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Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051360 11/30/20 05:20 PM
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The reason that most people don't play by ear is that they can't. At least not as beginners. It's difficult. For complex music it's next to impossible. I have a good teacher who has absolute hearing. He transcribed the improvisation of Oscar Peterson on C jam blues for me. Some parts were impossible to make out with certainty.

The reason we use sheet music is the same reason we use written text: you don't need someone to tell you the story of play the music for you.

It's quite simple.

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Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051368 11/30/20 05:34 PM
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When one wants to learn a language, you combine learning the alphabet, the grammar, the words and simultaneously oral prononciation. Same for music. Music has started to move forward when people invented a way to notate it in written form. Going back to pure ear learning is like advocating that to speak a language you dont need to be able to read it.

Re: playing by ear
Sidokar #3051390 11/30/20 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
When one wants to learn a language, you combine learning the alphabet, the grammar, the words and simultaneously oral prononciation. Same for music. Music has started to move forward when people invented a way to notate it in written form. Going back to pure ear learning is like advocating that to speak a language you don't need to be able to read it.
On that - as a linguist, and also with teacher training and background, incl. second language learning: What I say won't necessarily be about music (haven't decided) but it is about language.

If the language you are learning has the same alphabet as your mother tongue, then you will tend to pronounce words according to the sounds those letters represent in your mother tongue. You want to first absorb how words and sentences sound, and then associate the sound you are familiar with, to the alphabet and spelling and conventions. (For conventions: think of how in French a last letter is pronounced or not, depending on if the next word starts with a vowel - which is why some French poor spellers might write le samis instead of les amis.) What you actually want to do is to "fuse" the two experiences: the sound with the letters and spelling, to create one single association. The non-French person might pronounce the S where it should be silent.

The pronunciation itself is a problem. Our linguistics prof referred to the "phonological filter" - where we don't hear a foreign sound (phoneme), but translate it into what is familiar. You may need to guide the student to hear what he doesn't hear. Then pronunciation uses the vocal apparatus differently and some sounds are hard the pronounce: the German "ch" in Bach, maybe. All that has to be brought into the written word, that you want to read as you should be hearing it.

I've met a lot of people who can read highly complex text in English, and write wonderfully, but struggle dreadfully to say anything more than simple sentences, or understand what is being said, because of how they learned the language. I agree that we need both sides, and for them to work together. How to get that to work is a different story. Same with reading music.

Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051391 11/30/20 06:15 PM
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Perhaps if one who plays by ear and just cannot learn to play and read and follow the
rules of good playing (fingering , etc) One should continue playing by ear and learn theory as a subject. (I advise sometimes at the piano, but not playing) The focus of the study of the theory lesson would be to learn to read music.
Once this is achieved, and one wants formal lessons , one can at least read music.
The process of learning formally demands a certain amount of humility on the part of
the student though.

Re: playing by ear
keystring #3051403 11/30/20 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
I agree that we need both sides, and for them to work together. How to get that to work is a different story. Same with reading music.

+1

In an effort to strengthen my weak side (i.e, playing by ear), I decided to learn violin via the Suzuki method. I know this method is controversial for not teaching students how to read music from the beginning, but for me, this is exactly what I needed. I just want to learn by ear and by rote, because these are the things that I need to improve. Reading music is practically automatic to me now and I do it for piano so no change there. I started with a couple of concepts from this method, like listening to the pieces over and over again, and playing the violin by ear, trying to figure out if I'm in tune or not, etc, and I've noticed that in just a couple of weeks, my ear's ability to notice pitches and in-tune/not in-tune has improved a lot. If I continue, I think it will help with the development of my ear and playing the piano.

Of course, there are many other ways of improving aural skills, but I just happened to want to learn the violin, so I chose a method that made sense for what I wanted to achieve. Kill 2 birds with 1 stone, so to speak.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 11/30/20 06:39 PM.

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Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051430 11/30/20 08:35 PM
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Some people have a good memory. When you repeats a piece many times, you would build muscle memory. Your fingers are on autopilot meaning you put them in specific positions without giving the notes much thought. And then there is memorizing the notes by listening to the sound pitches. People with perfect pitch can easily reproduce a song they hear even in difficult keys with many sharps or flats. People with good relative pitch needs a starting sequence of notes to a song as reference and they can finish the rest it by ear.

A lot of people who can play a song from memory probably don't know all the music theory behind the piece. They don't think about the chords or chord progressions in a piece. Pop songs have a lot of repetitions. You learned 1 section and find that the next section is similar. A lot of notes & finger sequences keep repeating. Even people who rely on reading, they'd find that they can read 1 section and the next section is similar enough they don't need to read every note.

Some people like myself are poor readers. I'd learn a piece in small sections. I'd decipher the notes beforehand starting with very slow practice. I'd keep repeating the section many times until it is in my memory. When I'm performing a piece, I would be playing the it from memory and get rather anxious when asked to "read" a piece from top to bottom.

Re: playing by ear
WeakLeftHand #3051443 11/30/20 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Originally Posted by keystring
I agree that we need both sides, and for them to work together. How to get that to work is a different story. Same with reading music.

+1

In an effort to strengthen my weak side (i.e, playing by ear), I decided to learn violin via the Suzuki method. I know this method is controversial for not teaching students how to read music from the beginning, but for me, this is exactly what I needed. I just want to learn by ear and by rote, because these are the things that I need to improve. Reading music is practically automatic to me now and I do it for piano so no change there. I started with a couple of concepts from this method, like listening to the pieces over and over again, and playing the violin by ear, trying to figure out if I'm in tune or not, etc, and I've noticed that in just a couple of weeks, my ear's ability to notice pitches and in-tune/not in-tune has improved a lot. If I continue, I think it will help with the development of my ear and playing the piano.

Of course, there are many other ways of improving aural skills, but I just happened to want to learn the violin, so I chose a method that made sense for what I wanted to achieve. Kill 2 birds with 1 stone, so to speak.
So interesting WeakLeftHand, developing your ear like that. The reason for aural training is to overcome the barrier between reading, learning technique and playing musically.
I found I used to improvise when I was still a music pupil. I never realised consciously I was developing my ear and my overall musicianship.
It something I need to get back to because it is fun as well.

Re: playing by ear
Lady Bird #3051452 11/30/20 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
So interesting WeakLeftHand, developing your ear like that. The reason for aural training is to overcome the barrier between reading, learning technique and playing musically.
I found I used to improvise when I was still a music pupil. I never realised consciously I was developing my ear and my overall musicianship.
It something I need to get back to because it is fun as well.

Improvising is yet another area that I need to develop! So many skills to learn, so little time!


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Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051483 12/01/20 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Improvising is yet another area that I need to develop! So many skills to learn, so little time!
There is a connection between understanding music, playing by heart and improvisation. Cellist Grigory Pyatigorsky said that once, before performing Bach's cello suite at a concert, he was horrified to find that he could not remember anything except the first D. After several minutes of trying to remember music disguised as tuning and detuning the instrument , G.P. decided to jump into the water, and played the first long D. Then there was a pure improvisation a la Bach. Gradually, his state of panic passed, and he began to develop a melody on different strings, and even create polyphonic fragments. It was quiet in the hall, only the students of Pyatigorsky who were present were frantically leafing through the printed notes of the suite to find what sounded on the stage.After the concert, Pyatigorsky was bombarded with requests for sheet music for an unknown version of Bach's suite.
What moral can be learned from this case? G.P. knew in detail the melodic, textured, harmonic and rhythmic structures typical of Bach, but in addition also the typical methods of development. Thus, a deep knowledge and understanding of music allowed the artist to spontaneously recreate the atmosphere of Bach. I'm sure G.P. practiced this at home - for my own pleasure. My memory for playing by heart was never very good, and constantly in exams at school, forgetting something from the music, I began to insert short improvisations. The accompanying pianist was desperate ...

Last edited by Nahum; 12/01/20 12:48 AM.
Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051526 12/01/20 06:41 AM
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Strange to me is how we ended up with such a divide between learning by written score and full on ear players.

It is difficult to separate these and if you continue far enough nearly impossible to separate them.

A person totally dedicated to learning by reading only will still hear a wrong note, before they realize they read it wrong on the score. If you know how a melody should sound, you'll also know when it isn't right. So it is just a matter of how much emphasis is on your ear vs. the score.

Also, I've yet to meet a long term ear player that at some point hasn't gone back to fill in the blanks.

Both methods on there own are too limiting if you want to continue learning.

The great divide seems to stem from the process of learning only because ultimately you will need to develop both. That's what I think.

Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051573 12/01/20 09:01 AM
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I agree that a well-rounded musician must eventually learn both. However, as beginners, I think it is very natural to gravitate to whichever method is easier for us, so that we can progress without too much frustration, so that we can stay motivated to continue the journey. Then eventually, it is a good idea to develop the weaknesses.

In my mind, improvising is probably the most difficult to develop because I think you need a lot of understanding of theory to do it well, and a lot of confidence. I think those who can naturally improvise have a gift some of us don’t. But then they tell me it can be learned...

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 12/01/20 09:02 AM.

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Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051765 12/01/20 06:57 PM
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"Your memory can be your undoing" Your mind is a records all of all the wrong notes and all the right notes.....this will apply for those who read and those that "play by ear".
You can save a performance by improvisation.

Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3051838 12/02/20 12:48 AM
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I'm a guitarist who's become to old to ever be a Rock star, so I have recently picked up Piano. I played mostly by ear on Guitar, and have modest understanding of theory. The thing I find hardest with Piano when it comes to learning by ear, is that it's hard to ascertain which octave some chords are being played in, and discerning various inversions of Chords. Its far more straightforward on guitar, far easier to separate notes.

Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3052476 12/03/20 02:32 PM
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I think all pianists should learn to play by ear at least a little bit. Ditto for improv.

But...

If you wish to learn classical you have to read scores. Even intermediate classical is too complex to learn by ear. And advanced piano music? Forget about it, you'll waste your time trying to play it by ear.


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Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3052485 12/03/20 03:28 PM
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I always think about topics like this brought up, and immediately think of people like Stevie Wonder. Of course Stevie is more of a creator of music vs. someone that just plays music. I think at end of the day, it's all about what cards you're dealt in life and how you play those cards. You have to know yourself before you know what road you can take. If playing by ear suits you, then do it. It's that simple. Or is it? ~grins mysteriously, fading into the fog~ laugh Seriously though, there's nothing wrong with either. The fun part about all of it, is you get to explore yourself deeper than you thought you knew. You truly discover what you can/can't do. Just keep in mind that because you can't do something, don't let that be the winner of your journey. There are many roads to success. Success is all but self perception. Keep up the good work!

Last edited by ul7; 12/03/20 03:36 PM.
Re: playing by ear
trooplewis #3055902 12/12/20 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by trooplewis
If I had to play by ear I would have a hard time even doing Chopsticks.
I need the score! SHOW me the NOTES!
I can play chopsticks but I need the score for the rest.
Is playing by ear the same as by heart playing?
Is it interesting to try to memorize some phrases, even though the time and effort we have to put into it?

Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Then eventually, it is a good idea to develop the weaknesses.
I suppose you are right, but how do we develop the weaknesses, in my case playing by ear?


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Re: playing by ear
Sol Finker #3055938 12/12/20 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Sol Finker
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Is playing by ear the same as by heart playing?
No. This is to open the notes, play with them, then close and continue playing from memory. Playing by heart : open ears, memorize and reproduce on the instrument.

Quote
I suppose you are right, but how do we develop the weaknesses, in my case playing by ear?
Are you ready to learn each fragment of music by heart for several hours without a break (3-4 hours)? According to Hindu tradition, the student must be in contact with the instrument for 12 hours daily.

Re: playing by ear
Sol Finker #3055969 12/12/20 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Sol Finker
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Then eventually, it is a good idea to develop the weaknesses.
I suppose you are right, but how do we develop the weaknesses, in my case playing by ear?

Yes, I suppose you are right too and good point.

Well, one thing you could do and should do is be intent on listening explicitly to everything you play. So, when you are learning from a score, it is not just a matter of getting the notes right and the timing right and then we move along to the next section. No, you need to get what you just learned up to a point where it is ready for Performance. I mean, phrasing and the quality of your sound, whether you might try to drag it a bit here etc. Now, of course you are not going to do all this in your very first pass. But, it should be a goal.

My Dad, was a gifted ear player and I asked him, Dad how do you do it? He said, well I couldn't always do it, but keep in mind I have completed RCM to grade 10 and started out on my own after that. I had excellent Teachers plus I need this for my job and I practice a lot. There is nothing magical to it.

Re: playing by ear
Manne janne #3056012 12/12/20 06:21 PM
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I started learning piano from sheet and i think i have learnt a lot since i started , i have a really bad memory so i find it hard to remember note , i don't have a great ear to add to this and i think the younger you start using your ear to play music the better, I have started improvising on easy songs if i know the chords to a song i can make my own melody and bass or boogie woogie , the songs are slightly different to the originals but i find it by trial and error until it sounds like i want it to , I would love to say that one day i will be able to play by ear but i am not hopeful of that and that's probably partly because i have picked my path to learn to read music from sheet.

Re: playing by ear
Nahum #3056146 12/13/20 01:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Sol Finker
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Is playing by ear the same as by heart playing?
No. This is to open the notes, play with them, then close and continue playing from memory. Playing by heart : open ears, memorize and reproduce on the instrument.
I thought it was quite the opposite: open ears -> playing by ear
Originally Posted by Nahum
Quote
I suppose you are right, but how do we develop the weaknesses, in my case playing by ear?
Are you ready to learn each fragment of music by heart for several hours without a break (3-4 hours)? According to Hindu tradition, the student must be in contact with the instrument for 12 hours daily.
I could try and have a siesta near the piano, but I suppose it doesn't count as practice. My scope of attention is quite short so I usually break my practice time into 20-30 minutes chunks. When trying to learn something new I find it very difficult to put more than 20 minutes into it. Then I replay the usual repertoire. I know this is not practicing but my brain does not allow me to focus much more. When I'm not in the mood, then I only play scales and arpeggios.
So, the answer is NO, I'm not ready to learn each fragment for several hours without a break.

Last edited by Sol Finker; 12/13/20 01:12 AM.

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