How To Play Piano By Ear
Need to know how to play piano by ear? Let's face it, not everyone has the patience to go through years and years of formal piano lessons with an emphasis in a genre that may or may not coincide with their real-life musical tastes. Some people learn better by just jumping right in and figuring out the things they are passionate about on their own. While this is arguably not the best approach to learning how to play piano—although you may be reading this with a background in piano already—that doesn't make playing by ear any less appealing, and it certainly doesn't make it a bad idea. There are a few things you can do to learn to play piano by ear whether you have a strong background in piano or not.
- Know your scales and chords. As great as it would be to be able to learn to play piano by ear while avoiding the technicalities altogether, it just isn't feasible. When learning to play any instrument, no matter the approach, it's always best to start with the basics. If you're totally new to piano, it might be a good idea to buy a book with all of the scales, chords and cadences for each scale in an organized fashion. Major and minor scales and chords are most likely the only ones you will need to worry about, so focus on those. If you have played piano before, cadences are extremely helpful, so you may want to review those if you're a little rusty.
- Get an MP3 player. Having your music close at hand is essential when learning to play piano by ear. While using a radio or other system with speakers can work too, it is often more difficult to navigate through a song second-for-second with a system like this. When you are learning to play piano by ear, you will inevitably have to listen to different parts of a song multiple times, back-to-back, in order to figure out what notes to play. Having an MP3 player in this scenario not only makes it easier for you to navigate through the song with a few simple clicks or touches, but also makes your learning process less annoying for people living with you.
- Practice. Once you have a general familiarity with the basics of playing piano and all of your favorite songs on your handy MP3 player, you can dive into playing by ear whenever you want. If you know the words or the melody of the song you are trying to learn, it can be a huge time saver to sing these words—make sure the song is playing simultaneously if you aren't sure of the exact notes—and pick out the notes of the melody of the song before you do anything else. Once you know the notes of the melody, you can match them up to a scale so that you know what key the song is in. Once you know that, you know what chords are likely to be found in the song, and then you can go through and learn the instrumentation of the song from the beginning. As with any skill in life, practice makes perfect!