• How To Transform Your Playing

    in Piano,Playing By Ear

    Last year, I released a breakthrough system that took what I believe to be the entire “playing by ear” process and broke it into a step-by-step system.

    It included 5 parts: Fundamental Fluency, Chordal Command, Pattern Paradise, Song Solidity, and Ear Efficiency.

    We now make every new member of the Gospel Music Training Center complete the online Musician Transformation training (9+ hours of video training, over 300+ exam questions, etc).

    In this post, I want to cover the first part of the system: Fundamentals Fluency.

    This part of the system is essential because it lays the foundation.

    There are 5 important elements in this section:


    It all starts with scales.

    And to be honest, this is just one of those things you just suck it up and learn!

    I’ve made it easy by coming up with a mnemonic: “Why Won’t He Wear White When Hot”

    This basically helps you to remember the whole step / half step formula for major scales.

    Half steps – are from key to key with no keys in between.
    Whole steps – always skip a key with one key in between.

    For example, C major scale:

    1) Start with C
    2) Refer to formula which starts with W (whole step). C to D is a whole step. D is next note.
    3) Another W needed. D to E is a whole step. E is third note.
    4) Formula calls for a half step now. E to F is a half step. F is next note.
    5) Another W needed. F to G is a whole step.
    6) Another W needed. G to A is a whole step.
    7) Another W needed. A to B is a whole step.
    8) The formula ends with H. B to C is a half step.

    Doing this creates the C major scale:

    C D E F G A B C

    It helps to go through this entire process with all 12 scales. Of course, I’ve done it for you in other areas of this blog.

    Number System

    After you learn all 12 scales, the next step is to number EACH scale.

    So instead of just thinking of C major as: C D E F G A B C.

    You think of it as:

    C is 1
    D is 2
    E is 3
    F is 4
    G is 5
    A is 6
    B is 7

    This is essential as everything you do from this point out will refer back to the number system.

    Things like “2-5-1” chord progressions or “6-2-5-1 Turnarounds” all depend on the number system. A 2-5-1 is simply a chord progression that uses the 2nd tone of the scale, the 5th tone of the scale, and the 1st tone of the scale.

    So guess what a “6-2-5-1 Turnaround” is? Just a bigger version of the 2-5-1. It all goes back to the number system.

    Lucky for you, I made this free guide that includes flash cards you can print out to quiz yourself on the number system of EVERY key.

    Hanon Finger Exercises

    While the first two areas were highly conceptual, this one focuses on execution.

    This one makes sure those fingers are being exercised properly so when it comes time to play big chords and progressions, your fingers won’t be fumbling all over the place.

    Hanon exercises were developed in the 1800’s by a man named Charles-Louis Hanon. His entire system is comprised of about 60 exercises that each focus on different sets of fingers. The end goal being increased speed, strength, agility, independence, coordination, and dexterity.

    The only problem is they are written in sheet music… very intimidating sheet music. At first glance, most ear-musicians wouldn’t know what to do. So what we did was put them in video format at HanonByEar.com. In fact, the first lesson is on me. Check out the free video sample on that page.


    The word “interval,” in music simply means distance.

    Whenever you have two notes, there is an interval created between them.

    This is how chords are formed… even melodies (harmonic intervals [chords] vs melodic intervals [melodies]).

    Luckily, there is an easy way to think of intervals, if you’ve mastered the number system.

    Simply start on the first tone of any scale. Let’s say C major:

    From C to itself (C) is called: Unison

    And if you think about it, if you’ve ever heard a choir director say “let’s sing this in unison,” that means everyone sings the same notes. So when you compare the same note to itself, it’s called Unison.

    From the 1st tone of the scale to the 2nd tone of the scale is called a… you guessed it, Second interval.

    From 1st to 3rd is a Third interval.
    From 1st to 4th is a Fourth interval.
    From 1st to 5th is a Fifth interval.
    From 1st to 6th is a Sixth interval.
    From 1st to 7th is a Seventh interval.
    From 1st to the 8th tone is an Octave.

    *An octave would be “C” to the next higher “C” 8 notes up.

    That’s assuming you were only playing C chords. That’s why it’s important to do this same thing in all 12 keys so if you see these two notes “F + A,” you could immediately go to the key of F and know this is a third interval.

    Now it gets a little more detailed than this. What I’ve taught you is the generic interval concept. To learn more about SPECIFIC intervals, click these links to see other lessons: Intervals Lesson 1 | Intervals Lesson 2


    This is a hard one to write about but I can give you a few pointers.

    Practice with a metronome and slow EVERYTHING you learn down to “turtle speed.”

    There is an online metronome I love to use. It’s free and you can set it to any speed you want. Check out http://www.metronomeonline.com

    Rhythm is a big part of our lessons in the Gospel Music Training Center.

    For a complete summary of the Fundamentals Fluency part of the system, check out this free guide I wrote not too long ago

    And if you’re interested in joining the Gospel Music Training Center (GMTC), I’m soon to be opening back up membership. Check out our latest project Musician Breakthrough as we will be making a very important announcement on how you can rejoin GMTC and take advantage of our Musician Breakthrough collection at the same time!

    Until next time —

    The following two tabs change content below.
    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!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 7 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Humberto

    Hey, Jermaine, lots of good stuff in this posting,
    I think your “missing chapter” report on a daily practice regimen is one of the bes things you’ve ever written and it has already had a very positive impact on my own learning — and in other areas of life as well.
    About fundamental fluency, I notice in the Musician Breakthrough videos that the guys’ hands all seem to move seemingly effortlessly from chord to chord, up and down the keyboard depending on the voicing used. The guys’ hands are for the most part pretty big, me, I can’t reach a 10th, and when playing octaves with fingers 1 and 5 I don’t have as much control as I would like on the other fingers. In additon to Hanon exercises for finger agility and speed, I’d be interesting in your thoughts and/or exercises geared specifically for players with small hands.
    Thanks so much


    2 ddsharper

    For Jermaine. Please watch!! Awesome song and arrangement and WORDS!!



    3 Rolawn Hurt

    Dear Jermaine, I have been so blessed by your concepts and teachings. Just know that you are truly a help to musicians; especially those who have learned to play by ear, but have no foundational theory. I now just have to commit more time to practice. Continue to allow God to use you as a Gospel Music Embassy Ambassador!


    4 Dona Jackson

    I’m lovin it!


    5 val

    This site has blessed me and my playing has tremendously been improved upon just by listening and studying video sent τ̅o my box by Jermain Griggs.I love HearandPlay.I love the ear doctor.Thank you so very much and God bless you mightily. Valentine Aghogho from Nigeria,Africa.


    6 kissogram glasgow

    Greeting from over the ocean. precise article I must return for more.


    7 regim hotelier ploiesti

    Heya just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.


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