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Hi everyone!

Sorry for the ambiguous title but I could not think of a better one.

So I am just wondering how someone develops a skill like this, and if it requires perfect pitch (which she apparently has).

How much music theory is involved in this do you think? What specific aspects? Do you think she's paying attention to the key she thinks it is in? Or do you think she just has such a good understanding of intervals that and or the notes that she isn't even paying attention to the key?



In case it's not obvious from the video, a viewer or viewers linked a song and asked her to play it on the piano. She had never heard it before, and just figured it out on the spot.

When I try doing stuff like this I get past the melody, and the chords take me much much longer. She's been doing this for far longer than I have though haha.

Basically my questions:

1. Is this skill achievable by someone without perfect pitch?
2. How much theory is involved in this and what specific things should one know? I know my scales and chords, but am wondering if there is something more specific to focus on.
3. How much is she relying on her ear vs theory? (I know, difficult to quantify, but any comments relating to this would be appreciated.)
4. How would one go about learning to be able to so quickly piece together pieces/songs by ear as she does in this video?


Thank you!

Last edited by From the Alps; 07/19/21 06:53 PM.
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It may not be perfect pitch but relative pitch.
Yes, she's got a good ear.
She's obviously well seasoned.


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Originally Posted by Farmerjones
It may not be perfect pitch but relative pitch.
Yes, she's got a good ear.
She's obviously well seasoned.
Oh sorry, for not being clear! She herself says she has perfect pitch.

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The whole thing is just five chords. Not a lot of ability is required for this.

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Originally Posted by chopinetto
The whole thing is just five chords. Not a lot of ability is required for this.
That is inspiring to hear.

How do you achieve this though? What should be practiced? What aspects of theory for example, if any? (I do know my chords and scales, but am wondering if there's a way to practice them to make them faster to identify.)

When I am trying to do what she does, should I be trying to do things entirely or almost entirely by ear, or thinking in terms of theory too? E.g. "oh this is probably C minor", or rather "oh this sounds like these 3 notes on the keyboard"

Thanks

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Originally Posted by From the Alps
Originally Posted by chopinetto
The whole thing is just five chords. Not a lot of ability is required for this.
That is inspiring to hear.

How do you achieve this though? What should be practiced? What aspects of theory for example, if any? (I do know my chords and scales, but am wondering if there's a way to practice them to make them faster to identify.)

When I am trying to do what she does, should I be trying to do things entirely or almost entirely by ear, or thinking in terms of theory too? E.g. "oh this is probably C minor", or rather "oh this sounds like these 3 notes on the keyboard"

Thanks
Well, everyone is different. I can read and write music, but I'm not a quick reader, and I rely almost entirely on my ear (though I understand what I'm doing theoretically). I'm not a teacher, so I don't really know what the best approach is for you. In this song, I immediately hear C minor, A-flat major, B-flat major. There's also F minor and E-flat major in the chorus. Simple triads. My advice is to play and play and play (by ear). Any time you hear something you like, figure it out by ear to the best of your abilities. Do this for the rest of your life. I knew a teacher in high school who could sight read well but couldn't improvise Winnie the Pooh because his ear-piano connection was almost nonexistent. Obviously the more fluent of a reader you are, the better, but train your ear and keyboard intuition as much as you can.

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Tho I'm a violinist by trade, I take pride in never asking the key nor asking a song title. I used to practice by playing along with the radio. Remember radio? One never knew what they would play next. And no, I don't have perfect pitch.


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Originally Posted by chopinetto
Originally Posted by From the Alps
Originally Posted by chopinetto
The whole thing is just five chords. Not a lot of ability is required for this.
That is inspiring to hear.

How do you achieve this though? What should be practiced? What aspects of theory for example, if any? (I do know my chords and scales, but am wondering if there's a way to practice them to make them faster to identify.)

When I am trying to do what she does, should I be trying to do things entirely or almost entirely by ear, or thinking in terms of theory too? E.g. "oh this is probably C minor", or rather "oh this sounds like these 3 notes on the keyboard"

Thanks
Well, everyone is different. I can read and write music, but I'm not a quick reader, and I rely almost entirely on my ear (though I understand what I'm doing theoretically). I'm not a teacher, so I don't really know what the best approach is for you. In this song, I immediately hear C minor, A-flat major, B-flat major. There's also F minor and E-flat major in the chorus. Simple triads. My advice is to play and play and play (by ear). Any time you hear something you like, figure it out by ear to the best of your abilities. Do this for the rest of your life. I knew a teacher in high school who could sight read well but couldn't improvise Winnie the Pooh because his ear-piano connection was almost nonexistent. Obviously the more fluent of a reader you are, the better, but train your ear and keyboard intuition as much as you can.
Oh that's really interesting (btw Chopin is my favourite composer!)

Do you have perfect pitch?

What do you do when you hear a weird chord that you can't immediately identify (not saying you can't identify the notes, but the name of the chord).

My reading is actually quite good, my ear lags quite a bit behind. I'm trying to catch up though.

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Originally Posted by From the Alps
Originally Posted by chopinetto
Originally Posted by From the Alps
Originally Posted by chopinetto
The whole thing is just five chords. Not a lot of ability is required for this.
That is inspiring to hear.

How do you achieve this though? What should be practiced? What aspects of theory for example, if any? (I do know my chords and scales, but am wondering if there's a way to practice them to make them faster to identify.)

When I am trying to do what she does, should I be trying to do things entirely or almost entirely by ear, or thinking in terms of theory too? E.g. "oh this is probably C minor", or rather "oh this sounds like these 3 notes on the keyboard"

Thanks
Well, everyone is different. I can read and write music, but I'm not a quick reader, and I rely almost entirely on my ear (though I understand what I'm doing theoretically). I'm not a teacher, so I don't really know what the best approach is for you. In this song, I immediately hear C minor, A-flat major, B-flat major. There's also F minor and E-flat major in the chorus. Simple triads. My advice is to play and play and play (by ear). Any time you hear something you like, figure it out by ear to the best of your abilities. Do this for the rest of your life. I knew a teacher in high school who could sight read well but couldn't improvise Winnie the Pooh because his ear-piano connection was almost nonexistent. Obviously the more fluent of a reader you are, the better, but train your ear and keyboard intuition as much as you can.
Oh that's really interesting (btw Chopin is my favourite composer!)

Do you have perfect pitch?

What do you do when you hear a weird chord that you can't immediately identify (not saying you can't identify the notes, but the name of the chord).

My reading is actually quite good, my ear lags quite a bit behind. I'm trying to catch up though.
I have very good pitch identification, but not Perfect Pitch proper.

If you're having problems identifying the name of certain things you hear, I'd recommend studying harmony. A good free source is simply the "chord" Wikipedia entry. It might be very informative for you. How much do you know about intervals, triads, 7ths, extensions, added tones, suspensions and inversions?

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Once I get the first note, I can basically play the rest. However, it takes me a bit of time (a few seconds) to get the first note and the key signature. If you want the very first note you hit to be correct with 100% accuracy, you will need perfect pitch.

It might take a few years to get as good at it as she is. This is quite achievable and I can also do something similar. I find that one of the best ways to learn this, if you can stomach it, is to ask your friends for impromptu requests, and try to figure them out on the spot.

I am far more intimidated by Rick Beato's son Dylan on the ear training front.

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You might enjoy harpist Chiara Pedrazzetti's musings on the subject. She brings a harp - not her concert harp! - into the car now and again for a bit of improvisation:

Ear Training in the Car


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Rick Beato (producer, former music teacher) talks about recognising intervals, chords, chord progressions and wants to sell you his ear training course:



There might be some more relevant videos. (And a lot of other music stuff)

But I guess in short "practice". Or "Just do it" but that might be trademarked. 😉

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I think it's a combination of talent plus lots and lots of practice and experimentation. Music theory helps, of course, but someone with innate musicality might arrive at the conclusions of music theory through lots of playing, listening, and patient experimenting- this includes playing by ear, playing written music (especially music that is very well composed), transposing, etc. And if this person studies music theory, then they immediately turn it into something very practical and learn to identify what they do or what others do. Analyzing chords becomes automatic. With years of doing this, one can play complex pieces by ear. People of course only see the finished result, and although there is a "natural" element to it, the listener is probably unaware that this person has spent countless hours at the piano experimenting and trying, over many years. Only, they have so much fun doing it it never feels like work.

Not all people who have perfect pitch are aware that they do. I believe that perfect pitch essentially means a very good musical memory, and it is a reflection of a certain musical gift, an inner ear for music. It is not about identifying a C or an F- it is about remembering pieces in their key, reproducing a pitch accurately and musically, hitting the "heart" of a tone, because you are able to hear it and locate it. All of this can and must be trained, of course, especially when the readiness is there. Training essentially "activates" what is possible. I do believe there is an innate musical ear or memory (which translates to perfect pitch if someone is made aware of it and practices it), as opposed to cultivated pitch, which can still be fairly accurate and reliable. Which is why I think that a teacher without perfect pitch is not very likely to immediately recognize a student with perfect pitch or with gift.

This is of course not to say that this can't be done without that innate readiness. Many do, and they achieve so much. Whether or not the results are the same is probably a subjective question.


"Love has to be the starting point- love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love."
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For those who are into Jazz, watch the amazing performance of Oscar Peterson. The stuff he was doing look impossible to an average pianist...


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Originally Posted by Farmerjones
Tho I'm a violinist by trade, I take pride in never asking the key nor asking a song title. I used to practice by playing along with the radio. Remember radio? One never knew what they would play next. And no, I don't have perfect pitch.
I played violin through school, I think developing a very good ear happens naturally with us violinists. 👍 A very good skill to take to the piano. I have pretty good relative pitch, definitely not perfect pitch! I can figure out any pop music or new age type songs at the piano, and could do that as a child so, yes, I think playing violin really develops this to a high degree. And really, most songs are not very complicated. Classical is much more difficult.


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Originally Posted by chopinetto
I have very good pitch identification, but not Perfect Pitch proper.

If you're having problems identifying the name of certain things you hear, I'd recommend studying harmony. A good free source is simply the "chord" Wikipedia entry. It might be very informative for you. How much do you know about intervals, triads, 7ths, extensions, added tones, suspensions and inversions?
I'll read that entry. Thanks for the suggestion.

I know how many steps are in the different intervals and I know their names, I know which chords are made of triads, and I know how 7ths are involved in some chords. I know my inversions and have some idea of suspended chords. I'm not super knowledgeable when it comes to theory, but I know a lot of the basics I guess?

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Originally Posted by From the Alps
1. Is this skill achievable by someone without perfect pitch?
Yes. More than perfect pitch, this requires solid ear training.
Originally Posted by From the Alps
2. How much theory is involved in this and what specific things should one know? I know my scales and chords, but am wondering if there is something more specific to focus on.
Very little theory is involved here, IMHO.
Originally Posted by From the Alps
3. How much is she relying on her ear vs theory? (I know, difficult to quantify, but any comments relating to this would be appreciated.)
IMHO, ear - almost 100%. Theory - very little.
Originally Posted by From the Alps
4. How would one go about learning to be able to so quickly piece together pieces/songs by ear as she does in this video?
Solid ear training and lots of practice doing this. In some ways, you answered your own question smile.
Originally Posted by From the Alps
She's been doing this for far longer than I have though haha.


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The best training is listening to the music you like and trying to play it. Basic chord theory is very helpful. As with everything, start easy.
This forum introduced me to this site which has good ear training exercises for free. Useful if you want to spend only a couple of minutes on ear training every day. You can do the exercises in a progressive way:
https://tonedear.com/


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