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#1135588 - 12/15/07 12:27 PM Playing by ear  
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tulleh Offline
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I guess I'm not a true pianist, since I can only play what's written on the sheet in front of me. How many people here can play by ear, and how did you do it? Did it take a long time?

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#1135589 - 12/15/07 01:53 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Astra Offline
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Hi tulleh!

Some people learn playing by ear by themselves, but even if you arent so talented you can learn it.

Search archives in Adults Beginner Forums for Piano Magic or pianomagic.

Hope that helps!


ex - pian00b
#1135590 - 12/17/07 09:57 AM Re: Playing by ear  
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PASSION, PATIENCE, PERSEVERANCE = Talent.....I think you can play by ear if you can hear the song in your brain and for me it is that ultimately I can sing it and find the matching notes. Personally I much prefer to learn the music from the score. Over time both of these methods will improve if you keep at it.
rada

#1135591 - 12/17/07 12:22 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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swingal Offline
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Just as when you sing, you can subconsciously form the sounds from your vocal chords. You put your fingers on the notes that give the sound you have stored in the subconscious brain with the piano.

This is a factor of memory and co-ordination between brain (memory) and the sounds all the notes on the piano represent. Whether chords or single notes they all are part of a pattern that the brain remembers. Each octave is the same sound just a differing scale range.

Singers have to practice voice box sound abilities and surely that is difficult? Certainly for me as I cannot sing at all.

To sum up I find the subconscious brain does it all for you, if you're lucky. It takes time too, of course.

I'm sure this subject will never get properly explained it's a strange thing.


Alan (swingal)

#1135592 - 12/18/07 10:16 AM Re: Playing by ear  
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It's not that mysterious. If working from a recording, do it from the bottom up.

1. Identify the bass line by listening and comparing to the keyboard with frequent use of the pause and play buttons.
2. Hunt and peck the melody.
3. Find the chords which are likely to mostly be in the key. Start with the assumption that the bass is playing mostly roots.

The process is slightly different and somewhat more advanced if playing it purely by ear without a recording.


Bradley Sowash
Jazz pianist, Composer, Educator
www.bradleysowash.com
#1135593 - 12/19/07 02:05 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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tulleh Offline
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I'll check out the Pianomagic, thanks everyone smile

#1135594 - 12/19/07 06:23 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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I often have my students (adults and kids) figure out nursery rhymes and children's songs by ear, in order to learn to play by ear. Stuff that they know well: Twinkle Twinkle. Row your boat. Mary had a little lamb. Three Blind Mice.

I get them to harmonize the tunes using the I IV and V chords (in the key of C, that's C, F, and G)

#1135595 - 12/20/07 02:09 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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tulleh Offline
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Which brings me to another

#1135596 - 12/21/07 02:20 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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That's how I taught myself to play piano. I listened to the song, sang them and then just played. But if I hear a solitary melody, I can play that without singing or even checking. I just play, and the melody comes based on what key is logical to press.


"For many years, I was a tator farmer, but the painful truth is, the TATORS FARMED ME!"
#1135597 - 12/21/07 07:29 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Tulleh, its strange but I've been playing without printed sheet music for a couple of months now and I've made some great advances. I've mastered the chord progression of the songs I really love. The sheet music I have for these same songs is complete rubbish. Where about in N.I. do you live?


"If your only tool is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail!"

Piano: Roland FP-7
#1135598 - 12/24/07 03:24 AM Re: Playing by ear  
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One factor springs to mind here. Now we have Digital Pianos, how much more easy is it to play by ear. Or even by the music score? For,when I bought my Kawai es4 I was simply amazed how much easier they are to play. The fingering is so much easier because you do not have the need to use varying pressure (though I know they are pressure sensitive) but not to the extent the acoustic pianos need.

Alan (swingal)

#1135599 - 01/07/08 09:47 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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You can think of playing by ear as using a language. Words and phrases come from your long term memory and can be reproduced in the subconcious act of improvisation. What you "input" you can also "output".

Keith Phillips
http://www.keithphillips.net
http://www.keithphillips.net/SleepyRiverStudio.htm


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#1135600 - 01/07/08 09:56 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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I would also say develop a sense of the scales in the style you enjoy. If it's mainstream music then get a sense of the pentatonic scale that is related to the major scale. Play them in all 12 keys. Train to long term memory "licks" in the style you enjoy. This will be your "bag of tricks" that you can pull from when you create music. Also in that style get a feel for the rhythmic patterns that make that style sound correct. Analyze what makes a style unique in any facet.

Keith
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http://www.keithphillips.net/SleepyRiverStudio.htm
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Keith Phillips

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Piano technique for all levels
www.keithphillips.net/AdvancedPianoSecrets.htm
#1135601 - 01/09/08 08:12 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Tulleh,

I had to learn that it was/is possible to learn by ear! Actually practicing scales is great as is picking out simple melodies as also suggested by someone above. Most important though is to get over that need to have the music in front of you. Practice your scales etc without any music. Take a simple tune/melody and transpose it through all 12 keys. Do this and after a while you will differentiate the keys better and also find yourself more quickly finding melodies you hear on the keyboard. It is not a far stretch to see that in time you can think of a line you want to play then play it (I believe that is possible though I have not achieved it yet). I have read interviews with improvisers that indicated they are only a fraction of a second ahead in their mind as to what their fingers will play.


Charles Walter model 1500 upright
#1135602 - 01/11/08 10:44 AM Re: Playing by ear  
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Quote
Originally posted by h2obuff:
Tulleh,

I have read interviews with improvisers that indicated they are only a fraction of a second ahead in their mind as to what their fingers will play.
When improvising, if I were to think of which path my fingers will take, the route from musical thought to realized sound would be short-circuited.

The goal of spontaneous creation, or instant composition (which is the ultimate realization of the highest form of improvisation), is to bring to the piano enough technical ability to transcend the fingers in translating the music within.

When playing in this state, my fingers don't exist; fingers as such that I'm aware of, the piano becomes part of me, and I have a sense that if I were to lift my hands from the keyboard, the piano would continue to speak my thoughts, the music continuing to fill the air on its own.


My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user
#1135603 - 01/11/08 02:38 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Quote
Originally posted by Disciple:
When improvising, if I were to think of which path my fingers will take, the route from musical thought to realized sound would be short-circuited.

The goal of spontaneous creation, or instant composition (which is the ultimate realization of the highest form of improvisation), is to bring to the piano enough technical ability to transcend the fingers in translating the music within.

When playing in this state, my fingers don't exist; fingers as such that I'm aware of, the piano becomes part of me, and I have a sense that if I were to lift my hands from the keyboard, the piano would continue to speak my thoughts, the music continuing to fill the air on its own.
That is an interesting explanation of improvisation.

Serge



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#1135604 - 01/11/08 05:33 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Quote
Originally posted by Serge88:
Quote
Originally posted by Disciple:
[b] When improvising, if I were to think of which path my fingers will take, the route from musical thought to realized sound would be short-circuited.

The goal of spontaneous creation, or instant composition (which is the ultimate realization of the highest form of improvisation), is to bring to the piano enough technical ability to transcend the fingers in translating the music within.

When playing in this state, my fingers don't exist; fingers as such that I'm aware of, the piano becomes part of me, and I have a sense that if I were to lift my hands from the keyboard, the piano would continue to speak my thoughts, the music continuing to fill the air on its own.
That is an interesting explanation of improvisation.

Serge [/b]
Serge, it's the truist explanation and exactly what happens when one plays in the moment. The intermediary link, your playing mechanism, between what your mind hears and the piano strings ceases to be and the piano sounds as though of its own accord.

You are in complete synergistic, cooperative feedback loop with the piano, a zen state, the sound of the piano directing your path and guiding the music in your mind. The sound produced by your fingers affecting your direction just as much as you are affecting the keys of the piano on a very sub-comscious level.

This takes letting go and acheiving a completely relaxed symbiotic state. A true spontaneous composer (instant composition) always hears and feels the music in the air. It's already there. Seated at the piano, the improvisor can join or redirect the flow sure as a Jedi can always sense the flow, join it at will, and bend it to reflect his own will.

I always hear music around me. When I'm seated at the piano, I can share with others what it is that I hear that's already there and put my own spin on it.

That's why with my students I stress deep relaxation, the ear, and listening first and foremost. Filling the mind with music. If the music isn't there to begin with, there will never be a flow to join, let alone influence.

This is the only thing that transforms the piano from a 1000 pound hunk of metal and wood into a living, breathing entity. What the musicians brings of himself to the instrument.


My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user
#1135605 - 01/16/08 03:54 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Disciple, I just want to say I love your description of improv. It really describes anyone being in the zone while engaged in any creative activity. And your youtube clip is awesome!


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#1135606 - 01/16/08 04:31 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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swingal Offline
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Yes, I agree completely with Disciple's explanation. One of the best I have read on this PW forum, on the subject of playing by ear.

This is the precise truth of what makes music, the artist has to be the boss of the instrument. Jazz music being almost always relying on improvisation and what a pleasure it is to be so creative.

Alan (swingal)

PS tulleh's question about "did it take long/" Well how about 60 years in my case. One never stops learning in most events. Of course many of the great pianists did reach perfection to general ears but perhaps they are never satisfied and keep looking for new challenges.

#1135607 - 01/16/08 04:38 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Quote
Originally posted by Rosanna:
Disciple, I just want to say I love your description of improv. It really describes anyone being in the zone while engaged in any creative activity. And your youtube clip is awesome!
Thank you, Rosanna. That's correct. Actually joining the zone that already permeates your surrounding. You live within your own zone, this zone being a byproduct of all of your past experiences, everything you've ever heard and absorbed, conciously or subconsciouly. It's always there, and each one of us has their unique zone. First, the mechanics of neccisity must be learned to express oneself, then left on the ground if one is to leap into the zone and fly without the weight of the tools, our training, to weigh us down.

Most musicians let their expression be dictated by their training alone, automatic playing. This is why I always stress listening and developing listening skills along with complete relaxation, first and foremost.


My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user
#1135608 - 01/16/08 04:41 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Disciple Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by swingal:
Yes, I agree completely with Disciple's explanation. One of the best I have read on this PW forum, on the subject of playing by ear.

This is the precise truth of what makes music, the artist has to be the boss of the instrument. Jazz music being almost always relying on improvisation and what a pleasure it is to be so creative.

Alan (swingal)

PS tulleh's question about "did it take long/" Well how about 60 years in my case. One never stops learning in most events. Of course many of the great pianists did reach perfection to general ears but perhaps they are never satisfied and keep looking for new challenges.
Al, I see my relationship with the piano as an equal, synergistic, symbiotic cooperative. When I play in the zone, at some point I no longer sense the piano as a separate entity. I'm no longer consciously aware of my having to manually depress the keys to fill the air with sound.

I'm 54. Been playing since I was 2 and still always find new challenges. The more you know, the more you become aware of just how little you really know!


My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user
#1135609 - 01/16/08 06:04 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Rosanna Offline
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My question is how long does it take before one can "leave the mechanics" behind? I am talking about for someone learning to play-by-ear from scratch. Presumably for the first months and possibly the first year or two, one has only enough "CPU cycles" to focus on the mechanics - getting the melody line out, finding the right chords, getting some variations in. If one were to leap into the zone at the early stage of the learning process, I assume there just won't be the foundation for the musician (and the music) to "flow by itself", so to speak? Is this a fair assumption?


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#1135610 - 01/16/08 07:18 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Quote
Originally posted by Rosanna:
My question is how long does it take before one can "leave the mechanics" behind? I am talking about for someone learning to play-by-ear from scratch. Presumably for the first months and possibly the first year or two, one has only enough "CPU cycles" to focus on the mechanics - getting the melody line out, finding the right chords, getting some variations in. If one were to leap into the zone at the early stage of the learning process, I assume there just won't be the foundation for the musician (and the music) to "flow by itself", so to speak? Is this a fair assumption?
Yes, that's correct. Because you hear something in your mind, doesn't mean that you'll be able to play it. Even with a very advanced technique and ear, there's still things that I hear that I can't possibly play. This is why I'm always challenging myself with technical and mental exercises of execution, to lessen the physical "sandtraps" that at times prevent total control of the flow.

Mind you, you don't control the flow, you join it, yet you want to consciouly hone the tools necessary, the knowledge, the ear, and enough technical ability to avoid as many "sandtraps" as possible when you're in the flow.

Trying to remain aware of the tools and join this zone, which is a byproduct of the music and experience you have absorbed, isn't possible from my experience. It would be like becoming aware of each and every little movement when you walk! If you do that, you'll move awkwardly instead of with your natural flow.

Remember, these tools you left behind will still be a part of you on a subconscious level, but the music in that zone will be far more significant than the awareness of your joining and influencing that zone.

I always hear music. Sometimes I hear music even when there's other audible music. I hear music I've already heard and music I've never heard in my head so luckily I have a zone around me rich with sound that's very easy to join and/or alter.

This is key in understanding playing in the moment. There's got to be music inside or there's no vocabulary. Only finger mechanics.


My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user
#1135611 - 01/23/08 02:01 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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I do as described above, with one change...I'll transpose it into the key of C.

I am MUCH better at figuring something out in the key of C than in any other key. Once I figure it out, I can transpose it back or to where ever I'd like.

I can sort of play by ear and I feel I'm a pretty average musician with an average ear. Been playing for a year.


Self taught with a Yamaha Clavinova CVP-303
#1135612 - 01/25/08 08:38 AM Re: Playing by ear  
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Once you become confident at playing following the music then you can be a little more adventuresome. Try changing the music in front of you a little. Just a simple change her and there. Playing by ear comes about gradually. You find at first you are able to memorise a melody and then add an accompaniment to it ( Bass and chords ). This does not have to be in any specific order. As you create it you dedide what goes into the composition. This can be a great source of enjoyment for you. Never consider the fact that you are not able to play by ear as a shortcoming in your playing. This skill will come eventually. Enjoy your playing in the mean time.


Maurice
#1135613 - 01/26/08 09:56 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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Quote
Originally posted by tulleh:
I guess I'm not a true pianist, since I can only play what's written on the sheet in front of me. How many people here can play by ear, and how did you do it? Did it take a long time?
You're in good company.
The majority of graduated concert pianists freeze at place and are unable to go on when they're confronted with the challenge of playing by ear, improvizing or creating personal arrangments.

It seems like (to me vital) aspect of piano playing that you must cultivate on your own.
I'm a beginner at playing by ear and yet I'm a conservatory student with an advanced repertoire, so I don't know how long it will take frown

The piano magicians here seem to have gained a lot of skills in improvizing, harmonizing and playing by ear in 2 to 3 years.

#1135614 - 01/26/08 10:10 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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How much music do you listen to?


My expansion of Lennie Tristano's Scene & Variation:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5C5gnAqgttY&feature=user
#1135615 - 01/27/08 08:15 AM Re: Playing by ear  
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quote:
[The piano magicians here seem to have gained a lot of skills in improvizing, harmonizing and playing by ear in 2 to 3 years.]


You ain't wrong!! laugh Typically, a lot quicker than 2-3 years, I might add. smile


Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD


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#1135616 - 01/27/08 07:54 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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For many people I think it's a matter of learning to recognize the sounds they already know. So just doing concentrated aural perception excercises along with really learning to love harmonic movement will get you quite far toward playing by ear.
For instance I was at a session the other day, and they called a tune I didn't know in a different key than usual. It was matter of listening to the bass player and the melody and connecting my knowledge of theory with what I was hearing in the moment. This was unthinkable for me one or two years ago. This kind of thinking is very conscious, but finding the voicings and lines has to be very automatic.

#1135617 - 01/27/08 08:07 PM Re: Playing by ear  
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I think that when we say "playing by ear" we mostly mean harmonizing and arranging. I say this because playing a single notes melody by ear is very easy. And almost everyone has enough ear to being able to find in a small amount of time a melody.
The problem is actually the arrangement and accompainment of the melody in order words the harmony which is at the very foundation of music itself. But being able to play harmony by ear (where by ear we mean without sheet) has in my opinion more to do with theorical knowledge of harmony construction than ear itself.

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