• Conversation With Students #3 (Melody & Harmony)

    in Playing songs

    From: Ms. Joanne Richardson

    Dear Mr. Griggs (HearandPlay.com),

    Let me first start by saying that I cannot thank you enough for your website and how you keep in touch with me from time to time. Your online material has been a great asset to my understanding of the piano and I hope to remain a member for as long as you continue to offer such great resources.

    My reason for contacting you is because I really want to take my piano playing to the next level. I’m already skilled in sight reading but I just can’t grasp on to this new “train-your-ear” concept. Let me be the first to admit that I haven’t ordered your course, but as stated above, I have taken advantage of your online resources. I wouldn’t say that I cannot play by ear at all because that is not the case. I am able to play a few chords but there are still chords
    that I can’t recognize without being in front of the piano. I am also able to play one-fingered melodies by ear (but I don’t know what to do after that). What are your recommendations for me? What will your course help me to do? Does it sound like this course is for me?

    I appreciate your prompt response and look forward to ordering from you very soon. Thank you and again and may God bless you.

    J. Richardson

    (Note: Her e-mail address has been concealed for security purposes)


    This is the e-mail that Ms. Richardson received from us . . .


    Dear Joanne,

    Thank you for contacting us. Let me cut straight to the point. Playing by ear is not something that you obtain over night. Of course, some people can do this easier than others, but I strongly believe that one can literally train their ear to recognize various sounds. Think about it … you recognize songs when they are being played even before a singer utters a word don’t you? You can
    feel when something negative is going to happen during a movie when the music changes to a certain sound right? Well then … how different are the things that we do on a daily basis from recognizing a major scale or a minor chord in a song?

    ANSWER … There shouldn’t be a big difference. The only reason you know when a scary scene is approaching is because you’ve been conditioned to associate spooky sounds with terror. The only reason you know the “intro” to a song is because you’ve heard the song so many times. Now let’s use these two examples in the context of playing the piano…

    If you simply learn to associate certain chords with certain feelings, you’d know immediately when a certain chord is being played. That is, if you knew how a diminished or minor chord sounded, you’d be able to figure out that most of the chords played during “spooky” scenes of movies are some type of inversion
    or alteration of these types of chords. Why? Because minor chords sound sad. Diminished chords sound spooky. Major Chords sound happy … and the list goes on!

    Joanne, if you are able to play one-fingered melodies, than I strongly believe that you can be able to soon play fully-chorded songs. It’s not a matter of difficulty — it’s a matter of familiarity. If you familiarize yourself with the different techniques, principles, and concepts, then this process will be a
    breeze. How do you do this?

    First, you definitely need some written material. You cannot survive online throughout your whole musical career. You need something tangible that you can refer to … something that you can write on — answer questions — complete exercises — take chapter review tests (and don’t think I’m trying to put a sales pitch on you. Simply go to Yahoo.com and type in “piano books” and you should find a nice list of websites).

    However, if you are looking for a complete system — a 300-pg workbook with a CD packed with tons of software, I will not discourage you from taking a look at my product. This just may be the tool that you’ve been looking for. If you are serious about learning the piano by ear, take a look at my newest workbook, “The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear” v1.0. https://www.hearandplay.com/course

    Because you mentioned playing one-fingered melodies, I just want to give you a preview of our 4-step process to learning songs by ear. This is covered in Chapters 18 and 19 of our course.

    1) Determining the Melody

    This is essentially what you already know how to do. It involves sitting down and simply figuring out the one-finger melody of a song. For “Joyful, Joyful,We Adore Thee”, the melody would look like this:

    E – E – F – G – G – F – E – D – C – C – D – E – E – D – D

    E – E – F – G – G – F – E – D – C – C – D – E – D – C – C

    Keep in mind that there are different ways to determine the melody depending on what type of song you are trying to play. This is just the beginning of what I can show you in our 300-pg course. For more information, I recommend that you visit https://www.hearandplay.com/course

    2) Harmonizing the melody

    Joanne, once you have determined the melody, there is a process that we teach you which will allow you to take certain notes of your melody, and create chords to accompany them. Essentially (and I can’t tell you everything in this e-mail as I can go on forever), there are three types of tones that I discuss in this section (Ch 17) of the course:

    a) neighboring tones (upper and lower)
    b) passing tones
    c) chord tones

    Neighboring and passing tones are essentially tones that help the melody move from one chord tone to another. Passing tones utilize non-harmonic notes (also discussed in Ch 17) which help the melody move from one chord tone to another while neighboring tones use non-harmonic notes to move from one chord tone back to the same chord tone. Chord tones are just what they are called —- tones
    that are apart of chords.

    Now, if you could take your melody and determine which tones are neighboring, passing or chord tones, then you’d be able to figuring out where to put certain chords (because not all tones in your melody require chords to accompany them).

    Believe me, this process is not hard and cannot be explained solely through this e-mail. That is why I am personally inviting you to check out my course at https://www.hearandplay.com/course

    3) Altering Chords

    After you have determined what chords go with what tones, you can then proceed to alter certain chords to suit your situation. If you are playing gospel music, you might want to replace some of the major chords with dominant chords. If you are playing jazz music, you might want to replace major triads with major sevenths (these are just examples — there are a countless number of ways to alter chords and progressions). Again, here’s the link … it’s your decision – https://www.hearandplay.com/course

    4) Listening

    This is one of the most important steps to playing piano by EAR. You must be able to listen — that is, you must be able to hear irregularities (in other words, things that don’t sound right!). Maybe a chord is out of place or the melody is not being played correctly. In the real world, this could be something like a vocalist singing in a key different than what you are accompanying him/her in. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO LISTEN — For more information on our course and how we can help you to build your listening skills, visit https://www.hearandplay.com/course

    Well, Joanne, I don’t want to bore you any longer. However, I do believe in taking the time to help my members. Feel free to e-mail me personally (anytime) at [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns. I hope that something I’ve said has been helpful and look forward to hearing your testimonial real soon! Take Care and update me soon.

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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