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Play By Ear Training (Read 528 times)

Offline thomas82

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Play By Ear Training
« on: September 03, 2021, 03:40:27 AM »
Hi,

I amazed by people who can play songs once they hear it once and does not rely on sheet music.I know that this refers to play by ear.
I wish to know how i can train my play by ear skills.
I read articles online and know that the only way is to hear it and figure out the keys on your own and gradually you will hit the right key faster as time goes by.
May i know which songs and sheet music i can refer to to start with for beginning maybe for the five finger songs first.
Later what song should i proceed to improve further to other keys?
Do you all train playing by ear yourselves,if yes maybe you can share how you train it on a daily basis?

Regards,
Thomas Koh

Offline j_tour

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Re: Play By Ear Training
«Reply #1 on: September 03, 2021, 04:28:11 AM »
Well, I can only speak for myself, but I do have to fumble around for the right key mostly.

Yeah, one can memorize certain pitches, but I think that's slower, having to compute intervals from, say, your A you have memorized, than just very, very quickly getting to at least the first chord or note of a tune.  It's very fast to do once you've done it for a few years.  And, if you're clever, you can make a little "music-like" transition from the first note you strike to the correct one, even if it's just a chromatic scale fragment.

And, I do think there's some unconscious work done there as well, you know:  "well, that pitch sounds a bit high or low (from the perspective of the middle octave on the keyboard), so I'll try that first."  Plus some basic intuition about which keys various kinds of music are likely to be played in.  Just narrowing down the range of guesses you can make, really.

About the rest of it:  transcribing with pencil and staff paper is the maximally "time-consuming but rewarding."  I suspect if you do enough transcribing you might get some results.  If you just need a bare structure, like using the correct inversion of a triad or various alterations made to a dom7 chord, you probably don't even need to write it out:  i.e., just test it at the keyboard until it's correct.

Likewise solfege/sight-singing:  that's an invaluable tool, but it takes quite a while to truly do it well.  That would likely help more than transcribing.  By "quite a while" I mean something on the scale of several months of intensive practice.
 
But the way I initially did this, when I was, like, basically a child, not even a pre-teen, really, is just do it again and again.  Whether by looking over someone's shoulder, or just playing absolutely everything you hear, like themes from TV shows or music scores/pop music heard in movies.

I suspect most people here will say learn solfege in a truly rigorous manner, but I'd just say always have some kind of instrument at hand if you're Netflix-chilling (?!) or whatever, and make it a point to copy everything you hear.  Even with simplified voices/chords, or even just the melody.
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Play By Ear Training
«Reply #2 on: September 03, 2021, 01:50:10 PM »
I don't know the answer. 

But, has that ever stopped someone from opining?  Certainly not here.

So no, I don't practice playing by ear on the piano.  I do on trombone. 

I suspect the difference is in the amount of theory knowledge you need.

What I do on brass instruments is take a familiar melody, maybe a Christmas carol.  Pick a key signature, figure out what degree of the scale the song starts on, and play it thinking what note I need next by the interval.  Happy Birthday starts on the 5th note in the scale, sometimes called sol.  It goes up one whole step, back down again, up a 4th.  In Bb that's F, G, F, Bb.  So that requires very basic theory:  key signature, degrees of the scale, basic intervals.  I do this in multiple keys. 

If I were doing that on piano I'd want to accompany it.  So now I need the next level of theory: what is a chord, how do I spell it, what chord goes with what scale degree.  Happy Birthday starts on a I chord, so that's Bb-D-F.  So now I would find a set of familiar melodies that have only two or three chords. 

One level higher might be what chord is actually used, rather than what can would fit.  And then to be authentic, what inversion and voicing does the recording use.  At this point you have to have very good ears. 

I've heard piano players do a very fluent job of playing by ear, but if you listen closely their harmonizations are all the same, rather than also matching the actual arrangements.  To do the latter you probably have to do a lot of transcribing, as jtour says, because that trains your ears. 
Tim

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Play By Ear Training
«Reply #3 on: September 03, 2021, 11:20:56 PM »
While I have perfect pitch and could easily play by ear, I don't. When I learn a piece of classical music, I ALWAYS have the score.

The only time I don't is when I do my arrangements and I arrange them by ear, but again - when I notate them, I go to the piano and play off the score.

I would always recommend playing off the music.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Play By Ear Training
«Reply #4 on: September 04, 2021, 02:07:07 AM »
Transcribe a lot of stuff of increasing difficulty. One thing which I found very helpful was improvising. When you improvise, over time, you develop a kind of symbiosis with the keyboard where you can hear something in your head and mimic the idea physically. I found this to be immensely helpful.

Offline quantum

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Re: Play By Ear Training
«Reply #5 on: September 04, 2021, 08:22:02 AM »
Likewise solfege/sight-singing:  that's an invaluable tool, but it takes quite a while to truly do it well.  That would likely help more than transcribing.  By "quite a while" I mean something on the scale of several months of intensive practice.

Yes, do this.  It requires a lot of work to get to the point where one is proficient, yet it becomes very rewarding when one can apply the skill.  It teaches you to internalize pitches, internalize the construction of a scale, internalize a concept of harmony.  It takes you from merely recognizing pitches to internally generating them.  It is like the difference between taking a guess on a multiple choice question, versus identifying the answer before reading all the possible options. 


Start transcribing simple singable melodies (emphasis on singable).  Things like nursery rhymes, folk songs, hymns.  To the melody you can add lead sheet chord symbols for harmony. 

Following that, work on multiple melodies at once.  A good place to start is with hymns, transcribing the soprano and bass parts.  Once you are comfortable with two outer parts, try adding the middle voices, alto and tenor.


Take a melody and harmonize it yourself.  Start with simple I, IV, V chords.  When you are comfortable with that, expand your use of chords. 


Take excerpts of orchestral scores and transcribe for piano solo, or 2p4h, without the use of software aids.  This will train you to write for piano when the music you are transcribing is not originally for that instrument.  Play your transcription at the piano and ask yourself: does it feel manageable in the hands? 


Transpose.  Do this with all exercises above.  A good starting place is +/- three sharps/flats, eventually expanding until you can transpose to all 12 keys.   Both on paper and at the keyboard, but without using software aids.  Keyboard transposition would preferably be either from memory, or sight transposition, that is looking at the score in original key and playing in transposed key.


One thing which I found very helpful was improvising. When you improvise, over time, you develop a kind of symbiosis with the keyboard where you can hear something in your head and mimic the idea physically. I found this to be immensely helpful.

Yes, do improvise and work out ideas using the keyboard.


May i know which songs and sheet music i can refer to to start with for beginning maybe for the five finger songs first.

Don't bother with five finger melodies.  Start by learning the entire major scale, how it sounds and common usage patterns for the scale degrees.  After that proceed to work with the minor scales: natural, harmonic and melodic.

If you were to limit yourself to five finger melodies, you would not gain understanding of some important common use scenarios.  For example: the relationship of the leading tone to the V chord, or melodies that use a plagal ambitus (e.g. Happy Birthday). 
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Play By Ear Training
«Reply #6 on: September 04, 2021, 12:57:33 PM »
Yes, do this.  It requires a lot of work to get to the point where one is proficient, yet it becomes very rewarding when one can apply the skill.  It teaches you to internalize pitches, internalize the construction of a scale, internalize a concept of harmony.  It takes you from merely recognizing pitches to internally generating them. 

Internally generating pitches is the key to really accurate sightsinging.  It develops naturally in some instrumentalists, because for example a brass player must not only press the right valve but also buzz the lips at the right frequency.  That doesn't happen on piano so it has to be learned, as you say with some effort.  Many singers never master this unless they also play an instrument. 
Tim