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You Can Learn To Play By Ear

Aug 17, 2007
Did you know that there are many people who can naturally play by ear? Often they sing by ear as well. Sure, they may be able to follow along as the music moves up and down the scale of the page they are looking at while performing. However, in reality, they never learned the difference between an A flat and a D flat, it is something that comes natural to them and they truly follow their ear when playing an instrument or singing vocals.

It is very possible that these natural 'by ear' performers even found themselves puzzled as to why learning to read music was so very difficult for them, some not being able to learn how at all. Even though many of them are awesome performers and many others never discover their secret at all.

On the other hand, there are many learned performers, who know their scales by name and type as well as timing, since they put a great many hours into learning each step there is to take when learning to play and instrument or vocalize. Even though it may take many years to learn to be a master of music, you can learn to play by ear.

It is simple really, to learn to play by ear, since anything that you have ever heard is available to play by ear; you just have to learn how to do it. Then all it takes is practice to be perfect, since the more often you do something, the easier it becomes for you to do. First however, you must understand the theory of teaching your ear to understand the musical structures as they are being played is an age old practice. Actually, it is one that you often experienced as a child; before learning to play by lessons, it is something that most people come by naturally. Very simply, playing by ear is an ability to play a piece of music by listening to it continually. You are then able to play a piece of music simply because you have heard it so many times.

Basically, there are three contributing elements of music.

1. The melody is the tune that moves up and down or higher and lower as the song moves forward. You must first become aware of this as it is the first step in learning to play by ear. By mentally defining the boundary of a songs melody, you begin to improve on playing it on your instrument.

2. The harmony of a song matches closely the melody and is the ability of harmonizing or matching up the chords, which supports the melody. For instance, you can harmonize with a melody of a certain key with other keys on the scale that find harmony in association, such as G and C chords in music.

3. Rhythm is then the third element, which supports the beat or timing of a song. Rhythm is normally easier to learn since most people can feel the beat. Basically, there are two rhythm meters, the duple meter and triple meter, which are combined in a great many ways. The rhythm of a song determines whether a song is very slow or very fast.

Keep in mind that while learning to play by ear, it will require practice. However, there are a few tips and tools available while learning to play by ear.

1. Play around with your instrument. Play the notes and listen to how they sound, this will help you identify how notes and stings, keys and frets relate.

2. Learn the scales, as by doing so; you truly do learn your instrument.

3. Learn music theory as this practice enables you to learn the notes and their names.

4. Begin with simple melodies, this is also a great way to understand your instrument.

5. Transpose the songs you hear, as you will begin to develop your ear as well as becoming able to understand the relationship between the chords.

Some of the tools available while learning to play by ear are ear training videos, software and hardware. You should be able to find DVD and CD aids that help in a number of ways while you learn to play by ear. Some of these aids can remove the lyrics of a song, while letting you listen to the music. As you listen to the changing of the sounds as you change chords, you will find understanding in how the chords change in a song you listen to repeatedly.

Just keep a good outlook and try not to become discouraged, it is just a process of learning. If you are committed to the project, you can learn to play by ear.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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