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Play by Ear Secrets by Malcolm Kogut. Is he missing anything?


1 The first thing to do is to get away from computers and your piano. Ear training is in the head, you need to train your brain, your inner ear, the piano is a crutch that will slow down your training. First, be able to sing a scale (away from the piano) but instead of singing, letters or syllables, sing numbers: 12345678. Now make sure you can pick out the 1, 3, 5, and 8. Again, away from the piano, you are training your brain, it doesn't matter what key you are in. Letters are absolute, numbers can be anything.

2 Ignore silly tricks like STAR WARS is a fifth. In the heat of the moment you don't have time to think of a song interval. You just have to do it. You need to know what the fifth is without thought. The root's best friend is the fifth.

3 It is also vital that YOU SING. That helps to hardwire the intervals into your brain where true muscle memory resides. Singing numbers is also the secret to sight transposing.

Let's try ODE TO JOY. It too starts on the third. What a coincidence. Once you transcribe a lot of songs you'll discover that they have everything in common: 334554321123322 334554321123211

Here is an easy one, JOY TO THE WORLD. It starts on the 8: 8765 4321 56 67 78.

Notice the 1, 3 and 5 are common target intervals.

If you wrote out these songs without cheating, no matter how difficult, you are well on your way to being able to improving your sight reading, transposition, improvisation and just knowing the notes to any song you hear.

4 Go to your local Protestant church and borrow a hymnbook. Then go back to your sofa and sight sing the melody. Then try out the AT and B parts (SATB), always singing numbers. The beauty of working with a hymnbook is that all the parts are easy and harmonically repetitive and predictable. Often hymns are AABA in form so you get three chances at it.

Go to church on Sunday and on the hymns practice sight singing all four parts to the hymns. If there is a good choir you'll know that you are correct. If the organist plays the actual notes in the book, you'll know that you are correct. The church must have a good old fashioned hymnbook so try Episcopal, Methodist or Presbyterian. Don't waste your time in Roman Catholic or contemporary churches. They tend to sing songs and pass out lead sheets. Leave it to the church to dumb down music.

5 Whenever you hear music, listen for the root and fifth then try to figure out the intervals.

6 Also, never EVER hunt and peck. If you are at the piano and you don't know the next note, don't guess. Don't train your brain to make mistakes. You only get once chance at muscle memory. Errors can be forever. Your brain doesn't get a reboot.


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Originally Posted by writebynight
Play by Ear Secrets by Malcolm Kogut. Is he missing anything?

Major and minor? Intervals? Chords? Rhythm?

Last edited by beeboss; 12/17/21 02:47 PM. Reason: typo
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Hi

If I wanted to learn to play by ear I'd want to play the Piano while doing so, that's the point. Everything he suggests is perfectly valid, and you may well develop a great ear from doing all that, but there doesn't seem to be much Piano playing involved.

I wish I'd devoted more time to it when I was younger, but as Beeboss says there's a lot more that he doesn't mention that's just as valid (I'd add learning to read and understand music / chords / charts etc).

I may be being unfair, but it all sounds a bit dogmatic....

Cheers


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Yeah. I think he was talking purely from a fresh, beginner's starting standpoint if one is exclusively dedicated to playing by ear and then the techique part comes later. It reminds me of the Suzuki approach, except without sight-reading


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Originally Posted by writebynight
Yeah. I think he was talking purely from a fresh, beginner's starting standpoint if one is exclusively dedicated to playing by ear and then the techique part comes later. It reminds me of the Suzuki approach, except without sight-reading

Suziki does not have students read the music; they learn to play ‘by ear’. —unless I have misread your post. If so, mea culpa 😊😊

Last edited by dogperson; 12/17/21 07:22 PM. Reason: Typo

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I can definitely recommend the value of singing. I never used to do that, but I've discovered when I listen to a recording on my laptop and walk over to the piano to play what I thought I heard, I realize that I've forgotten exactly what it was. By accident, I found that if I sing the tone while I'm listening and continue to sing it as I walk to the piano, I can match it easily.

The number system sounds interesting. LH chords don't seem to be a problem for me, but I do a lot of hunt and peck with RH.


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That's exactly what I meant, dogperson, yes.


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Originally Posted by lilypad
LH chords don't seem to be a problem for me, but I do a lot of hunt and peck with RH.

I'm the exact opposite. LOL


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IMO learning to read music is a must. It is easy to learn and in today's world it does not cost anything. Just go to you tube. Next learn all chords in all positions. With this knowledge, tools in your toolbox, and you can sing the song even if only in your head you can play most any song by ear. The secret is really being able to sing and feel the song as one does in their mind or in the shower. Let it al hang out in your mind. Now go to your piano and hunt and peck until you get a single note melody that matches what is in your head. Once you can do that, with the knowledge mentioned above you can play most any song.

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Originally Posted by john fh
IMO learning to read music is a must..
my eyes dont work so well, unfortunately


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Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

If I wanted to learn to play by ear I'd want to play the Piano while doing so, that's the point. Everything he suggests is perfectly valid, and you may well develop a great ear from doing all that, but there doesn't seem to be much Piano playing involved.

I wish I'd devoted more time to it when I was younger, but as Beeboss says there's a lot more that he doesn't mention that's just as valid (I'd add learning to read and understand music / chords / charts etc).

I may be being unfair, but it all sounds a bit dogmatic....

Cheers

I generally react negatively at suggestions that turn creative activity into a quasi religious dogma of "must" do's and "must never" do's.

Over the years, I have used a variety of both prescribed and self-invented ways to work on my "ears" - my perception of melodic/harmonic intervals.

He says "never hunt and peck".....Does anyone think that Thelonious Monk found those magnificent dissonant harmonies by sitting down and just playing ? Trial and error has played a hugely important role in many great groundbreaking musicians' development.

And reference intervals like "Here Comes the Bride" a perfect 4th. "Over the Rainbow" an octave. The ears'/mind's ability eventually internalizes these things with repeated practice.

I've worked thru species counterpoint exercises - many years ago. I've also carried a pitch pipe in my car to work on my ear perceptions. ANYTHING one can come up with in the effort is fair game to me.

Whoever Malcolm Kogut is, I expect that his methods work. But there are many paths to persue in developing the ears. Using a variety of methods can break up the monotony of sticking to only one way.

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Originally Posted by writebynight
my eyes dont work so well, unfortunately

Although most of what I play is from scores, my eyes are giving me fits lately. My eye exam last year revealed that my cataracts might finally be ready for removal in a year. I'm hoping that my eye exam in January will confirm it and I can get it done. Between that and slight dyslexic tendencies, my daily sight reading practice makes me feel like I'm an idiot.


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About 20 years ago I had a pair of reading glasses made for playing piano. My eyes were tested using the distance my eyes were from the piano when properly seated on the bench. Normal reading glasses are made for a shorter distance for eyes to object. They worked great.

A few years back I had cataracts removed, first from one eye and then the other. I was afraid to do both at the same time in case anything went wrong. I think they are starting do develop again.

Last year I had a hanging light installed slightly behind and higher then where I sit to play. The light is very bright but the notes are much much clearer.

Hope this is helpful. Getting old is not fun but playing piano is.

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I wear trifocals (without lines these days). They're set for book reading, computer screen and distance. Out of curiosity, I just checked how the distance to my laptop screen compared to distance from my sheet music and it's almost identical. What I've noticed with the sheet music is bright glare from an overhead light bouncing off the paper. I believe that is from the cataracts, as it never used to bother me. Wise choice on having the procedure done one at a time.


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Modern LEDs can be incredibly irritating. Overhead lights can be irritating. Combined is a disaster for everyone

You can try a baseball cap.

Better yet, get some good task lighting for your sheet music.

Incandescent is best for low flicker, nice color, distribution, and concentration; the environmental impact is much less than being advertised in popular media but your electric bill will be a bit higher (partly because of how the electric company currently measures your "consumption").

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Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

If I wanted to learn to play by ear I'd want to play the Piano while doing so, that's the point. Everything he suggests is perfectly valid, and you may well develop a great ear from doing all that, but there doesn't seem to be much Piano playing involved.

I wish I'd devoted more time to it when I was younger, but as Beeboss says there's a lot more that he doesn't mention that's just as valid (I'd add learning to read and understand music / chords / charts etc).

I may be being unfair, but it all sounds a bit dogmatic....

Cheers
I was always of the opinion that it should be the primary aspect of music to nail first.

If you're learning songs without having trained your ear you're just moving your hands into all sorts of weird positions trying to play some piece of music merely because you've seen somebody else play it that way. You don't realise that there may be an easier way of playing it that even sounds better. If one of those exact same voicings came to the mind of a different person during playing... lets say someone who trained their ear properly; well then that player may have never put his hand in such a position before, but he will still probably pull off what he wants to do. As the saying goes, where there's a will there's a way. Where as the former player is just doing muscular memory work for no apparent reason and always finding it difficult. Why? In case he may need to do that exact same thing 5 years down the road... when his ear has got up with him?

So the muscular memory work should be easier if you've a good ear. Of course the only thing is that ear training takes longer than anything else to learn, so it would be quite boring for complete beginners to start that way. However I'm always amazed at how overlooked ear training is. Neil Archer is a very good musician who can't read at all, and has learned all his pieces by ear.

I have a very good ear in so far as it's accurate. But it's slow. I cannot play with my thoughts in real time. I can be very good in some ways but then one thing often reminds me of how far behind I am. And this is what it is: if I start fingering out some known melody (in day dream mode) without realising what key it's in, then I can go terribly wrong. I could be playing it in F but I would see my fingers hitting white keys and would get the impression that I'm in C. Then I'd hit that B note instead of Bb and would cringe at myself! A good players fingers should fall on the right keys even if they don't know what key they're in.

Got carried away there.

Last edited by Visalia; 12/25/21 02:01 PM.
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Originally Posted by writebynight
Play by Ear Secrets by Malcolm Kogut. Is he missing anything?

1 The first thing to do is to get away from computers and your piano. Ear training is in the head, you need to train your brain, your inner ear, the piano is a crutch that will slow down your training. First, be able to sing a scale (away from the piano) but instead of singing, letters or syllables, sing numbers: 12345678. Now make sure you can pick out the 1, 3, 5, and 8. Again, away from the piano, you are training your brain, it doesn't matter what key you are in. Letters are absolute, numbers can be anything.
Hello Write by Night, How is your own ear at this stage?

If you wouldn't mind could you tell me if you relate to this issue I have. I really struggle to sight sing. I think the reason for this is because whether one realises it or not, there is often some sort of a tune already in your head... especially if your hands are after touching the piano. Those notes you just touched will have an implied key whether you realise it or not. If you try to sight sight notes that aren't in that key then this can throw you off. It could mean that you might be trying to sing, let's say, a minor 6th but the major 6th will keep popping in. It's near impossible to get it out. You'll know it's not right so you'll trying and raise it a semi-tone to make it right. But when you do, you realise that you ended up making it a minor 7th! Another note from the previous key that was in your head. With me? You're only be able to raise it a tone! Then you'll begin to wonder if the note you're singing is between a semi-tone and a tone. And it ends up being all too frustrating. The issue isn't anything to do with one's voice, nor is it to do with being able to recognise intervals, but something entirely different!
Originally Posted by writebynight
2. Ignore silly tricks like STAR WARS is a fifth. In the heat of the moment you don't have time to think of a song interval. You just have to do it. You need to know what the fifth is without thought. The root's best friend is the fifth.
True. In the heat of the moment I can often be misled by the sound of an interval that I actually heard correctly. I might end up playing that interval one note too early!

Last edited by Visalia; 12/25/21 02:22 PM.
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Hi

The primary aspect of music is to learn to play by ear? No it's not. Neither is the primary aspect of music to learn to play from sheet music, or to learn to play in any particular way at all. IMHO there are 2 primary aspects of music and that's 1. listening to it and 2. playing it.

I'm really not sure what your point is with regard to somebody like myself who mostly doesn't play by ear. If you're trying to make me feel inferior it's not worked.

I don't move my "hands into all sorts of weird positions trying to play some piece of music merely because you've seen somebody else play". I play based on chord structures and a good understanding of music theory, which I studied at degree level, and for short periods with 2 professional Jazz teachers.

I make no claims to be a particularly good musician, and I regret not training my ear better when I was younger. But as I've said in previous threads I don't naturally have a good ear, and found it a very slow and tedious process to learn that way. So I didn't.

But that hasn't stopped me playing in numerous bands and doing a lot of gigs (2 last month) over the last 4 decades. As it happens over that period of playing keyboards, my ear has improved a bit, and I've become deafer!

If ear training works for you and you enjoy learning that way that's great and I commend you for your efforts. But it's not the only way......

Cheers


Simon

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Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

The primary aspect of music is to learn to play by ear? No it's not. ...
I hope that I understood the statement correctly, because in its meaning it is simply incorrect: our goal is to play music only by ear, after the preliminary stage of studying it by sheet music. The overwhelming majority of musicians in the world play exclusively by ear.

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Hi Nahum

The primary aspects of music are listening and playing. How you learn to play music is a secondary element. I'm being pedantic about the way Visalia phrased his statement!

You may be right about the majority of musicians, as that would include non-western musicians. In the western world I doubt that's the case.

It was certainly never an ambition of mine. My ambition was just to play. And the way that worked for me wasn't playing by ear (largely).

Cheers


Simon

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