How to Play a Piano by Ear – An Approach That Works

Playing a piano by ear means being able to hear a piece of music or a song and then play it on the piano without having the sheet music in front of you (indeed, without ever having seen it). I can still remember years ago when a friend of the family, upon hearing a tune on the television, was able to go to the piano and play a version of the same tune. Okay, his playing had a couple of hiccups and he stuttered a little, but the tune was recognizable and in a few minutes he was playing it smoothly. I can still remember the wonder — I had heard the “proper” tune, and now, here in our living room, was a person I knew creating the same tune on our piano! But is such ability something one is born with, or can you develop such a skill?

The answer is that just about anyone who has any musical ability at all will be able to develop the ability to play music by ear. You need to spend time with music — listen to music, play music on your piano, try slight variations of many pieces of music — and you need to spend time becoming really, really familiar with your piano — the sound of the notes, the sound of the chords and the sequences. Eventually you begin to find that parts of music begin to “fit”, to sound and feel “natural”, and you recognize (albeit sometimes subconsciously) different musical phrases. Chords start to become almost obvious, and sequences of notes start to become second nature. When progressions of chords start to become second nature, you know you are well on the way to learning how two play a piano by ear.

When most people are taught how to play the piano, they begin with reading music and learning how to play the piano while following sheet music. This becomes so familiar that when you try to play a tune without the sheet music in front of you, you feel lost. I know what it feels like, as do most people who have learnt to play the piano.

In order to get to the position where you know how to play a piano by ear, it is necessary to have an understanding about chords and their progressions. Once you have this understanding under your belt, and you have begun to get the feeling for the different chords, you will start taking your first steps in learning how to play by ear. What I did (and I know others have done it this way too) was find a song that sounded reasonably straightforward and which I liked to hear. With your new understanding of chords and familiarity with them, you can listen to the piece of music and decide whether it has just a few chord changes, or many — if the answer is “many” then you might want to change your tune!

(It was important for me to like the tune — that way, when I successful I could experience the magical feeling of hearing a favourite tune coming from my fingertips!)

You must be patient, because in your first steps with playing by ear progress is likely to be slow, and sometimes you will be frustrated with the pace; but in the long run it really is worth it, and you will find your new-found ability to be so very rewarding. Some people will be quicker at picking up a tune and learning to play by ear than others — it is a combination of musical ability, your “musical ear”, your muscle memory, and so on.

Experimentation is the key, along with determination and patience, to learning how to play a piano by ear. Take your time and you will be rewarded. Eventually you, too, will be able to hear a song and be able to play it almost immediately on the piano — just imagine how good that will feel!

Learn Violin Technique Terms to Apply For Better Playing

While playing violin you will come across many violin playing terms which bear specific meanings and techniques in different contexts. Anybody who wants to learn violin well also needs to acquire the knowledge about the associated names and their acronyms. It is not like that you have to learn the terms by heart first and then you can play the fiddle. To use your bow, you have to follow various techniques. Simultaneously, you will get to know the associated terms and later it will be of great help to understand the techniques at the wink of an eye.

Imagine you are playing violin in an orchestra and either the musician or any violinist is instructing you to use ‘Marcato’ at a certain time. Now, if you do not know the term, the purpose gets lost! It is not at all a matter of worry; rather violin playing terms will be very useful once you have learnt the terms along with the playing techniques.

Arco is a term in the violin playing terminology which means to make use of the bow on his passage. Spiccato is such a term that indicates a controlled bouncing of the bow off the spring. Martele signifies an accented and hammered effect on the strings. Among the violin playing terms, you will come across Colle and Chanterelle. Colle indicates playing in the lower half of the bow from the air with a hit and then a sudden lift. Chanterelle is a note on the E string. Learning these violin-playing-terms is interesting as well as useful for those who are willing to learn playing violin well.

Music For the Early Years & the Magical Pentatonic Scale

Music is not just important in its own right: it can make a unique contribution to playful learning. Interactive music activities encourage infants to develop new skills in language, motor abilities and cognitive skills.

Approached in the right way, music encourages us to take risks and make mistakes, promotes self-confidence, spontaneity, creativity and originality.

German composer Carl Orff developed a way of tapping into children’s natural sense of rhythm and melody. Orff, who died in 1982, co-founded the Guenther School for gymnastics, music and dance in Munich, Germany and developed a simple way of teaching music to youngsters using percussion instruments. His approach begins from the premise that every child is innately musical and naturally loves to play, sing and dance.

He tuned percussive instruments to the pentatonic scale, and encouraged children to play them ensemble.

Children learn through doing, exploring and improvising. They have a natural instinct to create their own melodies and explore their imaginations. These instincts are directed into learning music by hearing and making music first, then reading and writing it later, in the same way that we all learned our own language. The special Orff melody instruments include pentatonic wooden xylophones and metal glockenspiels that offer good sound immediately.

The pentatonic scale is excellent for improvised ensembles; you can just play around and never hit anything inordinately dissonant. For those unfamiliar with the word pentatonic, the prefix ‘penta’ is a Latin term for five:

i.e. pentagram, Pentagon, pentagonal. Tonic in this case is not referring to the fizzy drink, but to the word ‘tone’, put them together and you get five tones or notes. So a pentatonic scale is a scale of the fizziest five notes. This means that music played in pentatonic scale naturally sounds good as all the notes go very well together.

These scales are developed with five notes and exist as two common types: major and minor pentatonic scales. The major pentatonic scale is commonly used and is denoted as the primary pentatonic scale.

With pentatonic tuned musical instruments, technique is not a problem, given the simplicity of the instruments. Dissonance is not a problem, given the pentatonic scale. When one experiences the simplicity of making pleasing melodies and harmonies on the pentatonic scale, suddenly making music becomes achievable and exciting.

Music in the early years supports children’s all round development and helps to shape their skills in concentration, memory and listening. To aid this physical and cognitive development and lay a strong foundation in aural and rhythmic skills, every child must be given the opportunity to discover their musicality. With a little imagination, music can be incorporated into numerous settings throughout the day. Creating areas for music and sound exploration inside and out will help integrate music into the everyday experience of the children.

For example, the introduction of a musical garden or outdoor ‘soundscape’ will excite and inspire children musically while enjoying the obvious benefits that arise from spending time in the natural environment. Children will be able to explore new sounds whilst enjoying the benefits of the outdoor elements – fresh air and sunshine (well, fresh air at least!) A musical playground will provide young children with opportunities for early interaction and positive experiences with music. A facility where children can explore, create and develop their own musical ideas and sounds – maximising the musical potential of a child during their most rapid developmental period while discovering the joy and empowerment of music making.

The traditional emphasis in education on getting music right has led generations of adults to claim they can’t sing or play an instrument and lack confidence in their musical abilities. I speak from experience, I hated music lessons at school and yet I love music. In a free-play environment, where there are no wrong notes, the experience can lead to a life-long love of music and music making. Creativity, imagination and discovery should be strongly facilitated and encouraged in music education. Through active learning: hands-on, participative and interactive, children’s musical self-expression, self-confidence and self-esteem will grow and grow.

Music and Your Baby

GO WITH GAMES!

To have the most rewards from playing with Music and the baby, follow these simple ideas:

o Young children tune in to the sounds of music;

o Their body movements also manifest happiness through music spontaneity;

o The baby may acquire musical concepts by playing with sounds, singing, moving, and listening;

o Experiencing music is a chance a baby has at pre-verbal learning;

o The baby should be encouraged to use his body as a musical instrument for physical experience;

o The child learns music by personal experience and discovery. It’s necessary to promote positive effective growth, using success as a motivating factor;

o Knowing by perception of oral images and movement is the basis of music expression;

o The baby is only able to find the meaning of music when he acts on a piece of music;

o The discovery of her own movements and environment enables the baby to form concepts and function to order his inner musical world;

o The baby shows s/he has musical concept without verbalizing it when s/he displays consistent response to a certain class of stimuli;

When choosing locomotion, you can experiment with walking, running, jumping, hopping, lunging, galloping, and skipping. The movements to the music can reflect energy, speed, and dimension, level in space, flow, and direction.

When choosing to use the voice, you can play low, high, somewhere in between. The voice can be loud, soft, somewhere in between. Playing with the sounds, one can stop immediately, last a long time, keep sounding, and get louder or softer. In order to make melodies, your voice can go up or down with different shapes, in steps with wider spaces, by sliding. It can be jerky, you can sing words, hum, whistle, go tra-la-la, go oo-oo-oo, or sound sad and lonely. You can do what you want with your voice, and the baby will profit from your actions.

You can use the drum, the rhythm sticks, the tambourine, the triangle, the melody bells, the piano, and the guitar to stimulate your baby in order to have precocious experience with music.

Improvise, choose a song and sing it with the baby, and play music games with the baby (examples: Statues, marching, ‘Contrary Mary’, ‘Follow the Leader’, ‘either-or’, play what I play, etc.).

No matter how simple or complex the activity, play with music with your baby. S/he will love it and you will both have fun and benefit from it!