Playing the piano by ear is perhaps one of the most entertaining things to do as a pianist. This is one of the styles that you can learn when it comes to an instrument in general. I will say that if you’re an aspiring musician who wants to play in bands, you definitely need to develop your ears.
My honest opinion is that a lot of people are just discouraged by playing by ear so they don’t really ever attempt it. I believe that if you spend the time in the way that you do learn how to sight-read, you can train your ear in the same way. This is something that you can learn in music theory class and it is one of the most important things you will learn on your musical journey. Below I will get into the benefits of developing your musical ear, along with how you can go about doing so.
Being able to play the piano like this is what fueled my love for the instrument. Listening to my favorite bands and figuring out the melodies of their songs was like no other feeling with the instrument. You will find it addicting when you learn how to do this, trust me.
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Best Ways To Learn Piano By Ear
1) Listen to the song over and over while sitting at your piano. Take it section by section until you have each part learned. Don’t feel that you have to rush and don’t get discouraged.
2) Really focus on the melody in the right hand when you begin. Begin to figure out the notes slowly and then start to add the left hand. What you can do at first is do a few songs with your right hand first if you’re not that developed in your left hand yet.
3) Develop some music theory knowledge. Learning how to determine what key song songs are in has always helped me because I just need to figure out a few notes to then know what chords to play. Check out my post on key signatures and the treble clef in which I completely break down the keys of music in an easy way.
4) Slowly start to learn the chords in your left hand. For the sake of learning, let’s just stick to simple ways of playing chords. Use a simple 1-3-5 chord blocking. For example, a C major chord consists of the notes, ” C, E, G.” To figure the notes out you will want to know to key signatures. If you get stuck trying to play chords, then go on to the next song and keep training your ear. You will get better at doing this, just remember that it’s not a race.
5) I recommend starting to train your ears by listening to pop songs rather than classical. Pop is generally much easier to follow and figure out, especially as a beginner as the chords are typically quite easy. Pop music is very formulaic, so you will start to see similarities in melodies and chord progressions.
6) Build a catalog of songs you learned by ear.
Benefits Of Ear Training
When it comes to wanting to be an artist or a band, you will need to learn how to play by ear. There is simply nothing more frustrating than playing with musicians who don’t really know their way around their instrument. Yes, you can learn chords and how to read music, but that doesn’t always get the job done the way you want it done.
If you want to pursue a career in music then you will be learning theory. Ear training and learning how to play by ear is a really important part of this. In high school and college, I had to take courses strictly based on training your ears.
My instructors always stressed that having well-developed ears is something that will take you to the next level as a musician or instructor. I believe this is when you truly start to understand music.
If You Can Play The Piano By Ear, You Can Easily Learn Other Instruments
Being able to play the piano in this fashion will make it a lot easier to transfer over to an instrument like the guitar. You will already have an ear that understands the notes and how to string them together. It’s a cool feeling to know exactly what notes you are playing and how to find them all by simply listening.
If you know how to find notes on a keyboard you will be able to find them on a guitar as well. You will just need to spend time learning to play the instrument.
You Don’t Need Perfect Pitch
Perfect pitch means that you can hear a note and know what it is. I’ve never had that or really anything close to that. I simply learned to play with my ears by playing notes until I land on the right one and then applying music theory to know which key I’m in. Once I know the key, it becomes extremely easy to fill in all of the blanks.
Ear training is such a fun thing to train and also an important fundamental that is often overlooked. Just because you play classical music, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop this tool. You will find that with every song you learn, the more you will want to keep doing this. The above link takes you to a website that I found extremely helpful in my training.
Don’t become discouraged from songs. If you run into a hard song, simply save it and try some other songs that you catch onto easier. It will be hit or miss in the beginning and that is totally okay. Even when you don’t completely nail a song, you’re still learning and piecing things together in your brain.
I hope you found this post helpful and you learned something you didn’t already know. What is your experience with playing piano by ear? Are there things you did that you found helpful that I didn’t touch on? Let me know in the comment section below!