Playing by ear / Fake books

Posted by: Oongawa

Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/05/13 10:19 PM

I'm an adult student, restarted lessons about 8 months ago. I'd classify my talent level as pretty low, but I read music well and practice diligently.

All of my teachers have focused on classical music, which I really like. I play Fur Elise, a number of sonatinas from Kuhlau, Clementi, etc. I think I'd be considered 'early intermediate.'

I have zero ability to do any sort of improvisation, or play by chords, such as from a fake book. Although pop / blues are not my thing, I'd like to be able to play some simple stuff with my son and husband, who play guitar.

I really feel that my musical education is a bit lopsided and I'd like to remedy that but I'm not sure where to begin. Does any one have suggestions on how I might approach this? It sounds sort of crazy, but I feel hampered by reading music well. Without notes on a page, I'm lost.

Help!
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/05/13 10:26 PM

Have you talked to your teacher about wanting to learn how to play from a fakebook?
Posted by: Oongawa

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/05/13 10:48 PM

Not yet, because I really enjoy the classical, and I was hoping that I could start with some basic stuff on my own.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 02:02 AM

this is a sticky'd thread in the ABF that may interest you: Chord Voicing Techniques (A Primer)

Learning jazz is in my experience best done with a teacher as a lot of the theory can be intimidating when approached alone (can decipher - the exaggerated example of a chord - C9#11b13). Even if but only every two weeks or so, such a teacher may be available to assist. As far as enthusiastically getting started on your own goes, you can start diving into some theory beginning at wherever you are here: Music Theory 101

and you could also check out this text here that's well-reviewed: How To Play From a Fakebook
along with a supposed good companion: The Next Step


You say
Quote:
I'd like be able to be play some simple stuff
but what you might find is that like with Classical, you'll find yourself hooked and want to go further and further


edit: forgot to link this amazing resource: http://www.improvtutor.com/Site_Map.html
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 07:07 AM

Originally Posted By: Oongawa
Not yet, because I really enjoy the classical, and I was hoping that I could start with some basic stuff on my own.



Why?
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 08:12 AM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Originally Posted By: Oongawa
Not yet, because I really enjoy the classical, and I was hoping that I could start with some basic stuff on my own.



Why?


+1
You are paying your teacher to teach you how to play piano. She or he is a perfect resource for this! I'm guessing they don't even know you have an interest in this and that's why they haven't taught you anything about it.

The thing about learning an instrument is that there is SO much information that a teacher has to pick and choose what they teach, and unless a student expresses an interest in something the teacher may not have a clue that you want to learn it. Learning from a live person is much better than on a forum, especially one that you are already comfortable with.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 10:40 AM

And doing this does not mean you have to devote your entire lesson to it. Your teacher will know how to balance things so you can keep doing your classical literature while learning this new skill.

And learning how to comp an accompaniment does not necessarily mean you are learning jazz.
Posted by: riley80

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 12:19 PM

Can you pick out a tune in C? Can you 'so-fa' sing a tune? If so, then I think you are off to some kind of a start.
Posted by: IPlayPiano

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 01:18 PM

I recommend you purchase "The Jazz Piano Book" by Mark Levine. I think that this book would be suitable for you considering you are an adult and already have built a musical foundation. It's easy to follow, is filled with examples, musical concepts, theory, jazz language, etc. Take a look at the reviews.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Jazz-Piano-Boo...ook+mark+levine
Posted by: IPlayPiano

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 01:23 PM

My bad. That's the Kindle tablet edition. You will have to search for the physical book.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 01:51 PM

Most jazz piano books like the Levine one are for people serious about jazz. From the OP I got the sense that she just wanted to be able to look at some chords on a leadsheet and be able to play along with her family. I think the "serious" jazz books may be too daunting.
Posted by: Mohannad

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 07:14 PM

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


Check out the other videos on this channel, using these videos I learned to improvise quite well for a beginner and play by ear.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/06/13 07:44 PM

Consider the improvisation books by Forrest Kinney. (Pattern Play and Chord Play) Both are excellent introductions to improvisation in a variety of different styles.

As for the "why" question posed above. Spending time on improvisation during a lesson would take time away from other things. If the lessons are only a half hour long, this could easily compromise the quality of instruction.

Also, a lot of piano teachers have no clue how to improvise. Morodiene might be right - your teacher could be a wonderful resource for this, or your teacher could be completely clueless, in which case moving ahead on your own would be best.

If your lessons are usually an hour long and your teacher has experience with improvisation, then it's definitely worth bringing up in the lesson.
Posted by: btb

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/07/13 07:12 AM

I'm an innocent little love-child wondering what the blazes is meant by "fake" books ... would someone kindly edify.
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/07/13 07:29 AM

Originally Posted By: btb
I'm an innocent little love-child wondering what the blazes is meant by "fake" books ... would someone kindly edify.


A fake book is genrally used for popular songs (of any period!). On a given page you will see just the treble clef with the melody line, and probably the lyrics. Above the treble clef you will see the names of the chords written (G, C, D#, B7 etc) or you will see little graphs (fingering charts for guitar players) with the chord names above them.

The idea is that your right hand has precise instructions on what to play, and the left hand has "indications". The chords could be played as solid chords, inverted chords, quarternotes, arpeggios - whatever you're able to do, to make the music sound full and interesting.
Posted by: Oongawa

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/07/13 08:54 PM

Just to clarify a bit... I'm not looking to learn jazz. I realize that can be pretty complex and it's not my thing. I'm not talking high-brow stuff, and not interested in jazz.

More along the lines of pop/soft rock/ballads. For some examples, google "Axis of Awesome 4 chord song". Which is a pretty entertaining you tube, and well worth a view.

I thought (??) that this sort of thing was less complex than classical, so I thought I could make some progress on my own, and save my $$ lesson time for the more difficult stuff.

if there were some exercises I could work on, it might help me get started, without derailing my classical lessons.

When the family starts to jam, I'd like to participate in some small way, but they only play pop songs, strictly by ear. I have 10 times the training but I get left out of the fun because my focus has always been classical.

Does this help.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/08/13 04:15 AM

Oongawa, any of these things are a complicated and difficult as you want them to be. To say you want to prioritise your lesson time for classical is fine, but to not want to take 5 minutes to discuss your aims with your teacher, and ask them the question (just like you asked us) seems strange. Your teacher knows you far better.

For the Axis of Awesome, what you need is to know the major and minor chords for the keys your family normally jams in. Is someone playing the guitar? If so, ask them the chords, and work them out on the piano. Some music theory will help you.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/08/13 08:53 AM

Originally Posted By: Oongawa


I thought (??) that this sort of thing was less complex than classical, so I thought I could make some progress on my own, and save my $$ lesson time for the more difficult stuff.

if there were some exercises I could work on, it might help me get started, without derailing my classical lessons.


I understand what you're saying here, and I'm glad that it's not an issue of not feeling comfortable with your teacher enough to ask them. But let me give you a perspective from a teacher's point of view. I want to help my students in all their piano endeavors in any way I can. If I am not able, I certainly can find resources to help someone get started and offer suggestions - and again, I want to do this. I would feel bad if I found out in a roundabout way that a student of mine didn't ask me for help with something.

May I suggest that you tell your teacher as a part of your approaching them for help on this that you don't want this to "derail" your classical lessons or take out too much time on it? I'm sure that the teacher with that in mind could provide you with some exercises that you can do on your own to get you started, and perhaps take a few minutes out of the next few lessons to hear how your'e doing, answer questions, etc. Is this what you consider "derailing"? I'm sure your teacher would not think of it in that way.

Quote:
When the family starts to jam, I'd like to participate in some small way, but they only play pop songs, strictly by ear. I have 10 times the training but I get left out of the fun because my focus has always been classical.


This is why it concerns me - you are feeling "left out" because you think that your classical training has not provided you with what you need to know to have this social interaction with your family in the musical sense. This is far from the truth, and so a few simple things assigned by your teacher can make all the difference in the world. Your teacher is the best one to address this, too, because she knows what you already know and can help you build from that. Instead of thinking of this is as derailing your classical lessons, why not think of it as enhancing them?

The aim of playing classical music is multi-faceted, and the ability to play by ear and also play with others is a big part of classical playing. We must be able to listen to ourselves and others when we are playing, and this sort of thing would be a perfect way to add to that skill. Improvisation (not necessarily jazz improv, but in the sense of being able to think on the fly) is extremely important in classical performance, and the more I was comfortable with that and thinking without having music in front of me telling me exactly what I should do, the better a performer I became.

Is your teacher accessible to speak with outside of lessons? Talking to them about this (or emailing) might be better that way they can prepare something for your next lesson.
Posted by: lechuan

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/08/13 11:54 AM

Does your teacher teach Keyboard Harmony?

You could start out with some simple mozart, analyze the chords in each measure, write them above the treble clef, then remove the bass clef from the score.Voila, you now have a classical chart. You can then use a variety of methods to play the harmoies in the left hand (Alberti bass, chords, arpeggios), while playing the melody as written. Memorize the chord progression so you can play without looking at the music. Eventually you can try playing your own melody over the chord progression.

As for playing by ear, it's very helpful to learn to identify scale degrees within a tonal center. Can you currently do that?
Posted by: jjo

Re: Playing by ear / Fake books - 01/08/13 12:38 PM

Seems to me like you should ignore fakebooks and get some written out arrangements of pop tunes. When I was growing up I studied strictly classical, but starting buying pop music songbooks on the side (Elton John, Billy Joel, etc.) You just start playing them, and pretty soon, you're not playing every note, but using your ear to make it sound the way to want. No need for any lessons.

The reason I suggest this is that playing from a fake book is a more complex skill, and not necessary to playing pop music. Written out arrangements, of which there are tons, will be much more recognizable to a classical player, and don't require any additional instruction.