Learning to play the piano by ear can be extremely exciting and it’s a lot easier than you think. Even if you’ve never had a formal lesson in your life you can look forward to playing the piano in no time, if you follow some simple techniques, are willing to practice a lot and have a bit of patience.
When you learn how to play the piano by ear, you’re not learning traditional methods. There are no chord progressions to memorize and you don’t even have to know how to read music. In fact, a lot of professional musicians can’t read music and simply play by ear.
Because you don’t have to memorize every chord progression or do endless exercises, you’re more likely to experiment and improvise like the pros do, too. As such, you can add new twists to your favorite songs, because you’ve learned how to play the piano by ear instead of sticking to the music as written.
Of course, you will make mistakes. Lots of them. But that’s really what music is all about and most of the music we enjoy today was created through trial and error. It’s one of the things that make music so fun. There are some basics to know, but otherwise, it’s a playground for creativity.
If you want to learn how to play the piano by ear, start with a very simple song, such as Mary Had a Little Lamb. Begin by humming it to yourself, and then match the notes you hum with the keys on the piano. After a few tries, it should begin to sound like the song. Got it? Congratulations! You just played the piano by ear and have started on the road to learning your favorite songs the same way.
Songs have two main parts to them – the chords (also known as the harmony) and the melody. On the piano, chords are played by the left hand and the melody by the right hand. Even if you’re left handed and just want to play some melodies, use your right hand right from the start. It will save you time later as you wont have to relearn everything once you add chords.
For the purposes here, let’s use a basic chord, which is three notes. This is where a chording chart can come in handy, so you can see where your fingers go on the piano. When learning to play piano by ear, you can start out with a simple song you enjoy. Select it on your iPod or stereo and try to find a chord that matches one in the song. Once you find the first chord, the others are easier to determine because chords come in sets. For example, C, F and G are a common set of chords. So are G, C and D. A lot of songs from the 1950s use C, Am, F and G. Most songs stick to one set of chords for the verses and another one for the chorus.
When learning how to play piano by ear, remember that if it sounds right, it probably is. If it sounds off, choose another note or chord until it sounds right. Trial and error is key when learning how to play piano by ear, so don’t become too discouraged, especially in the beginning.
One of the great things about learning how to play piano by ear is that once you master the technique, you can play all your favorite songs, whether they are current hits or a golden oldie. And best of all, you can experiment and improvise, making them your very own.