Play Piano By Ear
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You can Play Piano by ear if you start now!

To play piano by ear you will need start to train you ear. You can learn to do this by educated and guided listening.

In this article I will discuss how I learned to play by ear and I will give you some valuable exercises and tips on how you can do it as well.

Perhaps you are a beginner and for some reason not interested in learning to play with traditional piano lessons where the focus is on reading grand staff music that someone else has written.

Or perhaps you have learned classical music and want to branch into jazz or improvisation or learn to play blues and popular music.

No matter what your starting point is you can learn to play piano by ear.

I know this because I have taught hundreds of people young and old to do just that!

I often get called to fill in with professional bands on a moments notice. These bands play any thing from Jazz and Rock to Country.

I get ready to play and all I need to know is the key of the song and by the first few measures I am able to fall in and play a decent piano part. By the end of the first chorus I have the song almost learned.

I can do this because over my life I have taken the nessessary steps to train my ear first and then to train my fingers at the piano to recreate what I am hearing.

If I did it, You can too!


The Ear and the Voice.

We all learned to speak by mimicking what we hear. What comes in the ears comes out the voice.

Learning to sing will help you to train your ears and recognize the pitches you are hearing.

You do not have to be a performing singer to hone this skill. In fact all you need to be able to do is to hum along with a song or melody.

I got my early experience as a child when my parents placed me in choir at church.

Because I was too young to read music at that time. I listened to the piano, the choir director, and the kids around me and after a lot of repetition I was able to pick up the song.

Later on in music school at Berklee College of Music in Boston Mass, every freshman was required to take solfege or sight singing and a class called listening analysis where we learned to recognize musical intervals.

Even the drummers had to take this mandatory class!

Tip # 1.

The bottom line is start to sing or hum along with the music you love to listen to. Even if you are shy about it go ahead and do it. The voice is a muscle and just like any muscle it will get stronger as you use it.


But I don't want to be a singer, I want to Play Piano by Ear!

The Ears, the Eyes and the Fingers.

As you begin to train you ears you will want to translate what you hear to the piano keyboard and start to really play piano by ear.

Just like you had to learn the meaning of the words you heard to learn language, you will need to learn the language of music.

By the language of music I mean not just what is written on the page, but the meaning of the notes and the theory behind how it was created.

As a young adult I made a second attempt at traditional piano lessons in order to improve my reading skills and learn some classical piano.

My piano teacher was classically trained at Juilliard School of Music and was amazed that I could sit at the piano and make music without reading.

I performed one Bach two part invention at a recital. I remember being very nervous and I ended up playing it by ear even though I had to painstakingly figure it out note by note. I can still play it years later by memory.

That was the end of the classical lessons.

I often get requests from classical pianists to teach them how to play piano by ear. Take away the music and they are lost.

Tip # 2 Learn your Chord Formulas and Scales.

Learn a little about music theory, how to use chords and scales and you will be able to play piano by ear and transfer what you hear to the piano keyboard.

As an added bonus you will be able to create your own music and who knows, maybe write the next hit song!

This requires a bit of study but is not at all that difficult.

There are hundreds of different piano chords and dozens of scales. To learn them by traditional memorization would be a difficult task. There is an easier way.

First learn one formula for the Major scale, and then about a dozen basic chord formulas based on the major scale and you will be able to figure out any chord you come across in no time.

No need to carry a large book filled with all the possible chord variations.

Once you get the basics of scales and chords its back to listening again. This time you will be listening to your favorite songs that you want to learn to play by ear.

Tip # 3 Listen to songs at the piano.

Now that you are armed with a bit of chord and scale theory you will want to sit at the keyboard or piano and begin to pick out tunes.

You will want to start with fairly simple tunes. Maybe some standard 12 bar blues progression tunes, or simple popular county tunes both of which ofter have only three chords played in some sort of chord progression.

Your first step will be to find the key of the song which will give you an indication of what possible chords will be in the song. Ofter times they will be the diatonic chords related to that key.

The key of the song will most often but not always be indicated by the first or last chord of the song.

You will need to do a bit of trial and error relying on you ear to tell you when you have the right chord.

At first this process may seem strained but as you work through more and more songs with the hunt and peck method you will find it easier and easier as many songs will use similar chord progressions.

If you get stuck use the form below to contact me and I will do my best to help you get over any challenge you come up against or answer any questions you may have.

Eventually you will Play Piano by Ear!


Tip # 4. Home study.

While all the information you will need to learn to play piano by ear is here on this site and I am always glad to help you along the way, you may benefit by having a great home study course to help you along the way! The folks at Hear and Play offer in my estimation the best complete home study course at a great price with a great satisfaction guaranty. You can't lose by checking it out!

Contact me

If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas for future lessons feel free to Contact Me.

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