Playing By Ear : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Can any one in here play by ear? I have been playing piano for a little less than 3 years and my ear is getting better but no where near close to playing not even a melody by ear. My question is how long does it take to reach the level of playing by ear? Are there any ways to speed up the process?

-- Jonathan D (, October 06, 2001


If you're still struggling after all this time, you're apparently not one of those people born with the ability to play by ear. However, in those 3 years, had you sought out professional instruction, with a strong background in theory you would be able to play fairly well by ear and reading.

-- paula estess (, October 11, 2001.

To speed it up if it doesn't come naturally, one of the best things you can do is a lot of singing. Sing the melodies of your pieces, and then match your piano playing to your voice. Two weaknesses that keep people from playing by ear: being unable to sing the sounds they want to play, and being unable to play along with their voice on the piano. Of course as you become more advanced, theory will help you out a lot. Find a good teacher, as Paula says, who is enthusiastic about playing by ear. (Some teachers won't be able to help you much because they believe that it is more important to become literate. They stress note reading, which is fine, but it seems that you really need someone who can help train your ear.) Good luck.

-- Alan (, October 12, 2001.

I started playing by ear when I was fairly young. I hate to say it, but there isn't a short cut. I would suggest that you need to be willing to "fail" and be willing to use a kind of trial-and-error process. Understanding the theory is important, but I think just doing it should come first. Keep things simple at first (melody only, then melody plus simple chords). Playing by ear is playing by ear, so let your ear guide you; if it doesn't sound right, try something else until it does sound right. At some point, you will want to expand your vocabulary by getting hold of a good theory workbook and learning to apply some "rules." good Luck!

-- Jon (, October 13, 2001.

I too believe that good ear playing is something you are born with. As to being able to play simple melodies by ear, you should follow the guidelines mentioned above, especially what I call "internal singing"; once you're able to sing inside of you, the knowledge of the intervals that constitute the melody will become very easy and very clear... but there is no way you can play a Chopin Etude by ear if you're still dealing with Czerny... I think that as your musical theory concepts evolve (and your technique!), so will your ability to recognize 2-voice tunes, then sequences of chords and finally complex structures. But the best material to practice these guidelines is, no doubt, classical music. If you can play classical music by ear then you can play virtually ANYTHING by ear! Good luck, Jon.

-- Nuno (, October 13, 2001.

It depends on what you mean by "playing by ear." If it is reproducing a song that you are familiar with, then you would need to do a bit of experimenting on the piano yourself. You can develop the ability to do this with practice. If you mean producing "extra" bits that your inner hearing is hearing then you can develop yourself in stages. You really need to have a good appreciation of hearing the key in the tonal system sense. You could start by asking your piano teacher to give you exercises on playing the primary chords of a key in a "vamping" style and then in broken chords style for left hand accompaniment. Always listen to the bass notes of all music you listen to as this will develop your ability to feel the progression of chords which is what "playing by ear" is really all about. Does this help?

-- June Ryan (, April 03, 2003.

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