Who should play by ear?

   Why do you need to know how to play piano by ear?

Let me first start by saying that this article does not intend to discourage you from sight reading. In fact, we teach the basics of sight reading for those who are interested in it. For those of you who don't know what sight reading is, it is the ability to read songs from sheet music. Although this is a wonderful skill to have, if one does not know the theory behind what they are playing, it will create several disadvantages:

>>> Sight readers generally rely heavily on sheet music. Imagine being at church or at an event where you are playing and you must keep your eyes glued to a piece of paper ... how would this feel? I am not speaking from inexperience! I have been there ... Don't forget ---- I've taught sight reading as well!

>>> Sight readers will be less likely to improvise (add style, chords ... respond to what they hear) because their goal is to play whatever is written on the sheet music accurately.

>>> Sight readers will attempt to memorize entire songs instead of simply recognizing why chords are played at certain points in a song ... this is solely why I've had a passion to play piano by ear for so many years! There's no better feeling than being able to play what you feel!

Note: Don't misunderstand me in any way. These are the qualities of sight readers who don't understand the theories behind the music that they play. For one to be skilled in both sight reading, music theory, and ear-training is a great advantage. I encourage one to pursue anything that will enhance their piano playing!


Advantages of Playing Piano By Ear

How does this help you?

  • Being able to instantly recognize chords that are played in songs even without being at a piano.
  • You are able to learn songs faster and easier because you understand why chords are played at certain points in songs.
  • Not required to memorize chord progressions (pattern of chords played one after the other) because understanding them will automatically incline you to know what chord to play next.
  • Allows you to improvise and add your own "flavor" to the song. This is especially advantageous when playing in a church as you can never predict how long a song will be sung or what key the singer might resolve to. In a band, this might be helpful if the leader simply instructs everyone to surprisingly repeat a part of the song or change the key in which the song is currently being played in.
  • Will allow you to use the same methods to play virtually any song you want (most songs; don't quote me if you're referring to Mozart as this might take more practice than most other songs).
  • Saves you the money and time of having to go out and buy the sheet music to a song that you've already learned how to play by using the ability of your ear to recognize melodies, chords, and progressions. However, buying the sheet music isn't a bad idea if you want to learn specific parts to songs that have high levels of complexity.


"Who should play by ear?"


Anyone who doesn't have the time or resources to take hundreds of dollars in weekly lessons (...those could range anywhere from $100 to $400 or more per month).


Anyone who doesn't want to move at a turtle's speed, barely being able to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" after month's of personal lessons.


Anyone who can't afford to go to school for music -or- can't get in because of the audition/experience factor.


Anyone who wants to play what they feel --- hear something and be able to hum it... then play it.


Anyone who wants to play in a band or group and be able to improvise when the time is right.


Singers and songwriters who want to accompany themselves on the piano.


Anyone who wants to play for a church or choir and can't be confined to sheet music.


Anyone who wants to impress family, friends, and associates with the ability to simply sit down at the piano and play anything.

Why play piano by ear?