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#2423561 05/22/15 02:26 PM
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I did the survey, and one question was:

Quote
Can you play by ear, without the use of sheet music?


I answered "No", but I realized I truly don't know what is playing by ear, or it seems to me it can mean many different things. Or it simply means "playing in any way that does not involve a score"?


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I consider playing by ear to be "knowing how to hum a melody, be able to reproduce it on the piano with an entertaining LH accompaniment".


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But most people who do that have been working on the song for a long time, haven't they? It's not like they can play all the songs in the world (which would be ideal :D). smile

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This is a thread in the non-classical forum that discusses what playing by ear is:

playing by ear

So there are differing opinions smile

For me, at its most basic, it means being able to pick out the melody on the piano without sheet music.

Which also implies, to me, that I can do that starting on any key.

As a second step, I can then add block chords underneath the melody. Since I don't know what key I might start on, that means I know the underlying chords in any key. But - I don't think that's necessary.

One can find the melody, by experiment, in a key one *does* know the chords for, and just play it in that key smile

But I think, in general, what people mean is, one can pick out the melody on the piano and add chords to accompany.

But there are opinions laugh



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Originally Posted by Albunea
But most people who do that have been working on the song for a long time, haven't they? It's not like they can play all the songs in the world (which would be ideal :D). smile


I know players of traditional instruments (fiddles, banjos, accordions, etc) who can listen to another musician play a tune a couple of times and then join in. That's what they mean by playing by ear. I can't do that, in general. On a simple tune I can.

But I often just accompany those instruments, and don't play the melody. So in that context, I'm playing by ear if I can listen a couple of times, find the key it's in, and then play the right chords.

On the piano I'm doing what Whizbang said - if I can hum the tune, I sit down and play it on the piano. At the minute I generally add block chords the first or second time thru, but then I can begin to vary the accompanyment with patterns I've learned (I can generally add a stride bass, but that's not always appropriate). From there I can figure out more complex arrangements, but I can't generally do them on the fly.

Baby steps.


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Thank you, Jotur. smile You can play the melody quite spontaneously, without having "searched for it"? That's something I would love to do! I try some auditive exercises to train for that, but I am very bad at it at the moment. laugh

I'll read that thread now. smile

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You would be surprised what some pianists can do.

It's not Christmas, but on another site, a pianist offered to play a Christmas carol of your request in any style you requested, pretty much as soon as you requested. It's fair to say that these were well-known melodies for him and that he probably knew the chord progressions (or could look them up quickly).

People proposed a lot of stuff:

Chopin's Funeral March in Vince Guaraldi's style
Ragtime jingle bells
Deck the Halls in late Beethoven style
Silent night, funk
Carol of the Bells, requiem
Let it snow, jazzy
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, "7/8" "reggae"
Rockin' around the Christmas tree, bossa nova
Dreidel song, Disco

My favorite:

12 days of Christmas, Bach fugue

There, made you listen to Christmas music in May.




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Originally Posted by Whizbang
I consider playing by ear to be "knowing how to hum a melody, be able to reproduce it on the piano with an entertaining LH accompaniment".


+1


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Whizbang, I don't know some of those, but Jingle Bells and Silent Night are not Jingle Bells or Silent Night. Just being able to sound in many different styles is amazing of course.

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In the most basic sense, playing by ear would be going to the piano and trying to figure out "Happy Birthday" or something simple with no help. On a more advanced level, it would be for example, getting a request to play a song you've never played, but have heard, and being able to play it. As with anything, there are many levels of this skill. The less guessing you have to do, the less wrong notes, the better you are at it.

I've also played with several groups who would just call out the basic structure, then it was up to the player to listen to a lick and just know it. I don't do well in those scenarios, not necessarily from my ear, but from my ability to remember what I just figured out a minute or so later. Chords are easier to figure out and remember, but still there are songs that are tough to remember everything. So memory plays some part of playing by ear.

By the way, I think advanced level playing by ear is all about theory and having a name for what you hear. Let's say you're at a jam session and the band starts a song, after a minute you're like "Oh, that's a 12 bar blues in E". Then you've got enough info to jump in.


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Originally Posted by Albunea
Whizbang, I don't know some of those, but Jingle Bells and Silent Night are not Jingle Bells or Silent Night. Just being able to sound in many different styles is amazing of course.


For lots of these, he starts with an intro to set the style. The main theme for Silent Night starts about 16 seconds in, for example. He's not neglecting the melodies here.


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Originally Posted by Albunea
But most people who do that have been working on the song for a long time, haven't they? It's not like they can play all the songs in the world (which would be ideal :D). smile


Hey Albunea, some tunes maybe but for a great number of tunes, if you can hum that melody then your ears will tell you what rhythm, harmony, phrasing, etc. to add to it as the tune moves along. Playing by ear is not like knowing the chords before hand, it's like the ears hearing a chord "sound" change coming up and recognizing the harmony is shifting to a IV, V, I, vi, ii, V chord "sound", etc.

The more you play the more the ears gather those additional chord "sounds" into their memory bank. Ear players are focused on sounds as they are playing but while in a conversation with others about music, they may be using chord names. I'd also bet the ranch you and others would be able to play by ear at a higher level than you probably would imagine given a little time.

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There are different degrees of skill. Just like there are beginning sight readers who can slowly puzzle out notes on the staff, and expert sight readers who can crash through just about anything you put in front of them.

A beginning ear player can hear whether a note is higher, lower, or the same as the previous note, knows how to go higher, lower or same on the piano keyboard, and can recognize right notes and wrong notes in a well-known melody. With those skills plus a lot of trial and error, the beginning player can pick out a well-known melody one or two notes at a time, practicing the notes in small groups to commit them to memory before going on.

An expert ear player can hear a piece once or twice and either play along to some extent or reproduce a lot of the piece afterward.

Most of us are in between smile


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Whizbang, yesterday I was too sleepy laugh I could hear bits of the songs now. Silent Night starts like at 1:16. smile

Thank you all, I have understood. smile And reading about chords again, I've remembered I realized time ago that I just need to be learning little by little to get to understand all that some day. And everything has to be little by little: getting notes better, knowing which sound goes better with which, etc. I am still too far from all of it, but will keep it mind. I can see that trying to work on a song could help some and that's the only thing I can do at the moment (and auditive exercises now and then). smile

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I tried for some time to just learn the sounds in my head of the absolute pitch of each note, but I wasn't really making any progress. Then I came up with an idea. Since I seem to be able to hum/sing a tune with the correct pitch, I would work on the Do-Re-Mi song, or at least that part of the song that reiterates the sounds of the note names. It seems to be working, as I can go to a piece of sheet music, and sing each notes Do-Re-Mi name with the correct pitch. Sing a few note names, them hum those notes, and if it weren't for a non-functional memory, I could probably hum the whole tune, but I think that with time, I will be able to go to humming directly, then hopefully in the reverse direction to play on the piano.

The immediate problem when you actually try this with sheet music, is the accidentals, but I have to thank Robert Estrin for giving a solution to this in one of his short video lessons. So, I have 12 sounds to learn, not just the 7 of the Do-Ra-Mi song. Do-Di-Re-Ri-Mi-Fa-Fi-So-Si-La-Li-Ti and back to Do. I am able to get the correct pitch of each. But I have no use for ever shifting to a different starting pitch for 'Do' as music students must do, as this would destroy the sounds I am starting to develop a firm memory of.


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I agree that playing piano by ear is when you listen to a song and play it instantly without any sheet music. I have learned to play a few songs by ear but still need to develop the confidence to really play all genres of music.

In my research of this topic, I see that some claim playing by ear involves knowing chord symbols and using fake sheets. I do not really agree with this method to attribute in playing by ear. I have seen many being able to hear a song and then figure out how to play it by ear. There are some that do not even know the notes they are playing but have a true gifted talent.

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Originally Posted by ChazG
In my research of this topic, I see that some claim playing by ear involves knowing chord symbols and using fake sheets. I do not really agree with this method to attribute in playing by ear.

It doesn't HAVE to be part of it, but it sure helps to remember what you're hearing. There are often times that I'll need to learn a few songs in a short period of time. I use my ear to figure it out but then make a fake sheet using chords (Nashville uses numbers too) so I'll remember it.

So I'd say knowing chords or writing anything down (you could also use traditional notation to write down what you hear) isn't really part of the ear training part, more of the remembering part.

And of course, the more you know about chords and scales, the faster you'll be able to figure something out.


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Originally Posted by Albunea
Or it simply means "playing in any way that does not involve a score"?


Let me put this way: When I play a song I already know, I probably play very similarly to somebody who has memorized a song from sheet music. In a sense, you just "know" the song/tune. But the ear part is in the learning, if one doesn't use printed notation. Even then, one's ability to learn by ear is gradual, just as learning by notation. Gradual in the sense that the more one does it, the better one gets. In the simplest sense, it's merely sight learning, vs. aural learning.
Now, having said that, how did you learn your native language?


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Hi smile I don't know how I learnt my native language laugh And, yes, I am not forgetting I want to be able to play by ear some day so try to do some little things to improve it, though I know it will be slow.


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