning together (even Mike who is still learning himself how to present what he knows in a better way). There is of course a natural progression as his online students are becoming more advanced and are asking deeper and deeper questions, questions that even he may not know the answers to, as no-one yet has advanced enough to ask them

So, I'll will definitely try to keep you informed..I'm sort of on a trip that I can't get off of now. \:D

I have played publicly a few times recently(for free) and I now know that I can entertain a crowd.

So, here's the thing, I DJ on the weekends through an agent, who also happens to be a booking agent for bands and entertainers and I have been chatting with him about some day soon playing piano at weddings before I do the disco etc.

Playing publicly has been a dream of mine since I was a little child (when even though I was told I was talented I jacked it in \:\( ) and it has been gnawing away at me ever since). I thought I'd never be able to play by ear...in my heart of hearts I knew that I couldn't achieve it, it was far too late (I was 41)...now?...I'm not so sure? ;\)

I'm getting closer by the day to really going for this (however, I may be getting divorced at this rate? if I have to tell "Mrs H" (aka "she who shall be obeyed!"...LOL) that I want to gig with the piano on top of everything else! )

regards


Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137887 - 11/28/05 08:59 AM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
 Quote:
You can accompany many songs using just three chords - tonic, subdominant and dominant. For example, if you play in D-major, you use D,G and A. Try it with a simple melody! If you get more professional you can learn how to put melody in there. It comes with practicing.
Exactly, you don't have to be even that knowledgeable to put melody to a 3 chord
progression. In fact I get bored outta my
mind doing it sometimes.

That's why I think PM is not for intermediate
musicians with a little knowledge. Everyone
regardless of their musical knowledge has to
practice what they do to get "comfortable" with
what they want to accomplish...That can't be taught, it's just what has to be done if you do
not have natural talent toward such movements.

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#1137888 - 11/28/05 09:07 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi sirch 59

 Quote:
Which BTW I have yet to hear just ONE
pop song someone was able to play using the PM
method. Is there any out there to listen too?
Will Dionne Warwicks "Walk on By" do?

If so? I've been playing for *only* 2 years so far and you'll find my recording here:-

http://uk.geocities.com/lee.holt@btinternet.com/

If not?...I might do a request \:\)

Is it for beginners?...If you play by ear already you don't need it. If you cannot play by ear you have to start with the basics and work up from there ;\)

Mike's been playing for...oooh...erm...a long time (about 37 years) and his online workshop has been running for about 3 years, so his most advanced students have been only learning for 3 years max!

Will we get more advanced? ...you betcha ;\) (have a listen to Mikes playing publicly available at the website front page to hear how advanced you can get)


Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137889 - 11/28/05 09:15 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi again sirch 59

 Quote:
Exactly, you don't have to be even that knowledgeable to put melody to a 3 chord
progression. In fact I get bored outta my
mind doing it sometimes.
You'd be straight into the advanced lessons then. Which consists of cousins and substitutions,augmented, diminshed etc etc (I'm not really there yet) and why they work and when to use 'em, and also the more advanced rhythm lessons...there's a lot to chew on already but, if what you are after ain't there already then you would just "ask Mike" about it and he would probably put together another overhead video or audio for you (within the forums)if it was unexplainable so that you could understand it (aswell as all of us)

What's more you can always telephone Mike and ask him personally if its what you are after (he is just a regular guy and he answers his own calls)

Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137890 - 11/28/05 09:23 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
sirch59, have you seen the videos over on the PM front page? There are some pop tunes in there from what I recall. Many recent popular music tunes can rely on advanced chording. But they can still be played by ear.

Keep in mind that all the people in the videos are beginners with less than two years under their belts. If they were memorizing music, then what they were playing wouldn't be too impressive. But they're playing from scratch, with just a melody in their head.

While PM may start with I-IV-V, it doesn't stop there unless the student does. Mike is ready, willing, and able to take the music as far as the student wants.

"any intermidiate can plunk out a melody on a piano keyboard, and most can put a simple I-IV-V 3 note chord progression behind that melody"

I would have to disagree. From my experience, if the music isn't on the page, most intermediate and many advanced players can not match chords with even the simplest of tunes. I'm surprised if they can even plunk out a melody. These things are simply not taught. If you can *correctly* match basic chords to tunes, then you'll have a leg up on the rest of us. As Lee said, you'll be able to go straight into the advanced lessons.

"Is PM mostly geared toward the piano beginner?"

No. However, advanced players can get caught up in what they think they know and end up going back to the basics several times. A beginner can learn the basics and get stuck learning technique. Arps and hand jumps take quite a while to master. An advanced player already has a good handle on technique and *IF* then can incorporate the basics, they'll advance fairly rapidly.

While PM starts out with the most simple three-chord tunes, (how else could you do it?), you advance to the more complex music when you're ready. Simple tunes can also be made more complex. You would be amazed to hear Mike's four minute rendition of "This Old Man"!

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#1137891 - 11/28/05 11:14 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
 Quote:
have you seen the videos over on the PM front page?
yeah...check out that "Magic Moments with Seaside_Lee" video he's a dude! (only kidding)

Seriously, though that was such a fun day where PMMO students from the UK got to spend a day with Mike at the Belsize practise rooms in London during his European vacation at the beginning of September.

Pressure? nerves?...jeez! I was shaking in my boots!! LOL


Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137892 - 11/28/05 03:52 PM Re: How to play by ear?
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
Seaside wrote: "yeah...check out that "Magic Moments with Seaside_Lee" video he's a dude!"

I'd expect nothing less--I hear he owns a gym.
_________________________
markb--The Count of Casio

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#1137893 - 11/28/05 04:52 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
LOL

Yeah, I may own a gym!...but since this darned piano obsession of mine ;\) (and my spare keyboard/s being readily to hand there ) I never have any time to work out! So, if I'm a little bit out of shape on the video it aint the gyms fault!...okay?

Your welcome to a free work-out anytime you are in Blackpool, markb ;\)

Lee \:D
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137894 - 11/28/05 07:33 PM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
 Quote:
If you play by ear already you don't need it. If you cannot play by ear you have to start with the basics and work up from there.


Gotcha, I agree.
I really appreciate your response because
I'm certainly not an advanced piano player
I'm New - 3 months, but have 15 years of musical experience.

I think I would gain some insight from the PM
sight, and I'm sure Mike's teaching is well worth
$129.00, but I think I can get the same insight for free, here.

I really think the PM sight has something valuble
to offer folks who want to gain an understanding of basic piano/music principles, but I wish Mike would split some cost up according to experience or some other way.
I know your discussions on the PM Msg Boards must
be very informative but so are the discussions on this board and they don't cost a dime.

Thank you for taking the time, you have been
very informative and helpful.

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#1137895 - 11/28/05 07:57 PM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
sirch59, have you seen the videos over on the PM front page?

No, I haven't, I would love to see them.
I did see the England trip thing with everybody introducing themselves and all, but I've definately missed the "video's?"

From my experience, if the music isn't on the page, most intermediate and many advanced players can not match chords with even the simplest of tunes.

I know what you mean, the pianist at my church couldn't play a tune by ear if her life depended on it, but can read music to a tea![/b] (that's for you Brits.)

While PM starts out with the most simple three-chord tunes, (how else could you do it?), you advance to the more complex music when you're ready.

Right, but my only contention is maybe Mike needs to split this up a little so it's not so expensive for stuff you don't need, but that's just my opinion and I'm sure he's thought about this aspect.

If there's not just ONE magical technique maybe he should sell different avenues of how to play.

I guess I'm just wishful thinking...

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#1137896 - 11/28/05 08:29 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi sirch

I hear what you are saying but, Mike doesn't want to split anything up or sell any add ons like many other courses do.

What you are buying into is a 24/7, 365 piano teacher and support group through the forums. The forums at PMMO are different than the forums here...they include many, many audio and overhead video lessons which are given by Mike totally for free once you have joined.

The forums are primarily a teaching learning question answer thang. There are many wonderful helpful people here but, how many can teach you to play by ear?

Infact, so far there has only been 1 or 2 suggestions from helpful members in this entire thread, has this thread taught you to play by ear so far?

There is really only a few basic steps to learn...the whole shebang just builds from there.
But, I guarantee if you want to learn how to do it you will ask many questions and they will all be answered and then some!

I don't know how much $120 bucks or so is to you...but I'd like to see you get a years worth of regular piano lessons for a similar amount.

I haven't paid for a single piano lesson so far and I'm quite happy with my progress so far.


Lee
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137897 - 11/28/05 08:59 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"I guess I'm just wishful thinking..."

Yup. ;\) Actually, he wrote a book some time ago where he wrote down his course. So if you do some searching, you might find a used copy somewhere for very little money. But trust me, the material in the book is nothing compared to the ongoing live lessons on the website.

Someone with 15 years of musical experience *might* find the actual course initially disappointing and leave the site saying to themselves that they just wasted $129. However, if they take the time to dig into the forums, they'll be richly rewarded.

"my only contention is maybe Mike needs to split this up a little so it's not so expensive for stuff you don't need"

The person to ask this would be Mike over at PM. But if you didn't need any of this "stuff", then you would already be able to play by ear. There's no way he could possibly split the site up.

I've looked into a few courses and this is the first one that doesn't just teach you how to play from fakebooks. In fact Mike insists that you put the fakebooks away and NOT use them! Playing a song by using a fakebook's chords as a guide is not playing by ear.

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#1137898 - 11/28/05 09:32 PM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
I haven't paid for a single piano lesson so far and I'm quite happy with my progress so far.

You should be happy with your progress,
I heard your stuff and it's inspiring.

You're like a flashing neon lighted billboard
on steriods with this PM program aren't you?
Hells Bells, Mike couldn't pay an ad agency
enough for the amount of FREE advertising you've
provided for PM! ;-)

I'm gonna go look at the videos of everyone.
I expect to see alot of octave playing.

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#1137899 - 11/28/05 09:39 PM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
Actually, he wrote a book some time ago where he wrote down his course. So if you do some searching, you might find a used copy somewhere...

Do you know the name of the book?
I'd be very interested in finding
a copy.

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#1137900 - 11/28/05 10:58 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"Piano Magic: The Secrets of Playing By Ear"

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#1137901 - 11/28/05 11:51 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Joel Rosenberger Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/05
Posts: 20
Loc: NY
I'm convinced that traditional piano lessons place far to much emphasis on hand-eye coordination... matching up the notes on the page with the keys on the keyboard. Many pianists could benefit from some training in hand-ear coordination, being able to match the music in your head with patterns of keys on the keyboard. Unfortunately, it's usually not until college-level music theory courses (i.e. aural perception) that a student even learns to recognize musical patterns by ear.
I think Suzuki may have had the right idea... perhaps there is something to be said for a student that learns to play an instrument first, then read music later; much like a child learns to speak before learning to read.
_________________________
Joel
Piano. Improvised. Invented. Fresh.
Currently working on: arranging O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Listen on Reverb Nation
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#1137902 - 11/29/05 03:53 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
 Quote:
You should be happy with your progress,
I heard your stuff and it's inspiring.

You're like a flashing neon lighted billboard
on steriods with this PM program aren't you?
Hells Bells, Mike couldn't pay an ad agency
enough for the amount of FREE advertising you've
provided for PM! ;-)
right, thats it sirch!

ya got me goin' now...I'm gonna ask for image rights!


Lee \:D
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137903 - 11/29/05 06:52 AM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
Bob,
Thanks, everything I've found so far leads
right to the PM site. I'm not sure he sells
this book as a stand alone? I might go ask him.

Thanks again...

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#1137904 - 11/29/05 10:57 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"I'm not sure he sells this book as a stand alone?"

No, I think it was self-published and he used it in a community college course for some years. But, since he went through several thousand of them, you might find one through a used book store that is a member of a used book network.

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#1137905 - 11/29/05 01:06 PM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Lee,

Thank you for your help on the subject of playing by ear. I have visited the pianomagic website and saw the first video clip and yours. I am impressed with the method Mike uses and can see it being very beneficial.

However, after such a long time of playing by ear I have not got a problem with identifying the sound and the correct keys to press or chords to play. My main task is to get the playing constantly improving in the area of fingering and the dexterity required for the more complicated passages and runs. Scales for example, that have to be precise and fit in, timewise, with the harmony as jazz requires. I always play with a melody that does not deviate very far from the composed tune. I like my jazz that way. I therefor copy artists such as Teddy Wilson, Jess Stacey, Fats Waller and just concentrate of doing as perfect a job as I can. But I'm never satisfied though I get a lot of pleasure from the instrument. I have never lost the urge to play the piano now for some 70 years.

I watched an old tape of George Shearing the other night made by the BBC2 some years ago, with a whole life history of his wonderful playing. As you know he was blind from birth. He did have formal classical teaching by a special teacher for the blind and I never fail to be overwhelmed by his extreme ability.

My final advice is that practice is the most single positive thing that will create the biggest step up in mastering the keyboard and all it's magnificent sounds and vibrations.

I doubt if any genuine pianist is ever satisfied with his ability, though some reached heights that the rest of us can only dream of.And that includes by ear playing.

Hope you stick at it and always push your self to reach something higher.

How many hours do you spend practicing Lee?

The more the better I find

Regards,

Alan

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#1137906 - 11/29/05 03:42 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Alan

I am absolutely sure you don't need pianomagic...heck you've been playing by ear for years! I just thought you would have enjoyed chatting with people who know where you are coming from. To be honet I think we would have learned more from you than you from us ;\) ...but, one day maybe?

George Shearing is one of my dads favourite pianists...darn, I wish I'd have caught that T.V. programme. Amazing what these blind pianists can achieve!...Your kind of jazz sounds exactly what I like (not too whacky, just nice re-harmonizations and sticking more or less with the melody ) I want to be able to do it...but, as I can't read music most of the lessons I see on the net are too hard for me and I'm too lazy to perservere (I may have to pick your brains on the way to do it by ear...one day)

 Quote:
How many hours do you spend practicing Lee?
How much do I practise? I practise almost every day, on a good day I can squeeze 2, 3 maybe 4 hours in (if the gym is quiet!) on a normal day at least an hour...to be honest I can't get emough, if I had the time I'd play for 37 hours every day! (there is a standing joke at pianomagic forums that I do indeed get that many hours in each day!..who knows? ;\) )

 Quote:
The more the better I find
I couldn't agree more \:\)

Mike likes to think of practise time as being fun (playtime) he believes in working with what you know and have learned to do (i.e.working within your comfort zone until you have the "free mind space" and body co-ordination to move onto the next level) and it seems to work wonderfully...he also has a great saying (which to me is the essence of his method)... "If its fun it will be done"

Trouble is I'm now a "piano-holic"!


regards


Lee \:\)
_________________________
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#1137907 - 11/30/05 02:59 AM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Lee,

Just a quickie. I think your enthusiasm is super and will carry you forward so well. We all started in the same position and it's so gratifing to feel you have gained ground every time you play.

Just remember, all the sounds are in that row of 88 notes. All you have to do is hit the right ones. Seriously, it is the connection between the brain subconscious and the keys. You get to the point where you know (in the brain) before you hit a key or chord what sound it will produce. Or you will do with practice. Just as a singer or a trumpet player knows how to produce a certain sound.

When you play a chord in key of C Major as I think you were. Using three notes. Try just dropping the first note one semitone and see what the harmony is it produces.

Just fiddle around and leave your brain to see if the harmony sounds correct. Sort of modulation?

I know no theory except what the notes are all called.

Good luck,

Alan

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#1137908 - 11/30/05 07:31 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Alan

 Quote:

swingal says:-
You get to the point where you know (in the brain) before you hit a key or chord what sound it will produce. Or you will do with practice. Just as a singer or a trumpet player knows how to produce a certain sound.
Yes, yes...I am starting to do thst sort of stuff myself now and have already touched on it briefly in another thread :-
 Quote:

Seaside_Lee says

Melody has always been the toughie for me...but, I am now starting to find that the "inner me" is starting to direct those fingers just where they want to go (which to be honest kinda freeks me out at times!...theres somebody in there? )
its soo exciting isn't it?

 Quote:
When you play a chord in key of C Major as I think you were. Using three notes. Try just dropping the first note one semitone and see what the harmony is it produces.
By "first note"? is that the bass note of the left hand chord or the top note?... or are you referring to chords in the right hand?

thanks


Lee \:\)
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Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137909 - 12/01/05 09:04 AM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
By "first note"? is that the bass note of
the left hand chord or the top note?...
or are you referring to chords in the right
hand?


Lee, I believe that's what Swingal is saying. Bass note of the left hand, because remember You're doing octave melody in the right most of the time.
(Not to say you couldn't do it in the right also.)

There is a completely different "feel" between MAJOR and MINOR 7th. Or I could say there is a different feel between C note and B note in the key of C.
People may call it a Major 7th in theory, you would call it "Airy." For goodness sakes, please don't drop down to Bb, then life would completely change as you know it, and maybe the KEY too!! ;-)

Just by droping that one note you're getting
into another realm of music...But forget all that, from what I saw on that video of your playing, technically your pretty solid, and that's because YOU practice.

When Mike mentioned about your rhythm, that's
another solid thing you've got going for you,
(Most important in my book) and I don't know what rhythm problem Mike was referring too, but not any people obtain the internal synch clock (that's what I call it)like you have garnered, some call it a "click."

Here's why that "clock" is very important, when you missed or forgot those notes at the end of the Beatles song, NOBODY, but a truly trained intrenched musician would have known because your rhythm was so solid. And beside, we wouldn't even know it's MUSIC if ya don't miss a couple notes hear and there!

(Being a drummer, I notice these things.)

Congratulations...your practice has paid off!

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#1137910 - 12/01/05 10:37 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Howdy sirch \:\)

thanks for the reply

 Quote:
Just by droping that one note you're getting
into another realm of music...
great! that is exactly the realm of music I want to get into...if its something simple like that I'm on it...but, if I 've got to read music to get a handle on it? then (at the moment ;\) ) its a bridge too far! (maybe one day? maybe not?)

With regard to rhythm I am still having problems...infact the last 3 recordings I've sent Mike have all been a bit pants! (because of my rhythm but, I'm workin on it...though, I have to admit he's getting a lot tougher with the recordings I send him, recently)

I'm putting in the hours at the moment singing along with my playing trying to get the breathing spaces and the rhythm going at the same time...dunno why but, I'm finding it tough at the moment. I've always been a good dancer and had rhythm I just can't understand why I'm struggling so much (but, I will figure it out)

Starting to wish I'd been a drummer first too ;\) , actually one of my members at the gym is in a church band and he reckons joining a band would help with my timing (I just don't fancy getting that one past Mrs Seaside...yikes!)

all the best

Lee \:\)
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Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137911 - 12/01/05 05:29 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Paret Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/04
Posts: 82
Loc: Keller, TX
Bob are you doing both Piano Magic and Sudnow? Or are you combining them both?
Your insights here will be very helpful for me.

Thank you.

Also- Seaside your recording is very nice. What did you use to do it?

_________________________
Luis D. Paret
K1LDP

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#1137912 - 12/02/05 07:35 AM Re: How to play by ear?
sirch59 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/05
Posts: 49
With regard to rhythm I am still having problems...infact the last 3 recordings I've sent Mike have all been a bit pants!

Well, I'm not sure of the British venacular "bit pants" but I can guess.

Don't worry about the rhythm it will come
just keep doing what you're doing because it's working!

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#1137913 - 12/02/05 11:10 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Hi Luis, I've set Sudnow off to the side for the time being and I'm digging into PM. What I like about PM is that I'm learning what chords to put in a song, where to put them, and why they're there. So I'm truly playing by ear! Also, it's not limited to standards.

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#1137914 - 12/02/05 11:40 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
 Quote:
Well, I'm not sure of the British venacular "bit pants" but I can guess.
Oops! sorry sirch... "a bit pants" = "a little bit garbage/poor" did you guess right?

 Quote:
Also- Seaside your recording is very nice. What did you use to do it?
Hi paret, \:\) ... quite simply I recorded out of my casio PX100's headphone socket via an audio lead into a Sony RCDW3 home CD recorder.

However, I played it on my Yamaha CLP170 (which is at home) and then took the floppy disc into work with me and played the midi back through the PX100 (sheesh does that make any sense?)


Lee

BTW I could have recorded straight out of the CLP170, but I have everything set up easier at work (the gym)
_________________________
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#1137915 - 12/02/05 11:52 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Composean Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/01/05
Posts: 9
Some people are awfully good at playing by ear without even having to work at it, but for those who don't have the talent to do it really well right off the bat, I think there's hope. And although the time it takes to achieve success depends on the individual, I think playing by ear is an acquired skill achieved with practice. In my opinion, only three steps need to be followed in order to play music by ear:

1. Memorization
2. Recognition
3. Duplication

If you can memorize the sounds of certain chords and notes, recongize them in song, and duplicate those chords and notes with the proper rhythm, you could play the song by ear, right? (It may be more complicated with advanced pieces of music, but for the more basic stuff, I think it works fine.)

I can't read music. It may or may not work for you, but the three steps above work for me.

There's a certain memory game you could buy and play that may help you develop this skill. It has several colored squares that light up. Each square makes a sound when it lights up. To play, you memorize the order (or sequence) the notes are played, then press the squares in the order it gives you. Try finding one and buy it. Play the game with your eyes closed. It's the same concept: You memorize the sounds of the notes, recognize the sound when it's played, and apply that knowlege when it's your turn to play back the notes. I think it's good practice since rhythm isn't required.

Hope this helps!

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#1137916 - 12/17/05 02:11 AM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
sirch59

Hi, sorry, I missed a reply to your question above about which hand I was referring to on the chord modulation. It was the right hand. I would not drop to a full tone just a semi-tone. Like E G B down to Eb G B.

I hardly ever know what sequence of notes I play. I have a list of tunes/songs jazz numbers and I always list the starting note which then dictates the key for the complete piece. Inless it requires a key change along the way but that's rare.

I do a lot of play alongs with recorded stuff and some jazz does require instant key changes this is quite difficult but not used much on the older trad jazz.

Ps. If you ever get to see a video of Erroll Garner you will see how he plays around with the audience with his impromtu intro then suddenly strikes up the well known piece and the audience love that. He was a wonderfully pleasant and cheerful little man and one of lifes real treasures.

The greatest natural talent in a pianist I ever have seen.
Alan

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#1137917 - 12/17/05 06:43 AM Re: How to play by ear?
hgiles Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 736
Loc: Charlottesville Virginia
Erroll Garner is a captivating player -- no doubt. I have the BBC DVD and have been watching it since it got here 4 months ago!!
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-------------

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#1137918 - 12/17/05 02:10 PM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Haywood, there is a book written about him called 'Erroll Garner The Most Happy Piano' by James M. Doran ISBN 0-8108-1745-4 Published 1985 It is based on his life right from the day he was born as a twin with Ernest,to the day he died.1977 of angina. There is a comprehensive Discography & Filmography and so on.

I'm very proud to have met him and seen 3 of his concerts all in England. 1960's He is a genius of jazz piano in my book and considering his total lack of theory or ability to read music this makes him a unique talent I think.

By the way I forgot to run the Video right through once as there are two sections and it's easy to think the first is the only one.

Just read your post which say's its a DVD, did you buy it in the U.S.? I wonder if its the same. Titled; 'Erroll Garner in Performance'

Happy Christmas

Alan

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#1137919 - 12/21/05 02:02 PM Re: How to play by ear?
pianocliff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/05
Posts: 398
Loc: Washington, DC Metro
To everyone who plays by ear. Do you sing when you play? I'm just curious. I have been trying to teach myself to sing the diatonic scale to help my ear training at home. I try to hear intervals as they would be sung in my head. If I sing a melody and then try to play it I seem to have better luck at finding the notes. I try to "hear" the notes in my head as they would be sung before I actually sing them. I feel a little silly about doing this (I'm not a singer by any stretch) but it seems to be helping. What do ya think?

~pianocliff

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#1137920 - 12/22/05 07:47 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi pianocliff

Singing?...yes,yes and yes! \:D

I would concentrate more on singing and pecking melody lines than singing scales (if I were you ;\) )

1. much more fun...to play stuff you like
2. The more you peck out the melodies the more (with time) your fingers will learn to speak the sounds you want to make.

make sense?

(I can't sing either) as long as you can hear the ups and downs in your voice thats all you need to be aware of.

regards


Lee
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137921 - 12/22/05 08:40 AM Re: How to play by ear?
pianocliff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/05
Posts: 398
Loc: Washington, DC Metro
cool!...I worked out the melody to "silver bells" last night doing this...right now this is about the extent of my abilities but i'm getter better...

~pianocliff

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#1137922 - 12/22/05 11:00 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
I agree, forget "ear training". How boring is that?! Play tunes! The more tunes you play, the better at playing tunes you'll get.

The melody will become easier and easier. The problem you'll run into with playing straight by ear will be figuring out what chords to play with the left hand to match the melody. This is where PianoMagic shines.

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#1137923 - 01/03/06 04:24 PM Re: How to play by ear?
pianocliff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/05
Posts: 398
Loc: Washington, DC Metro
Bob,

What kind of chords and voicings does PM offer? I think it's a good idea, but I can already figure out simple I-IV-V chords for melodies I play by ear. Does he talk about more than just your basic I-IV-V kind of songs?

~pianocliff

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#1137924 - 01/03/06 11:17 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Absolutely! If you already can identify I-IV-V, then you'll have a leg up on the rest of us noobs. ;\) Actually, as soon as you're outside of the songs were I is every other chord (like Silent Night for example), then you'll be in territory outside of I-IV-V.

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#1137925 - 01/04/06 08:23 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi pianocliff

I agree with Bob...I'd just like to add that pianomagic isn't going to teach you loads of fancy chord progressions!

Instead, it will help you to see why chords progress in the way they do and you'll be able to think songs through. You will learn how you can eventually use this new found ability (to think like music thinks) to create any type of popular music genre you desire to play...and importantly play it from your heart (which is a very addictive powerful thang! \:D )


regards


Lee \:\)
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137926 - 01/04/06 08:40 AM Re: How to play by ear?
hanna2222 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 78
Loc: Northeast Ohio
Hi...
I've played by ear since I was a kid. Its
always easier for me if I work with my eyes
closed.
Hearing the sound in my "inner ear" or humming
are both ways to find it. Without that inner
anchoring sound, there is nothing to guide you.
I play both by notes and ear, but playing
by ear was very helpful in me learning to compose.
And in many ways its more fun! Each has their
place.
I definitely think its a learnable skill that
will improve with practice.
Good for you for trying to play by ear. Some
musicians never risk it. Its like only driving
your car to work and never going to the beach
if you must always play with music!.
_________________________
The truest insights into a person's
character are two things:
1. How he treats people who cannot help him.
2. How he treats those who cannot
fight back.

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#1137927 - 01/04/06 04:25 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi hanna

 Quote:
Its
always easier for me if I work with my eyes
closed.
I've tried playing with my eyes closed but, Ive never thought of doing it when I'm working melodies out!

If that's worked for you since a child?...then I'm definitely gonna try it out with the stuff I can't work out.

That sounds like a good tip to me, I like it. \:D


thanks \:D


Lee
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Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137928 - 01/04/06 05:25 PM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Playing with the eyes closed is certainly good for the sound appreciation factor. But when I'm playing new stuff I look at the keys to decide which to play to give the sound I want. I thought that is why we play by ear using the sounds facing us on the keys and playing the correct chords and single notes as required. The keyboard is sitting there to be mastered. Practice will prove that to you. Memory playing is different.

A blind pianist is usually taught by a special teacher for them. That is also a different perspective. But the blindness, as I understand it, is capable of concentrating the senses on the music. Watch George Shearing if possible.


Alan

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#1137929 - 01/05/06 07:12 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Alan

yup, thats the way I do it Alan...but I also have to listen to the sounds I create?....I thought that was what playing by ear was all about?

Listening with my eyes closed to hear whether the notes match my singing of the melody line seemed a pretty good tip to me (didn't have time to try it out last night though)...especially when I'm trying to work out the songs that are still on my can't play list (thats lots and lots BTW)

regards


Lee
_________________________
Twitter: @Seaside_Lee

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#1137930 - 01/07/06 06:25 AM Re: How to play by ear?
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3397
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Lee, I've enjoyed listeing to your piano playing!

I have a question for all the folks here who can play by ear (or are in the process of learning.) Do you find you get into hand-habits, esp with your LH? I think of playing by ear as really having a conversation, or telling a story. I often give presentations, where I don't speak from notes, but I'll cover similar topics. When it's something I've talked about a lot in the past, I tend to say things very similarly, whether I intend to or not. Does that happen when you play? I don't mean when playing the same song, I'm thinking more like playing a song and noticing that your LH is doing something similar to what it does in a different song. If that makes sense? Just wondering.
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
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#1137931 - 01/07/06 06:31 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Shirokuro

The various rhythm patterns for the left hand chords are learned in a specific way until you get comfy with them and then you just expand on them in your own unique way as and when you get comfy

Eventually you have the mind space to mix and match ...block chords, arpeggios, boom chucks and stride patterns and various grand arps to create a myriad variations.


Lee \:\)
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#1137932 - 01/09/06 01:17 PM Re: How to play by ear?
hgiles Offline
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Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 736
Loc: Charlottesville Virginia
I worked through a tune I heard on a movie:

MOVIE: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
TUNE: "These Days" by Chantal Kreviazuk

Here's a link to it:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009A3ZYY/103-6457427-2821447?v=glance&n=5174

Anyway, I don't often try to figure stuff out on my own, but I amazed myself when I was able to work through it and get myself a nice little rendition of it.

First I tapped out the melody, then the bass, then I just filled notes in between. Kinda neat! I don't think I could do that with a jazz tune though.

And yes, it's a sappy movie and a sappy tune but I like it!
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#1137933 - 01/09/06 06:17 PM Re: How to play by ear?
dpvjazz Offline
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Registered: 07/12/05
Posts: 287
Loc: phoenix az
When first starting out I worked with a flute player for a number of years and together we would work out the parts to tunes we wanted to know. He could nail the treble right away and I took the bass part and together we filled in the middle. Some things when you woodshed with others you can make better progress than by yourself. Always start with simple things you like and work on those before moving on. Always record so can listen to what you have played and then have someone that knows or can do this check your progress. One thing for sure playing by ear is fun and rewarding but I have seen really good players that can't read suffer on the bandstand when their ear won't do and they need to read a chart or score to keep up. It can be embarrassing all those people who thought you had so much talent and now you are squirming around wishing you at least could read a simple jazz chart. I still believe the best way is to do both read and play by ear. DPVJAZZ

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#1137934 - 01/09/06 06:33 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
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Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
It seems that most people who play well by ear, did not have the oportunity to learn how to read music (usually due to financial circumstances);

and most people who can play from sheet music well *think* they can't play by ear because on the rare occasions when they try, (if they ever do), they make lots of mistakes.

Sad on both accounts. \:\(

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#1137935 - 01/11/06 03:33 PM Re: How to play by ear?
pianocliff Offline
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Registered: 05/05/05
Posts: 398
Loc: Washington, DC Metro
 Quote:
Eventually you have the mind space to mix and match ...block chords, arpeggios, boom chucks and stride patterns and various grand arps to create a myriad variations.
I have read about all of the above and been slowing applying them to simple melodies that I know. I learned about these techniques from a book called "How to Play Piano Despite Years of Lessons" that was originally written in like 1973 or something. I don't really recognize many of the tunes in the book but I have been applying the techniques to my own songs.

Right now I am still have troubling with the 3/4 or 4/4 bass patterns which I think you called "boom-chucks". They are like roots in octaves followed by the chord played an octave higher. So far the two things that I haved used most successfully have been the arpeggic accompanient and "open voicing 10th chords" in the left hand.

People who sight-read already may want to check out the book I mentioned for a good overall introduction to music theory, musical style and the practical matters of arranging your own accompanient to familar tunes.

~pianocliff

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#1137936 - 01/11/06 04:58 PM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Seaside_Lee

What I was saying is rather about looking at the next note or chord sequence whilst hearing what you are actually playing. It is too late to consider the next part if still 'listening' intently on the played part. The looking factor is critical because you have to react very quickly in some jazz numbers and so the 'hearing' sense is of the moment, whilst the seeing sense is telling the fingers what to play next.

This is a bit like motor racing, where if you have to wait to think /see what the car is doing on a curve you are already off the track. Racing drivers make good pianists it's said.

In sight reading pianists, I suppose the seeing sense is on the score in advance of the finger sense which comes next.

Playing by ear (or memory, as a sight reader with no score) is the same use of senses with just the reading eyes on the dots whereas ear players look at the keyboard or memorise where the notes to play are. The latter know the sound before touching the key/s.

I think the sight readers memorise the score or if not they must memorise the fingers on the keys probably a bit of both. Anyone to explain please?

This concludes with me repeating what I have always thought, that the greater skill is in the sight-reader. But there again it's nice to master the piano keyboard for all except classical, where it would be (I think) imperitive to be correct to the last note.

This recent (Ear subject) is the first time ever in all the 70 years of playing I have ever had to try and explain myself.

Alan

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#1137937 - 01/11/06 05:15 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Thanks swingal

I getcha \:\)

Hey the more you think about what you do...the more you'll be able to teach it (I'd spend a day picking your brains in a heartbeat ;\) )

Pianocliff thats a good book...but, for me it eventually delves too much into theory (gaggers! \:\( )


Lee \:\)
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#1137938 - 01/12/06 02:30 AM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Lee,

Nice to get your response.

Teaching something which I cannot understand myself (we need a neurology person to help now!) would be a disaster and teaching aint my 'forte' either.

Lets just keep the practice going and that above all else will prove to be the best way forward.

Let's keep the chatting too, as it's good to air problems on such a useful website as this.

This is my second user name by the way, as confusion suddenly stopped the previous one.

Regards

Alan

P.S.Teaching someone to use a brain facility without knowing how would be interesting!

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#1137939 - 01/12/06 09:21 PM Re: How to play by ear?
sepstein Offline
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Registered: 12/05/05
Posts: 83
Loc: Near Boston
Quite a topic going on here.

I'm classically trained, but also took several years of jazz improvisation courses in high school. As I understand it, in jazz, "playing by ear" often means being able to actualize any tune you can imagine in your head. So, the idea is that anything you can sing, you can play simultaneously on the piano (assume your chops can keep up!).

Despite a ton of theory and classical training, I have always found this difficult. Taking a tune I've heard and picking it out on the keyboard isn't that hard, and figuring out the harmony to add chords isn't that difficult for me either, but being to play what I'm singing as I'm making it up (improvisation) - that's tough.

I can recommend the Jamey Aebersold books and CDs for anyone interested in learning about jazz improvisation and chord progressions. It does take a lot of practice, but once you can play a ii-V-I progression in every key, you're well on your way. The CDs are of a jazz trio, so bass and drums are provided, and you can turn the piano (one of the stereo channels) off.

Anyone know a way to learn how to play what you're thinking of in real time?

Steve
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#1137940 - 01/12/06 10:19 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
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Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"Anyone know a way to learn how to play what you're thinking of in real time?"

Yeah, that's what Lee and I have been talking about. PianoMagic.com \:\)

Also, check out this thread over in the AB forum:
Let\'s talk about playing by ear

Bob

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#1137941 - 01/13/06 08:01 AM Re: How to play by ear?
sepstein Offline
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Registered: 12/05/05
Posts: 83
Loc: Near Boston
There's a difference between playing a tune you already know in your head, and one that you are making up *live*.

For instance, I know the tune to the Star Spangled Banner. Give me a starting note, and I can plunk it out, add harmony, etc. Like playing a fake book but already knowing the melody by ear.

That's different than something like scat singing in jazz, or the ability to scat play, if you will. There's no previous cognition of the tune - it is entirely spontaneous.

Hard to describe in words, but imagine typing a post on the forum. I'm forming the words in my head and then transcribing them by typing on the page. So I have the words first. For me, this is not "playing by ear."

Now imagine the ability to transcribe a conversation as it is occuring, at the speed of thought. We don't always think about what we are going to say, and then say it (although sometimes we should!). We just spontaneously have words coming out of our mouths. "Playing by ear," for me at least, is the ability to "speak" in music, rather than having a precognition of what I'm going to play.

I took a brief look at the PianoMagic course, and it seems to be leading to the former, rather than the latter.

Steve
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#1137942 - 01/13/06 08:34 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Nope

Steve, it is leading to the latter...that is its whole reason for its being...the ability to speak in music is,is,is,is IS...the whole purpose and point of "pianomagic"!! How did you come to the conclusion that it isn't?

Bob's only just started and hasn't got there yet, I've been at it for 2 years and am so near I can touch it at times (my ability to create on the fly gets better every day) and I didn't even know what or where middle C was 2 years ago!!

However, in order to be able to speak in music? you surely must have to work on songs you can hum whistle or sing first, I cannot think of an easier way to learn to think like music thinks and learn how to create any kind of sound or melody you darn well pleasie! \:\) (and yes I do own quite a lot of "Aebersold play-a-longs" and his "Anyone can improvise" DVD too (but, it aint as easy as Pianomagic IMHO)

The ultimate goal for every member is to as you rightly say..."speak in music"

LIKE MIKE ;\)


regards


Lee \:\)

BTW did you check out the thread at the link Bob gave you?
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#1137943 - 01/13/06 01:28 PM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Steve and Lee,

This is getting complicated in my opinion.

Probably because it is only since I visited this forum and saw the mention of 'Playing by ear' did I realize it is not a straight forward subject to anaylise or describe, mainly because there seems so many descriptions and people's opinions.

I have never seen the subject to deeply discussed as it is here.

The subject is worthy of analysis but as I can never truly describe what I do, then surely many of us cannot either.

Steve, Quote; "For instance, I know the tune to the Star Spangled Banner. Give me a starting note, and I can plunk it out, add harmony, etc. Like playing a fake book but already knowing the melody by ear.

That's different than something like scat singing in jazz, or the ability to scat play, if you will. There's no previous cognition of the tune - it is entirely spontaneous." ;end quote

Surely, what you say on that quote means, first example is a known tune, the latter example is a composition or indeed an on the spot improvisation, as jazz pianists do when they play a number in band and it's their turn for a solo.

If we are just composing off the cuff, again that can be done, either by ear players or taught players, the latter, knowing theory and depending on their abilities.

Lee; To speak in music is not clear to me. A singer can make music with their voice, any music they like, given usual talent to sing.

An by 'ear pianist'can (in my view) play a tune on the piano by having brain subconscious ability to do it. A newly composed tune, or a harmonic variation to an existing tune. The fingers are the tools of the pianist the brain is the catalyst that gives the commands. I think !

Knowing a piano keyboard completely and knowing, as a brain reaction that is already pre-progamed, is perhaps how we play. If I had to stop and think what to do I would be lost.

I bet this makes no sense to most of you. And I cannot help much more.

Willing to try. But it just comes so naturally I do it and have never have been asked how before .

Alan

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#1137944 - 01/13/06 01:43 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Alan

sadly, I know you never will (... because obviously you have no need ;\) ) but, I'd love to yak with you and I'm sure many others would too over at pianomagic.

I'd love to journey with you as you unravel the mysteries of your mind and share it with the massive group of ear playing students there.

Somehow when you start yakking on here I don't want you to stop. \:D

Alas! \:\(

Lee \:\)
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#1137945 - 01/13/06 02:02 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Hobie Offline
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Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 475
Loc: Rocky Mountains
Alan
As one who first learned to play by ear, then learned to read music, I can totally relate to what you just said.

For me playing by ear is very hard to describe...and even harder to teach! I have been fortunate to have been in many bands over the years, and taking a solo and improvising on the spot just come naturally to me. I have been playing like this for 33 years, so I have a vague recollection of not being able to play, but like you, my musical ability has become part of me.

I read with interest these posts on ear playing. I am glad others are trying to play this way. I believe that music is a language. I learned to speak this language through imitation at a young age. Ever since then I have been in love with music and the piano. I play becuase it is fun, and the ear part of my playing is most responsible for my continuing dedication to this art form. I am adopted and none of my siblings have any interest/skill in music at all. I often wonder if my biological parents were musicians since I took to it like a fish to water. There may be a genetic component to musical skill...food for thought.
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#1137946 - 01/13/06 04:22 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Hobie

It is interesting to know that there are many people throughout the world who play by ear and have no idea how they do it!

Mike was exactly the same as you two guys, if someone came up to him and asked or begged him to teach them he couldn't, it was just something he did, but couldn't explain.

Then he had a dream and dreamt a way to show people how to do it...pianomagic was born and was taken on the road in a workshop type of event.

Now, through the wonder of the internet...people like myself can now learn how to do what you lucky guys can do, with the help of Mikes method and help.

I know its of absolutely no use to you at all (just as it isn't to Alan either, because you both already play by ear)..but, personally I think it would be great to learn from you both as I could journey along with you as you learned how to explain what it is you do, over there.

I think you would enjoy yakking with the many people from all over the world who are learning to play by ear and having a heap of fun in the process.

I appreciate it would be totally unneccessary for either of you but, I think it would be great (for me anyway in a very selfish sort of way of course ;\) )


regards


Lee \:\)
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#1137947 - 01/13/06 04:33 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
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Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Hey, you could always pay their admission Lee. \:D

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#1137948 - 01/13/06 04:40 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
You know what?

Nah, if the guys want to do it, they will ;\)

Howeva, if my euromillions numbers have come up tonight (73 million)...I just might \:\)

just watch it! Mr Muir


Lee \:\)
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#1137949 - 01/13/06 05:11 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Hobie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/11/05
Posts: 475
Loc: Rocky Mountains
Lee
I just surfed over to the pianomagic site in search of their forum, but they want $189.00 for the membership. I would be game for some yakkity-yak on the forum, but I'm not THAT curious!!!

As a side note, I am a busy piano teacher with a full schedule and a large waiting list. I do teach creativity, composition, and do a little "ear training" by asking students to sound out melodies, come up with variations to themes in music, etc.

As for teaching 100% "by ear"....holy cow, that would be really hard. Maybe you could ask Mike if he would open up the forum area to people like me on a trial basis, just to see what's goin' on over there! Judging from your enthusiasm, it is working for you! I appreciate your posts.
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#1137950 - 01/13/06 05:47 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
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Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
I doubt he would do that Hobie. But I think you would learn a lot over there. Hey, at least it would be a business deduction for you. \:D

"teaching 100% "by ear"....holy cow, that would be really hard"

I truly believe it! Mike makes it look easy, but it took a true epiphany for him to do it himself. Of course all these years of teaching it locally has enabled him to refine it quite a bit. I think he's learned much more by teaching it himself than by merely playing professionally.

Nothing forces one to learn a subject more than teaching it. \:\)

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#1137951 - 01/14/06 01:49 PM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Lee and others,

As far as talking goes I'm fine on a live one to one basis but on the phone less so. I prefer time to calculate my answers.

I'm pleased you guys get so much pleasure from the teachings of PM and as such glad that this new facility works for you.

Practice and time are the two main ingredients aren't they. And watch out for arthritus as that can be a problem when you get older.

Kind regards and thanks folks.

Alan.

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#1137952 - 01/14/06 02:13 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"And watch out for arthritus as that can be a problem when you get older."

Thanks for the reminder Alan, just what I needed. :p

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#1137953 - 01/15/06 05:50 PM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Bob, don't take my words too seriously but it's something that is rather hereditary I believe. Plus living in a damp cold climate. Over working the joints and certain diets. A diet.... for or against arthritus is the meaning.

Anyhow you have got some 30 years to catch me up.

Alan

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#1137954 - 01/18/06 07:08 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Kam Offline
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Registered: 01/13/06
Posts: 184
Loc: Canada
Greenlee is definitely right, you have to spend time alone on the keyborad learning by urself.

But there's one thing u can do, u can play some new age songs to get the idea how ppl harmonize the melody.

gd luck
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#1137955 - 01/20/06 03:01 AM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
I know some member's of these forums play new age music. Are there any short m/peg clips so I can identify with this music please.

Alan

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#1137956 - 01/23/06 08:44 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Kam Offline
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Registered: 01/13/06
Posts: 184
Loc: Canada
New Age music

It is called "The Gift"
http://www.davidnevue.com/mp3/gift.m3u

For the online recital, I will be playing my own variations on tat song
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#1137957 - 01/24/06 07:45 AM Re: How to play by ear?
nickd Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 146
Loc: France
I believe that some people will never[/b] be able to "play by ear" in the sense of improvising.

My good friend Mhairi, a meticulous, first-class IT project manager, actually refuses to believe that improvisation can happen. She simply cannot understand how Keith Jarret, for example, could sit down for an hour and produce the Cologne Concert "out of thin air". In her mind he must have first taken themes, worked out where they go via rules and harmony, and slowly composed the piece, then memorised it and performed it without music.

Even when I'm playing R&B and boogie-woogie, where I'm doing nothing more sophisticated than re-shuffling loads of well-known patterns on the fly, she still doesn't understand how I know to do pattern X not pattern Y. She wants to know why[/b] - which rule I applied - to suddenly change the left hand from chomping to a brief burst of octave walking bass then back to chomping. "Dunno...seemed like a good idea" is the only answer I know how to give, but it doesn't fit her paradign of all action/inaction having to be motivated by a "logical", thought-out reason. She'd probably shut-up and accept it if I made up something BS like "Consecutive 4ths can't follow the diminshed of the root, so I had to play at least 5 bars of octaves to compensate for the augmented 11ths."

I have friends and family who are very controlled, rigorous people who need to forsee every detail of their life and plan everything to the n-th degree. Some of them are list freaks, and can't do ANYTHING without first writing lists.

I think they could memorise pieces and play them. I think they could learn "all" the rules to be able to pick out a melody and apply classical harmony to it. I don't believe they could ever just sit down, play and see what happens as their brains just aren't wired that way.

nick

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#1137958 - 01/24/06 10:10 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
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Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Nick, you're right that they'll never be able to play by ear - - if they don't try. And even if they try, they won't learn if they refuse to apply themselves.

I think that anybody who isn't tone deaf can learn to play by ear if they just start. Once they learn how flexible a song is by playing it different ways by ear, they'll start opening themselves up to the freedom of improvisation.

Even just playing the melody all by itself, one note at a time, they can learn how to jazz it up with repetitions, lead-ins, and other techniques. I think that if they do that, hands-on, they'll see that when they play a note without repetition, it sounds good; and when they play it with repetition, it also sounds good; and that they can decide on the fly whether they repeat the note or not; then just maybe a lightbulb might go on.

Most folks who would like to play by ear, but never start, think that those who do play that way, started out playing whole songs, fully voiced by ear. They don't realize that it all starts very slowly with plunking out the melody, getting that down, and then finding the root or chord that goes with each partial phrase, etc. etc.

Also, folks are so used to having the notes in front of them, that they aren't even listening, really listening to when chords change and how the melodic intervals and chords are related. But if you learn to play by ear first, then it's like learning to speak before learning to read words.

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#1137959 - 01/24/06 12:58 PM Re: How to play by ear?
nickd Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 146
Loc: France
Hi Bob,

I think you're right about people not realising that people who can improvise have "paid the dues". When I was in university I did at least 2 hours every day, of which at least an hour was without music (improvising, trying things out...). And I already had a very good base of classical piano and theory,as well as jazz theory/harmony.

You're also more than right about people not listening when they're playing from music. This is my major criticism or most classical music education - it can produce wonderful musicians, but far too often it produces technically-competent typists. Sorry if this offends anyone, but it's something I feel strongly about.

Perhaps people just need to be "liberated" (sorry if this sounds too new age) and to learn to let their "innerself" take over.

My neighbour plays and teaches the Breton bagpipes. He can't read music, he's never had a formal music lesson in his life...but he can play literally all morning "by ear" and can pick up pieces at an astonishing rate. I'd love to know what percentage of the planet's competent musicians are in the same position.

nick

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#1137960 - 01/24/06 02:18 PM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
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Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
I've mentioned this before. I think the vast majority of the folks who can play by ear, learned to do that first - either due to financial circumstances that prevented them from going with a teacher or some other reason (shyness/lack of time/obstinancy) they didn't want to deal with a teacher. They just LOVED plunking around on the piano, hour after hour. You put enough hours in plunking and pretty soon you're pretty darned good at it!

We learned to talk long before we learned to read. I've been thinking that it would definitely NOT be a bad thing to learn to play the piano before learning to read the notes. Unfortunately, very, very few teachers will (or even can) teach to play by ear first.

I bet many a great composer of popular music learned to play by ear first.

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#1137961 - 01/24/06 04:08 PM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
KAM

Thanks for your clip of 'new age music' I see what it is now. And I guess there are plenty of varients. All good stuff in my book.

Alan

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#1137962 - 01/25/06 07:32 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Les Koltvedt Offline
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Registered: 04/13/05
Posts: 3195
Loc: Canton, MI
I have played stride for almost all of my life (49) and can only play with music in front of me. Attended a blues/boogie woogie affair a couple of times and was in awe how they could play with each other, with never having played together before. This set the wheels in motion and last week I started lessons to learn "playing by ear". I feel like a kid again, learning and expanding my mind in all kinds of directions. New doors have opened up and I CAN'T BELIEVE I have played for so long without it.

I handed my old upright on to my great niece and nephew (ages 4 & 2). I will[/b] be teaching them to play by ear before they learn to read. I can only think that this will set them up for success.
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Les Koltvedt
LK Piano
Servicing the S. Eastern Michigan Area
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#1137963 - 01/25/06 08:41 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
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Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Awesome and very cool! I'm sure they will appreciate it, although I doubt their parents will as they hear the Sponge Bob song for the gazillionth time on that old upright. \:D

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#1137964 - 02/01/06 03:36 AM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
I agree with Bob, above with the following aside views as well.

I certainly think it's good to let youngsters or learners loose on the piano and let them try and pick out simple tunes first, without any help at all! If they have the 'ear'-keys-sounds ability, as a natural inherited ability, they may only need lessons on scales and fingering. The piano keyboard has to be mastered, a complete octave is all that's needed for sounds of course, in the beginning.

Although it is obviously an ability one is born with, just as some people are born singers or ball players on the pitch, whatever. This maybe their calling in life and they cannot be taught what is a completely natural mental ability, that of converting a sound in your brain to a key/chord on the piano.

Yes I know Piano-Magic do show people how to learn this ability and that maybe another avenue to walk. But why not try and see if youngsters age 4 or so, have this 'in-born talent'?

Practice will be then be the greatest factor of progress.

I do not know how many people have this ability of course and if only it were possible to analyse it. There are,it appears,two ways of playing by ear - 'taught and natural' as born with.

It's of course wrong to expect a pupil wishing to have a professional piano career not to be fully trained in ear (non-natural way) and theory as normal. There may well be degrees of ear abilty so the whole topic is somewhat nebulous.

All I was saying here is, there are others that have this natural ability and if they do not want to go further than jazz and popular songs, to any serious music, they have to develop their own ear to keyboard playing naturally.

Alan

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#1137965 - 02/01/06 10:42 AM Re: How to play by ear?
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"There may well be degrees of ear abilty"

Hi Al, I strongly suspect that there are only two degrees of "ear ability". Those who can learn and those who are literally tone deaf. But I obviously can't prove it. \:\(

Those who learn to play by ear on their own, I think, have a very strong musical bent. They are drawn to making music the way most kids are drawn to playing sports or riding bicycles. Some of these children are "fortunate" enough to have parents willing to pay for lessons, (they probably won't learn to play by ear because they're focussed on the classical training), while others are just as lucky (in their own way) to have a piano in the house they can plunk on for hours at a time.

The rest of us non-tone-deaf folks either never had lessons or access to a piano or were forced into lessons at a young age that didn't match what we wanted to play.

Most folks believe that one must be a child to learn how to play by ear. That's because the people they know, who can play by ear, learned as a child. I think that's where the "natural ability" preconception comes into play. I think the reason that most people, (who learned to play by ear), learned as a child is because it's as a child that one has the most free time. With free time and lack of inhibitions comes the freedom to experiment at the piano for hours at a time without structure.

Adults need structure.

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#1137966 - 02/01/06 11:52 AM Re: How to play by ear?
PianoMentor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/23/06
Posts: 28
Loc: RI
Hi MDespot,

The reason I liked the question is because I offer my students a pretty easy, yet, systematic approach to this. I won't write a book here, but I will tell you that becoming familiar with the Diatonic System of chords could very well be the way to go for you. Yes, there are many, many angles to playing by ear and I will not discredit ANY of them - what works for you works, plain and simple. Studying the diatonic system will lead you to opening your eyes (and ears, of course!). Even if you don't know what it is, get curious about it. Some out there know what I refer to:
Cmaj D- E- Fmaj G A- B-(b5) (key of C major)

Play them - listen to them - you'll make distinctions as you listen, which is what "Training your musical ear" really is (making sound distinctions). A song in the key of C major will generally pass through many or all of the chords above, as they gravitate back to the "home chord" or "tonic" C major... it's so "ear-opening" as you get going with this, I have my students writing their own tunes with the principle in a matter of weeks.

When I'm coaching people and first present this, there is generally a huge look of confusion across their face, but then they realize, as it is explained further, that it's not so difficult to grasp onto. So much can be said about this, but just getting curious enough to get involved with it and beginning will be a step in the right direction for you...
_________________________
http://www.DaveOnPiano.com
Online Piano Coach, Performer
~ "Chord Butler" ~

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#1137967 - 02/01/06 03:08 PM Re: How to play by ear?
PianoMentor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/23/06
Posts: 28
Loc: RI
MDespot,

There is a lot you can learn on your own for sure. Naturally, hiring an instructor will help you accelerate progress - just be sure to interview the person first, asking certain questions regarding his or her knowledge of modern chord theory. Ask what methods are used, ask how this person would handle "ear training" with you. There are many, many traditional teachers who have great reputations and are very good at what they do, who also do not know too much when it comes to how to distinguish the difference between a Cmaj7 chord from an Fmin9 chord. Many new students run into a "brick wall" of disappointment when they quickly learn that the teacher doe not leave the book that's in front of them for more creative/explorative information. Usually, it's because the teacher doesn't understand it. Yet, the student finds it hard to believe that the teacher doesn't "know it all." Teachers need to be asked before hooking up with them. When you ask questions, be aware of how direct the answers are when you ask these questions, too - and seek details regarding the approach before you invest.
I, personally, have had numerous students whom I've helped who came to me after years of traditional training who were never exposed to the kinds of things I provided. Being a pop/jazz specialist, that is what I do. And the "classical" only teacher may be very good at what he or she does, too. It's a matter of the teacher's experience and what the student is looking for.
_________________________
http://www.DaveOnPiano.com
Online Piano Coach, Performer
~ "Chord Butler" ~

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#1137968 - 02/15/06 01:30 AM Re: How to play by ear?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
I still cannot really define playing by ear, as I find it. To my analysis it is just something I do. The piano keyboard is an instrument like a sound producer in my mental approach. All the keys have sounds which I subconsciously relate to a progression and I do not stop to think what the fingers do next but they just move on to the sound that I have in the head and as part of the melody of the piece I'm playing.

For instance, if playing along to a tape or cd ( that is well known as a melody to me)I simply follow as it goes and my fingers are ready in advance of the next note to play, so that there is no confusion (generally!)I want to be ready to progress.

In playing without 'alongs' which is usual, I also find the improvisation progresses quite naturally, as the fill-in harmonics are a simple part of the melody embellishments.

The well known jazz people must have done, and still do it that way too. Sort of thinking ahead of how to 'fill in' with scales runs and arpeggios. But all part of the progression. Just that by ear people like me, who have no training, have to rely on some undefineable sense. If that is of any sense!

Erroll Garner was the best exponent of by ear jazz playing the world has ever known in my opinion.

Thanks for any further enlightenment of this style of playing the piano.

Alan

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