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Playing by ear vs pre-written scores #2889914
09/13/19 10:47 AM
09/13/19 10:47 AM
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Manne janne Offline OP
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I would like to know your experience with this:

People, it seems to me, often separate playing by ear and playing from a pre-written score.

I just started practicing Arioso by DG Türk. 

One of the first things my teacher told me was to play hands seperately. He then told me there was an easy way of finding out how you could add voices to this 2-part harmony tune. You could even play full chords. I myself analysed the intervals ie how they sound and how the voices moves. 

Even just playing from a pre-written score is a lot about using the musical ears. This is at least true for me. Not many music teachers, it seems, teach playing by ear as well. This seems to be the fastest way to learn music for me. I can't just repeat notes I see on a piece of paper. I need the "playing by ear" as well. Some have said that this process takes more time than just repeating notes you see on a piece of paper but I am not so sure. 

What are your experience with this?

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Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2889940
09/13/19 11:51 AM
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Two sides of the same coin. Two approaches to music that prioritize different sets of complimentary skills

After starting improvisation lessons, I can't imagine ever going back to just reading notes to play the music. It's very satisfying to read/play a score while thinking like an improvisor or vice versa improvising with the mindset of a score player. There's an amazing synergy that happens when you use both approaches in music.

Pedagogically speaking, it seems like the pre-written score approach gets the lion's share of attention. Finding proper "play by ear"/improvisation lessons requires a lot more effort.


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And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2889954
09/13/19 12:15 PM
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So much of lesson time is limited, so we have to pick our battles. Not saying that ear training should be completely neglected, but it depends on the needs and wants of the student.

I'm a person who was terrible at reading as a child and was very ear-oriented. My teacher would refuse to play pieces for me once she realized I could pick it up based on her playing it for me once at the lesson.

Now that my reading is much better I can learn either way. I prefer to use both, but if given a choice, I feel learning by reading is faster and superior. Whenever you learn by ear, there are shortcuts you take since you have memorize right away, and often your playing becomes colored by the way the person you were listening to played it. Also, with reading, you get to make little notes to yourself on the page to help remind you of changes you want to make, fingering, drawing attention to a note that you sometimes play incorrectly, and a ton of other stuff that you cannot do when playing by ear.

Last edited by Morodiene; 09/13/19 12:16 PM.

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Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2889998
09/13/19 01:53 PM
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I think we need to define what is playing by ear means.

For me,
playing from score mean play exactly what is written.
Playing by ear mean, I have a melody in my head and I play it with my own arrangement.
Between the two methods, there is playing with a lead sheet where I have the melody and chords and I do my own arrangement.
There is also transcribing, where people listen to a performance and can write and replicate the performance.

I think playing by ear is exclusive to non-classical music.



"The piano keys are black and white but they sound like a million colors in your mind.”
– Maria Cristina

Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890011
09/13/19 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Manne janne

Even just playing from a pre-written score is a lot about using the musical ears. This is at least true for me. Not many music teachers, it seems, teach playing by ear as well. This seems to be the fastest way to learn music for me. I can't just repeat notes I see on a piece of paper. I need the "playing by ear" as well. Some have said that this process takes more time than just repeating notes you see on a piece of paper but I am not so sure. 

What are your experience with this?



The question is: what do you want to achieve?

If it's playing classical piano music, there is no choice - you have to learn to read music, and read it well.

For anything else, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

FWIW, I learn all classical piano music from the score and play it as written. For pop, folk etc I never play from the written-out score even if it exists - I'll play my own version (greatly enhanced, embellished, improved of course wink ) if I use it, or from a lead sheet. Or if I know the music, I'll play it entirely by ear.

Ideally to have the best of both worlds, you can play classical music that you've never heard before entirely from the score (and be able to sight-read it proficiently), and use your ears for all non-classical stuff.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890043
09/13/19 04:28 PM
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Your ear is always important. For one thing it will tell you when you're wrong from day one. Emphasis is always on reading for the classical musician. It ensures accuracy of the notes which is great. Most of the expression though, isn't on a score and is from the performer.

In the end it is all about the sound. Only your ear can fine tune the sound you want. So, you really need it, regardless of genre.

Last edited by Greener; 09/13/19 04:35 PM.
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890159
09/14/19 05:13 AM
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Manne janne Offline OP
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What confuses me is: why only study classical piano by playing from a pre-written score?
It doesn't work for me. I don't learn a language by just reading a text. I need to be creative and make up sentences myself. How do people leann the language by only repeating notes on a piece of paper?
Maybe I am the weird guy who just don't learn musical languages by only repeating what is in a score.
For the piece by DG Türk I have to analyse the intervals (how they sounds and how voices move), finding out how to play it with 4-part harnony, sing it and hear analyse the molody.
I need all of this but most people just play the piece. I guess I am a slow learner who needs to go through all of this just to understand something that most pianist understand by just repeating the notes in the score.
How is it possible for you guys to learn the language by just playing what is in the score?
I even have problems with repeating what is in the score if I have no idea of how the language works.

Last edited by Manne janne; 09/14/19 05:16 AM.
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890192
09/14/19 08:10 AM
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From what I understand, there is ear training in classical studies, though it may come a little later on. So it should be. You need the notes first and reading is vital for classical.

I always thought an ear player could hear something and go play it. I mean like full harmony and arrangement that makes it sound near original. My Dad could do this for nearly anything and it drove me nearly nuts that i could not. It isn't really practical for classical though where note accuracy is needed.

Agree that perhaps more emphasis should be given to it.

Last edited by Greener; 09/14/19 08:11 AM.
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Greener] #2890207
09/14/19 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Greener
I always thought an ear player could hear something and go play it. I mean like full harmony and arrangement that makes it sound near original. My Dad could do this for nearly anything and it drove me nearly nuts that i could not. It isn't really practical for classical though where note accuracy is needed.


There are people who can play intricate music by ear, and just use the score to double-check the notes, and read the composers markings.

Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890211
09/14/19 09:03 AM
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Yes, there are. But as the OP has pointed out, we are not generally taught this way and it may even be discouraged when learning classical.

The best players do both well. Reading and hearing.

Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Greener] #2890217
09/14/19 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Greener
Yes, there are. But as the OP has pointed out, we are not generally taught this way and it may even be discouraged when learning classical.


I think discouraging it is a shame. Having said all that, people who play extraordinarily well by ear seem to have taught themselves how to do it.

Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890220
09/14/19 09:31 AM
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Robert Estrin talked about the subject and brought up his life experience a few times. Once his father (Motrin Estrin) who was also a trained Classical pianist invited a few people to a party. They played all sorts of repertoire in concert learned from sheet music. When M. Estrin asked one of them to play "Happy Birthday", he/she panicked. They played Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, etc. but not many people in the group could improvise even a simple version of the song "Happy B-day".

A while ago I met a man who played viola with a local orchestra. He is a Classical musician who learned to read very well and at some point picked up piano playing. In the beginning he learned his pieces from sheet music. Over the years performed a few gigs involving improvised piano playing. He can imitate the playing styles of Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff on the go (no rehearsal or practice involved).

The piano teacher John Mortensen suggested people try to play the same pieces they're working in different Keys to improve on ear training. Another thing is to play a piece as a "fake book / lead sheet" version so you can separate the melody line & the accompanying chords. Robert Estrin also talked about ear training as a way to improve your playing. There are times in a performance you started to lose your place. If you have a good enough ear, you can fill-in the missing bits of your piece with the fake book version to keep the audience entertained until you find your place than simply panic.

Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890222
09/14/19 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Manne janne
What confuses me is: why only study classical piano by playing from a pre-written score?
It doesn't work for me. I don't learn a language by just reading a text. I need to be creative and make up sentences myself. How do people leann the language by only repeating notes on a piece of paper?
Maybe I am the weird guy who just don't learn musical languages by only repeating what is in a score.
For the piece by DG Türk I have to analyse the intervals (how they sounds and how voices move), finding out how to play it with 4-part harnony, sing it and hear analyse the molody.
I need all of this but most people just play the piece. I guess I am a slow learner who needs to go through all of this just to understand something that most pianist understand by just repeating the notes in the score.
How is it possible for you guys to learn the language by just playing what is in the score?
I even have problems with repeating what is in the score if I have no idea of how the language works.


How do pianists do it? By playing a large variety of new music—not to the point of memorization but with the goal of recognizing intervals, being able to play rhythm patterns and knowing that a given note on the score equals a certain key on the keyboard. . You should decide what you want your initial musical focus to be: if it is reading music, start with easy method books and progress through them. Add lots of other music at the same level to READ.

If you want to transpose: learn theory and work on transposing. If you want to play from a lead sheet, play lead sheet music: learn the notation and the theory.

Learning to play music has enormous variety in approach. You need to decide what your goal is and tackle your initial goal. No one can learn everything at once.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It’s ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890240
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John Mortensen talked about playing by ear as a skill that complements your piano playing even if your training is Classical and you learned to read very well. He would make his students perform a piece of Chopin in front of him in another Key to see if they can do it. Most people would play a Chopin Etude in Eb only in the original Key. Even when the piece is played flawlessly, it’s still a copy of the original.

Robert Estrin also talked about being able to playing songs everybody knows at a party by ear with the R doing the melody and the L filling in a few chords without sheet music around.

Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2890275
09/14/19 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
John Mortensen talked about playing by ear as a skill that complements your piano playing even if your training is Classical and you learned to read very well. He would make his students perform a piece of Chopin in front of him in another Key to see if they can do it. Most people would play a Chopin Etude in Eb only in the original Key. Even when the piece is played flawlessly, it’s still a copy of the original.

Robert Estrin also talked about being able to playing songs everybody knows at a party by ear with the R doing the melody and the L filling in a few chords without sheet music around.


Absolutely, transposing and playing by ear are great skills for a classical pianist to develop. But this takes time and related skills. You can’t play a melody by ear and improvise the bass on Day 1. If you want to read classical music, learn to read it... and then work in other skills.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It’s ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890287
09/14/19 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Manne janne
What confuses me is: why only study classical piano by playing from a pre-written score?
It doesn't work for me. I don't learn a language by just reading a text. I need to be creative and make up sentences myself.


Absolutely.

Try learning this simple piece by ear:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VzoWr8Y2DI


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: bennevis] #2890289
09/14/19 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Manne janne
What confuses me is: why only study classical piano by playing from a pre-written score?
It doesn't work for me. I don't learn a language by just reading a text. I need to be creative and make up sentences myself.


Absolutely.

Try learning this simple piece by ear:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VzoWr8Y2DI

...and close your eyes. Mustn't cheat by looking at the score being displayed! smirk


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Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2890305
09/14/19 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Manne janne
What confuses me is: why only study classical piano by playing from a pre-written score?
It doesn't work for me. I don't learn a language by just reading a text. I need to be creative and make up sentences myself.


Absolutely.

Try learning this simple piece by ear:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VzoWr8Y2DI

...and close your eyes. Mustn't cheat by looking at the score being displayed! smirk


Party poop....


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Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Manne janne] #2890308
09/14/19 03:05 PM
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I had a friend in school who went into a piano exam with Schumann's Phantasiestucke. He didn't learn from the score instead he said "I listen to recordings and play by ear. Playing by ear is how real artists do it."

And the thing is, what he did by ear was impressive but even i could tell it diverged badly from the score and was often in the wrong key. I told him he was off script but he wouldn't listen.

I was in the recital hall. Several minutes into his performance he was stopped. The jury was visibly angry. They told him to go back and learn the piece. He resisted. He said he knew it. After a heated discussion, they flunked him.

Playing by ear is fun but in front of a jury you better know the score. Also some piano teachers have perfect pitch. Don't think you'll ever get away with playing in the wrong key.


"the lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne." -- Chaucer.
Re: Playing by ear vs pre-written scores [Re: Fidel] #2890315
09/14/19 03:14 PM
09/14/19 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Fidel
I had a friend in school who went into a piano exam with Schumann's Phantasiestucke. He didn't learn from the score instead he said "I listen to recordings and play by ear. Playing by ear is how real artists do it."

And the thing is, what he did by ear was impressive but even i could tell it diverged badly from the score and was often in the wrong key. I told him he was off script but he wouldn't listen.

I was in the recital hall. Several minutes into his performance he was stopped. The jury was visibly angry. They told him to go back and learn the piece. He resisted. He said he knew it. After a heated discussion, they flunked him.

Playing by ear is fun but in front of a jury you better know the score. Also some piano teachers have perfect pitch. Don't think you'll ever get away with playing in the wrong key.


A rough but valuable lesson.


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