Playing By Ear, What does that mean?
When we teach private music lessons in Orlando we sometimes get asked the question, can I learn to play by ear? What playing by ear means is using your listening skills to determine the notes and rhythms that you need to play a piece of music without the use of sheet music.
Challenges a Music Teacher Faces
The subject of playing by ear challenges us as music teachers to find out what’s really being asked during in home music lessons. Does the music student want to explore using their ear as an interest? Does the student see reading as an obstacle that he or she would rather not tackle? Now you can see it’s tricky.
Learning By Ear May
If you want to explore using your ear as a learning tool, go for it but don’t ditch your music. Wanting to know more about what you hear and how it relates to your playing is always a good thing. It might be that you don’t have sheet music and you just want to know how to play a specific song. Wanting to know what you hear is the sign of a strong musician, in order to achieve it is very important to keep your inner ear healthy.
We Do It All The Time
Using your ear in some sense happens all the time. On a basic level if you think something sounds good, you’ve used your ear. Conversely, if you think something sounds wrong you are also using your ear. How well you use it can be a natural talent, but the strength in which you use your ear almost always becomes mastered by practice.
Ear Training In College
All music teachers can play by ear if they had to. Instead most of us use our ears to aid us in learning music wile reading music. As degreed music teachers, we take ear training as part of our music education. Not just for a semester but for at least a two-year period. We learn to listen to relationships between notes. These relationships are called Intervals. As the training progresses we learn to dictate harmonic movement. The training is pretty intense because not only are we listening but we are actually dictating the notes as we hear them and of course be graded on our success.
“There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does,” says one Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.”
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The Brain-Music Connection
Experts are trying to understand how our brains can hear and play music. A stereo system puts out vibrations that travel through the air and somehow get inside the ear canal. These vibrations tickle the eardrum and are transmitted into an electrical signal that travels through the auditory nerve to the brain stem, where it is reassembled into something we perceive as music.
Johns Hopkins researchers have had dozens of jazz performers and rappers improvise music while lying down inside an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine to watch and see which areas of their brains light up.
The Suzuki Method – A Method For Learning To Play By Ear
Suzuki method teaching is based on the belief that we learn to speak before we read and write, so why not do the same with music. It’s an established school of training. In the beginning stages, students learn proper techniques on their instruments, start playing basic melodies, and learn rhythm all without reading music first.
There is always sheet music open and present, but just as window dressing at first. The main advantage of this method is the ability to teach private Orlando music lessons at a much younger age. Not every teacher can teach this method so always ask your teacher before heading down this path. There are also disadvantages to Suzuki but it’s a matter of personal choice.
It’s Not Something Every Music Teacher Does
If after reading this material you feel like you don’t want to read music at all as part of your music education it’s important to know that not every music teacher teaches to play by ear. In fact, I don’t know of one music teacher that never introduces reading of any kind. Embrace that having a strong ear will help you reach your goal and will be one of your tools.
Age Doesn’t Matter When Reading Or Playing By Ear
Don’t let your age be a determining factor in learning to read music, play by ear, or anything related to learning to play music or taking a lesson. In Home Music Lessons Orlando, or anywhere are possible at any age. Instead of thinking about how you are going to learn, think about finding a great music teacher.
That “Famous Musician” Never Read Music
There are unique and amazing people in the world. Some play music without ever reading and some of those are thought to be some of the best in the world. I can tell you they still worked there tail off to be great. If you want to play be ear by yourself, give it a try. Pick up a guitar, sit down at a piano, start singing and make it sound good. If you’re making music don’t stop. Many musicians start off by playing without reading or lesson, then taking lessons because they want to know more. That’s how I started.
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