Playing the piano well requires an impressive set of skills. And at some point, you have to learn how to play piano by ear. Think of this as the unique and special talent only the finest piano players have.
Is this beyond the scope for you? Well, these days nothing is impossible. There are tons of various self-learn material out there to learn anything literally.
Have you ever thought of this?
It’s incredible how you can access the information that used to cost hundreds and thousands of dollars for free because of the Internet. You can learn any instrument or skill if you are passionate and dedicated, playing the piano by ear included.
However, don’t expect it to be easy. Like anything worthy, the learning process will take time and a lot of work. Let me assure you that these tips will make the long journey of learning how to play piano by ear a little easier for you.
Have An Understanding Of The Music Theory
There are tons of musicians who can hear a piece of music at a play or a movie theatre and replay the same melody on a piano when they get home. Some of them are just talented, and others have worked hard for a period of time to master the skill.
You can’t help the fact that you are not a prodigy, but you are able to put in work as the most famous pianists do. And it’s completely doable!
What do I need to understand?
All you have to know is the fundamentals. Understand how scales are built and how the chords and chord progressions are created later in the process. Chord progressions are made of sequences of chords, and chords are made of scales, it’s not complicated at all.
Once you get the solid grasp of how music works, it’s going to be a lot easier to start playing the piano by ear and even learning guitar or violin, as the fundamentals and music theory doesn’t change based on a musical instrument.
Master Instead Of Memorizing
You can memorize as many songs as you want, but this won’t benefit you in the long run. As opposed to blindly memorizing chords and progression, you are well better off understanding patterns.
Of course, there are different keys and the melody may be a little different, but you will recognize similar chords and patterns.
Why learn seven different songs when you can dive deeper and figure out how patterns work and make your life so much easier?
Work On Your Listening Skills
Listening to music is easy. But just listening is not enough. You have to start deconstructing the melody and see how it’s built.
How do tones change as the melody progresses? Are the majority of the chords major or minor? Are any diminished chords being used? Any blues vibes present? You will learn lots by just recognizing simple things and being able to comprehend how to use them.
Every chord is different.
And all of them have different vibes attached to them. Even though more experienced musicians may argue that it’s not always the case, more often than not certain chords give you different moods and feelings.
For example, you’ll notice that major chords are considered happy, while minor sound more serious and sometimes sad. Diminished chords tend to be more intriguing and quite often scary, and the dominant chords are usually full of blues and pull your heartstrings.
Practice makes perfect.
As you progress, you will start recognizing patterns, chords, and even notes. And at some point, you’ll be able to not only acknowledge but replay what you’ve heard. Although listening skills are often overlooked, they are as important as playing skills if not more.
Similar to a bodybuilder that has to train every day and watch his diet, musicians should consciously listen to and understand music and take care of their hearing. Your ear will get better and better at recognizing different melody structures after some time.
Learning Intervals Is The Key
Intervals have the simplest definition in music theory. They are the spaces between notes. Intervals come in different lengths. The smaller ones include unisons, seconds, and thirds. If you increase the distance, you will get larger intervals like fifths, sixths, and so on.
The intervals are used with chords often. Depending on them, a particular chord will sound one way or another. This applies to all chord types such as major, minor, diminished, and dominant.
Interval can vary too.
They are divided into two types which are harmonic and melodic. Harmonic intervals are the distances between notes played simultaneously, while melodic ones are the distances between single notes.
In general, melodic intervals apply to melodies while harmonic ones apply to chords. Most songs contain both, so you have to recognize various intervals simultaneously. It’s going to be incredibly difficult at first but the more you practice, the better you get.
Practice And Experience Are Crucial
We all know student-type people. They are passionate about studying and reading long articles and books never scares them. They also tend to be good at memorizing and recalling what they’ve read and learned.
There is one drawback: they rarely come to the action part. You may read as many books about playing the piano as you want. Until you buy the instrument, fell the keys, and start working on a melody or a musical piece, you are going to be horrible at playing the piano.
There is a difference between practice and procrastination.
You can be bored and play the same easy piece over and over again and call it practice. That’s not practice. Procrastination will probably won’t be the right word either. It’s like practicing something, but not the right stuff.
You have to always look for a challenge and keep growing. If you feel burned out, take a small break as opposed to “doing something” to make yourself feel better.
And look for experience.
If you get a chance to play at a local bar or a church, go for it. It may not be as prestige as something you’d want to do, but you have to start somewhere.
When the environment changes, you may notice that it gets a lot more challenging. And that’s perfectly fine. Don’t stress out too much. Every time you push yourself to perform, playing the piano by ear will get easier as you will learn to adapt. There is absolutely no need to overthink it.
Choose The Right Exercises
There are tons of exercises that you can find on the Internet at any time. And like any free information on the web, you have to filter through a lot of coal until you find a diamond.
Hire An Instructor
If you have extra cash that you are ready to invest, look into hiring a professional. If you already have a pretty good understanding of how music works, your instructor can lead you to an easier path to play piano by ear.
This could be some exercises that would be reasonable for your level of experience or online courses/games that will help you develop your understanding of how notes and chords sound.
However, we all know how pricey even mediocre instructors are. If it’s a talented and well-known pianist, the per hour prices are likely to be insanely high. That’s the only con.
You can also hire an instructor online, which will undoubtedly be cheaper. And the quality is usually as good. The only problem that could arise is a weak signal or miscommunication. It’s quite rare but not impossible.
Practice with a friend
Ask a buddy to play a game. He or she will play two notes on the piano, and you have to tell which note is higher or lower in pitch. This will become easy really quickly, so change things up.
Maybe ask your friend to play one of the seven notes on a particular scale, and you have to name it. Even though frustrating at first, the exercise gets easy as the time goes on. Try the same thing with different chords and chord progressions. Your imagination is the limit.
Take An Online Course
These days you can find a lot of great tutorials on the Internet. It could be a free tutorial about how to play a famous pop song or a short step-by-step course. In order to play the piano by ear, you have to learn a bunch of things before that.
There are a few courses that will help you to become better at playing the piano using your ears only.
Let’s look at PianoForAll, for example.
It includes 9 ebooks that will teach you blues and jazz, ballads and complex chords, and a lot more. One of them is focused on one question: “How To Play Piano By Ear?”
Take a look for yourself on their website!
With a lot of both theory and practical exercises, this can be that one kickstart that you’ve been looking for. And it costs less than an hour with a piano professional, isn’t this crazy?
Yes, cheaper than an hour with a tutor.
For only $39 you will get over two hundred videos, detailed and interactive e-books, and lifetime support. There is not much to think about here — the best bang for the buck on the market.
Conclusion: How To Play Piano By Ear
Now utilize the little tips you were given to start training your ears slowly. Once you are ready, you will know. One day you will be listening to a melody and able to count the intervals and tell which notes, chords, and chord patterns are being played.
So don’t get discouraged.
It will take you longer than a couple of days to master these techniques. Don’t expect the fast results, as per a “secret methodic” that you’ve found somewhere on the Internet. Hard work always pays off.
You know what pays off better?
Hard and smart work does. There is no need to overwork yourself, but don’t look for loopholes when there are none. It’s that simple. Remember always to have fun when studying something new. If it becomes a boring routine you are not looking forward to, then you are doomed, my friend.