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Topic Options
#1313401 - 11/27/09 03:28 PM what does "Play by Ear" mean to you?
Wizard of Oz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/09
Posts: 873
I want to ask what "playing by ear" means to you.

Describe the exact process of how you would learn a song only by ear. Go step by step.

To do this, try playing a song only by ear. Pick something fairly easy, like Fur Elise or Moonlight Sonata. A song that you know but haven't memorized before or know the sheet music to.

Or find one completely new to you, that you have a recording of, on CD, mp3, youtube... If you have the sheet music to it, you can verify how accurate you were after.

Just try the first section or theme. See how well you do.

Those who want to can post up results of their playing.

This method can be taught to complete beginners on the piano. I do it with my students exclusively.

I'll post how I approach it after hearing what others think.

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#1313404 - 11/27/09 03:33 PM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Playing by ear means different things to different people. To me it means working out how to play something using only my memory and my understanding of the relationship between sound and finger movements. But it doesn't stop being `by ear' (to me) even when you've played it so many times that your fingers work on their own. But other people would disagree, I guess.

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#1313406 - 11/27/09 03:38 PM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
Knabe26 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 221
Loc: Northern California
I don't really have an answer for your, as I've always felt that I cannot play by ear. I can find a melody by "hunt and peck," but I don't hear a stream of intervals easily. I had no ear training as a child, (something I certainly include with my students!), and it's hard going as an adult. What I do notice, however, is that if I know a tune by ear (to hum or hear in my head), but have never before seen the score, my sight-reading of printed music will be much smoother than if I had never heard the piece before. That must mean that I'm doing some level of playing by ear, no? I would be interested to hear if others have that experience as well.
_________________________

www.cameronparkpiano.com
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#1313472 - 11/27/09 05:44 PM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: Knabe26]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Playing by ear has a clear meaning and should not mean different things to different people. It means learning to play from pure straight-through and up-to-tempo listening to the music, and not from reading - but not from demonstration either. Learning to play by having it demonstrated to you bit by bit is called learning by rote, and is quite different because rote learning involves a teacher who keeps repeating little parts (or the whole thing) as necessary. Wizard: I suspect that perhaps you mean rote learning - unless you're just playing the song straight through & up to speed a few times and then saying "your turn".
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#1313509 - 11/27/09 07:07 PM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: david_a]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1263
Loc: California
I sit down at the piano and someone can give me the name of a song that I've heard on the radio or elsewhere, and I can figure out the melody, then add a nice LH chordal accompaniment. To me, that is playing by ear.
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Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
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#1313519 - 11/27/09 07:49 PM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1438
Loc: Australia
To me, there are two different ways of playing by ear.

The first, is when I have to try to play along with a song, as I am hearing it for the first time. (the equivalent to 'jamming' with a band)

The second, is listening to a song and afterwards, working out how to play it.

This is something I do almost daily, mostly with guitar students, but often with piano.

My process is as follows:

1. Identify the key. Usually, listening for the lowest bass note played, helps with this.

2. Identify the basic chord structure, and bass line, listening out for predictable repeating patterns, modulations, etc.

3. Once I have the basic skeleton, and the melody is committed to memory, it is just a matter of putting it together, and polishing the piece.
_________________________
Rob

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#1313627 - 11/28/09 12:30 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Originally Posted By: dumdumdiddle
I sit down at the piano and someone can give me the name of a song that I've heard on the radio or elsewhere, and I can figure out the melody, then add a nice LH chordal accompaniment. To me, that is playing by ear.
Exactly. Better styles of playing by ear involve making your accompaniment more like what you heard as well, and/or being able to manipulate the chords in nicer ways.


Edited by david_a (11/28/09 12:31 AM)
_________________________
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#1313648 - 11/28/09 01:13 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: david_a]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5903
Loc: Down Under
I'm assuming you mean something you know, in the sense of could sing, or could hear in your mind.
I think the process is something like:
- recognise that (for example) the piece begins with the tonic chord (minor) and the melody starts on the 5th (in the case of moonlight sonata).
- more or less randomly choose a key to begin in (as I don't have perfect pitch). Just as easy to play it in B minor, E flat minor etc as C# minor.
- play the chords and melody which my ear tells me to. That is, I imagine what the chords and melody should be and then play them. I suppose at one stage in the past it was trial and error, but (for straightforward things) I now go straight to it. Because I recognise what I'm hearing (in my mind), I can play it.
- refinements in accompaniment style and part movement as mentioned by david_a.

This is not the same as learning to play something by rote (and I don't know if that is in fact what Wizard means) - it's playing what you hear, even though in my case it may be in a different key, and I would generally use it for pieces that I "know" in the sense of "could sing it".
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Du holde Kunst...

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#1313680 - 11/28/09 02:11 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: currawong]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5422
Loc: Orange County, CA
"Play by ear" means a person can play a piece of music on the piano without using the printed score. He hears the recording or watches the video many times, then tries to search for the notes on the piano. It works best for simpler melodies, or music with homophonic texture. I really can't imagine it being done to Bach Fugues.

As a classically-trained pianist, I did not get any training in playing by ear. I think it is an essential part of being a well-rounded musician. However, I think part of playing by ear should be music theory and harmonization of melodies, and maybe a little bit of improvisation, too.
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#1313682 - 11/28/09 02:18 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: AZNpiano]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5903
Loc: Down Under
I might just mention one very useful aspect of playing by ear, and that's transposition. If I have to transpose an accompaniment of a song for a singer at first sight it can be challenging, depending on the piece. But if it's a song I know well in one key I just play it by ear in the other key, rather than transposing as I read. So rather than reading an E major chord and thinking, eg, "down a minor third" I just think of the song and play it by ear in the new key.
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Du holde Kunst...

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#1313686 - 11/28/09 02:28 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: AZNpiano]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5903
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
However, I think part of playing by ear should be music theory and harmonization of melodies, and maybe a little bit of improvisation, too.
I agree. They're interrelated.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1313705 - 11/28/09 03:50 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: currawong]
Wizard of Oz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/09
Posts: 873
Perhaps a visual demonstration by two of the greatest living musicians in the world would help explain it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQaASwkqi9E

Go to 6:00. This is more "call and response", and both Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma are playing by ear, except Yo-Yo is just copying what Wynton is doing. Pretty cool though!

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#1313722 - 11/28/09 05:07 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: Wizard of Oz]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
When memorizing a piece I always play the 'tunes' by ear - it's instant.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1313726 - 11/28/09 05:11 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: keyboardklutz]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1438
Loc: Australia
When in Wales, I can play 'by 'ere', and also 'by there'
_________________________
Rob

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#1313748 - 11/28/09 07:05 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: R0B]
Bhav Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/08
Posts: 275
I learnt to play these two pieces by ear without a score, though they are currently very unpolished, I've just memorised the RH melodies and still need to add some LH to them, but am focusing on Joplin too much to give much time to these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHr-1xmk-Vw

And this one I love to play on the Harpsichord voice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0to-Ls4XNA

With the more advanced Joplin music, I need to learn and memorise the melodies by ear, then learn the notes from score.


Edited by Bhav (11/28/09 07:06 AM)
_________________________
Currently working on:

Joplin -

Maple Leaf Rag (finished)
Magnetic Rag (finished :))
The Entertainer
Stoptime Rag
Pineapple Rag
The Chrysanthemum
Reflection Rag

- Lots of rags to learn frown.

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#1314104 - 11/28/09 10:10 PM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: Bhav]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Improvising is not the same as playing by ear. Improvising is composition. Playing by ear means what you are playing has already been composed and you are able to copy it note for note at will.

One special and odd way of playing by ear is playing right along with somebody copying him note for note on something you have never heard. It's hard for me but some people are very good at it.
_________________________
(I'm a piano teacher.)

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#1314174 - 11/29/09 01:40 AM Re: what does "Play by Ear" mean to you? [Re: david_a]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Improvising is playing by ear what you have just composed.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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