Training your ear is much the same as training your
dog: you keep shouting orders at it until it recognizes what a
certain sound means.
For example, if someone sat at your piano and kept playing major
chords without interruption for two straight days, you would no
doubt recognize a major chord any time one sounded during the
remainder of your life!
Or you might have the same dedicated friend strike nothing but
major thirds: C and E, D and F#, F and A, etc. And the next time
you heard your car horn you would probably exclaim, Hey! It�s
a major third. (Most car horns are factory-tuned to a major third.)
Once your ear is trained to decipher certain sounds,
you can pretty much drive all of those around you to a padded
cell with your recognitions. Hear that train whistle? Its a perfect
fourth! Or when a car horn passes you on the highway producing
the sliding Doppler effect: That car just produced a tritone portamento
In spite of that, many of you have written requesting some tips
on how to play piano by ear, so here it goes:
The first order of business is to find that friend who will sit
and pound out the sounds for you. The best one that we can recommend
is your tape recorder, or a cassette recorder. It should have
a numerical counter on it so you can rewind to a specific spot
accurately. (Thanks to the electronic age we live in, we can all
become better musicians than would have been possible some years
ago.) The tape recorder should be set up on a table close enough
to your instrument so that you can operate it with the least amount
You now must record a series of sounds, which you wish to learn.
The question is whether to start learning melodic intervals, chords,
rhythms, and chord progressions, whatever. Most teachers would
recommend starting with melodic intervals such as skips of a major
third, a perfect fifth, major sixth, etc.
For example, the first two notes of Here Comes the Bride, is
a perfect 4th. In the Key of C, the notes would be C to F! In
the Key of F, the notes would be: F to Bb.
But I personally feel, you should start with chord progressions.
It is a lot more fun, and gets you right into the mix immediately.
You can train your ear in melody easily enough by continually
picking out melodies of songs on the piano. The operative word
is continually. And later on in your tape recorder exercises you
can record easy melodies, which you will later take as musical
So if you want to start playing piano by ear, just practice and
study very simple chord progressions. But before recording any
progression, I advise you to record the tonic note. (The first
note of the scale)
For example, if you are playing a progression in the Key of C,
record the single note C followed immediately by the progression.
This will orient you to a home base and make things a lot easier.
Ron Worthy offers additional instruction at: http://www.mrronsmusic.com
Copyright 2005 RAW Productions by By Ron Worthy