Thursday, January 6, 2011

Playing It By Ear

 A year of so back I joined a Facebook group called Playing Piano By Ear.  It is a very small group and really hasn't amounted to much in the way of discussion or content yet.  I think we are a rare breed and definitely not highly regarded in the note-reading musical community. 


Category: Common Interest - Hobbies & Craft
Description:  Play by ear? Can't read a single note? Welcome, friend! Share some songs you taught yourself, upload a video or chat. Play-By-Ear-Piano-People...UNITE!!
Privacy Type:  Open: All content is public.

The following is my introduction note, that I posted:

This was a totally random search, finding this group, but since there is a group for virtually everything else on Facebook I typed in "piano by ear" and up came this page.

So I have some questions and comments. Obviously we are a unique group (and I'd like to think more musical than 'note players' :) ..... I say that with some hesitation as my wife is a music teacher.
Here are some questions I would like to ask other members and in the process I will answer them so you can understand how I think and operate, musically.

1. Can you read music?

2. When did you start to play by ear?

3. How did you start?

4. What style of music do you play?

5. What venues do you play?

6. What are your unique strengths by ear?

7. What do you need to work on?

Now I'll answer my questions and would love to see how other people respond:

1. I can read right hand - I took alto saxophone in high school, so that forced me to learn that much, but left hand is pretty much Greek to me.

2. I started fiddling around on on an old pump organ at 5.

3. My parents did not have money for music lessons. I started plunking away at the pump organ (then it was sold - fortunately a great aunt willed my sister her piano about the same time).  I learned "Angels We Have Heard On High" -- on the black keys - not sure why, because I really don't like anything above 4 flats/sharps now. I started out doing primarily 1, 4, 5 chords(although at the time I had no idea that was what I was doing - they just sounded right) in my left hand and have evolved from there.

4. I started out mainly doing hymns. I played in our church while I was growing up. I do a bit of classical (my own versions of course), hymns, pop and a lot of my own composition work.

5. Church occasionally. My family (wife and two teenage daughters) perform in many venues about the community. I do most of the accompaniment and arranging.

6. I can transpose music from one key to another, reasonably effortlessly, which my family appreciates, because they are all low-voices ladies, who want the music a few tones lower than it is usually written, or sung on the CD's we learn from.

I can listen to most music and translate it to the piano fairly quickly and reasonably accurately.

My left hand pretty much plays itself ..... I do not think much about it at all, it's just like it does its own automatic thing -- can't explain that one.

7. I'd like to read left hand, but have tried for years unsuccessfully, because if I hear it played I can figure it out far quicker than I can decipher Greek.

I'd like to develop more blues and jazz style.

I'd like more opportunities to write and perform -- I find if most musicians hear that you play by ear and not note, they automatically assume you aren't that good.  Albeit, I cannot sit and read a piece note for note, but I feel I have a lot else to offer by way of transposition, arranging, adapting and embellishing.
And that is about all I have to say for today.
Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

1 comment:

  1. 1. I can but seldom do. Too much work.
    2. My earliest memories are of picking up music by ear and making up my own songs at the piano (feet couldn't touch the floor, so I was young).

    3. How? I just did. Part of the blood, I guess.

    4. I do my own thing--it somethings comes out like country, blues, jazz, gospel, folk, whatever. And I don't listen a whole lot to others. When I recorded in Nashville, the producer said he thought I kind of sounded like Linda Rondstat and I didn't know who that was. :-)

    5. For years I traveled and sang in everything from coffee houses to concert halls, from churches to television studios, parks and fields, etc. Since the 80s it's been churches alone.

    6. Strengths? My composition I would say. And I don't need a bass :-) because the bass is something I feel and it wheedles its way in there no matter what.

    7. Every once and a while I challenge my reading, but I get bored. I don't have much time, so when I sit to play, I want to just feel the music and enjoy myself. I'll "work" in my retirement. Ha!


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