How to play piano by ear without music,
is a method with drawbacks and advantages. Some would say it is the wrong way to learn, and others would suggest that it is a very good way of learning to play piano. Let us explore this method of teaching students to play piano by ear & without music is possible.
During the music revolution of the 60's and 70's. Bands or groups as they were called then, would often have guitarists and keyboard players, that knew not a note of music. They learned half a dozen chords, and started to play songs.
Now this may sound strange to you, given the vast range of songs of the day. The truth is that many songs of the day, only had three or four chords in them, and they followed a pattern. This is still true of a lot of songs today, 50 years later.
Many songs are now more complex, as would be expected of a 50 year evolution period, however a pattern is still followed throughout songs.
Many composers began their musical career by playing without music as did Richard Rogers of Rogers and Hammerstein fame.
Taken in another light, we all learn to crawl before walking and walking before running. We learn to talk before we learn to read. If music is learned first, do we not lose the joy of picking out the notes of a song on piano and that first exciting moment of realization "I can do it".
What are the disadvantages of this type of learning.
Learning to play without music means you will have nothing to guide you. You have to know the song or be listening to it, in order to be able to play the song. You also have to decide if you will play just the chords of the song, so you can sing along with it. Alternatively will you play the chords with the left hand and the melody with the right hand.
Either way you have to work out the tempo of the song, the key of the song and all the notes or chords. (These are available from many sources, which makes it somewhat easier.)
You will also need a good memory, everything you learned about the song you need to remember as you have no music to refer to. This is not such a problem with your first 30 to 50 songs. It does become a problem later when you are looking at 100 songs. You will need a strategy to over come that.
When playing with music the dynamics are included. You do not have to think about where to go loud or soft, the music tells you what to do.
What are the advantages of this type of learning
To play with music means learning to read music. This usually takes place at the same time as learning to play. Two things at once is harder than learning one thing.
Playing without music means you only learn to play the song accompaniment. This gives freedom to learn any song your way. Once you begin to recognize patterns in songs, you will notice that many songs with the same or similar pattern only vary by rhythm and speed of playing.
A different key can also create a completely different sound. The difference in keys can be for the type of music, or so you can actually sing the song. You will soon find changing to a key that suits you is not such a problem, once you have a few songs under your belt.
Until you are very accomplished at reading music, to change key following sheet music requires the music to be rewritten. Not such a problem if you play without music. You change the key in your head, by using a different set of chords played in the same pattern and rhythm.
Although you only have your memory of a song to help you play it. You do have the freedom to choose which and how, you will apply your own dynamics. The feel of a song can be changed at will anytime you choose to do so. When following music this freedom is less possible.
The speed of learning a new song is possibly slower than by using music, however this is more than compensated for by the freedom to improvise whenever you fancy changing the feel of a song. You are also under less stress to have a perfect performance. Reading music reveals each and every mistake and has to be corrected. It is the strange thing about reading music, it has to be played absolutely correctly. Playing by chords means you can relax and enjoy yourself singing along to your playing. (Even though it may not be played properly. Sometimes fun is more important.
Most songs played on piano are done by playing the rhythm chords. The melody being sung by someone singing the words. This means that learning a song is quick and easy, enabling you, the pianist to concentrate on the dynamics of the song.
Does it matter how you learn?
Some would feel that learning to play piano by ear, is completely and utterly wrong. Without knowing music, a great deal of musical knowledge is not known, which will be detrimental to the musician in the future.
Because someone learns to play piano be ear, and without music does not mean they will only ever play that way. Music can easily learned later, even years later.
For many students being able to play song chords and be able to sing with their friends is all they want to do or will ever want to do. If they can make a song sound like a song that they can sing along with. Who can say they learned the wrong way. The fact is they can play piano.
Today we live in a fast moving world. For many learning anything new needs to be quick. Many new students of piano can become fed up with learning piano if it takes a long time. Often they were inspired by someone they heard, or saw playing piano and wanted to be just like them. Provided they can play a song within the first hour they are happy to carry on. Without the thrill of playing that first song, they will often give up their lessons.
My own take on it is that it is more important to start learning piano, then to carry on learning piano in any way, as long as what is being taught is done properly. Than it is to have an argument about the best way of learning to play piano, by ear or by music.
This is a purely personal thought, I think young children should learn by music rather than ear. There are several reasons I believe this to be the right way for children to learn piano. I have taught hundreds of children to play piano over a 30 year teaching career. Play by ear, or chords if you are an adult. Children learn better and faster with music.
Membership of this site provides both methods of learning piano, by ear or by music.
How to Begin Learning By Ear
You could of course just play around on piano and work it all out yourself. The disadvantage is the time it will take for you to do that.
You could take private lessons, however finding a willing piano teacher can be difficult. Most private teachers will take you through the music and exam route.
You might ask a friend who can already play, or buy a simple book to get you going.
You could try to follow a few YouTube videos to help you. These do have a disadvantage that they are disjointed so there is no consistency.
You might take an online course of lessons that will teach you to play by chords. the advantage of this is you do a complete course with a teacher who teaches you properly, in a consistent manner and covers a complete syllabus.
There are other methods you may choose for learning piano online.