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Top Five Ways To Play Piano By Ear

Learn scales and try to pick them out in the music you hear.

One of the top five ways to play piano by ear is by learning (at the very least) what scales are and what they sound like. Scales are a series of octave-specific notes that are played in a particular pattern or order. By familiarizing yourself with the most common scales, like the C Major scale for example, you will start to hear them in some of the most popular songs you listen to. Bear in mind that when we say, “you’ll start to hear them,” we don’t mean that you’ll hear an entire riff of “a-b-c-d-e-f-g” notes in a row. What we mean instead is that you’ll hear notes that belong to a particular scale. You may hear for instance, an “a – d – f- c- g – b – e” pattern or a “f – d -b- a- c – g – e” pattern. Knowing the notes of a scale, you could identify them in any song and proudly name the scale that they belong to. Then you could repeat those notes on your piano simply from knowing the scale that they’re in.

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Do the same with chords.

Chords are a combination of three or more notes that blend harmoniously when played together. Like scales, many exist in popular music. By familiarizing yourself with the most basic ones, you will start to hear them in some of your favorite songs as well. At some point, you’ll be able to listen to a song, name the chords, and then play them on your piano.

Play along with simple songs.

It’s a little disheartening to play along Beethoven when you’re just learning your scales and chords! That’s why we recommend that you play alongside simple songs first, instead. Simple songs are heavily based in rudimentary scales and chords, so they make great introductions to learning to play by ear. Playing alongside “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for example will help you master the C Major scale, but playing alongside Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 will not! Playing alongside “Happy Birthday” can introduce you to simple chords as well, but playing alongside Gershwin’s “Piano Concerto in F” may send tears streaming down your face! Save the fancy stuff for later.

Don’t be afraid to stop and restart a song repeatedly to get it.

While attempting to play by ear, you’ll need to repeatedly listen to the song that you’re trying to emulate. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to stop and restart a song at what may seem like.. every other note! Using this strategy, you’re simply training your ear. So feel free to rewind (and rewind), and rewind (and rewind).

Hum the tune as you’re trying to play the song.

Humming the melody of a song or even just a single note can help us capture the same on a piano. Since sound is vibration, humming helps us match the vibration that we hear on the piano. Try it!

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Understanding The Circle of Fifths

The circle of fifths, introduced by Johann David Heinichen in 1728, is a visual arrangement of related keys. Although its name gives the impression that it’s a difficult concept to grasp, it’s really just an easy way to remember the number of sharps and flats in a key signature and the major and minor key relationships.

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Sharps and Flats

If you can imagine a clock for a moment, where each hour represents a particular key, you can identify that key’s sharps and flats. Let’s say that:

  • 12:00 or “0:00” represents the C Major key (or the A Minor key)…
  • 1:00 represents the G Major key (or the E Minor key)…
  • 2:00 represents the D Major key (or the B Minor key)…
  • 3:00 represents the A Major key (or the F# Minor key)…
  • 4:00 represents the E Major key (or the C# Minor key)…
  • 5:00 represents the B Major key (or the G# Minor key)…
  • 6:00 represents the F# Major key (or the Eb Minor key)…
  • 7:00 represents the Db Major key (or the Db Minor key)…
  • 8:00 represents the Ab Major key (or the F Minor key)…
  • 9:00 represents the Eb Major key (or the C Minor key)…
  • 10:00 represents the Bb Major key (or the G Minor key), and
  • 11:00 represents the F Major key (or the D Minor key).

Perfect Fifths

If you’ll notice, each hour (or key) is separated by a perfect fifth (moving clockwise). A perfect fifth is an interval made up of three whole steps and one half step. For example, A perfect fifth above C is G, and a perfect fifth above E is B. This is where the pattern gets its name . It follows a unique pattern on our imaginary clock where:

  • … the perfect fifth of the C Major key is G.
  • … the perfect fifth of the G Major key is D.
  • … the perfect fifth of the D Major key is A.
  • … the perfect fifth of the A Major key is E.
  • … the perfect fifth of the E Major key is B.
  • … the perfect fifth of the B Major key is F#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the F# Major key is C#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the C# Major key is G#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the G# Major key is D#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the D# Major key is A#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the A# Major key is F.
  • … the perfect fifth of the F Major key is C.

This pattern helps us determine the sharps and flats of a signature because they’re always a perfect fifth away (moving clockwise). Just remember that sharps increase in the clockwise direction while flats increase in the counter-clockwise direction (note: when you move counter-clockwise, each hour- or key- is separated by a perfect fourth).

Related Keys

As an example, the C Major and A Minor keys are related because they both lack sharps and flats. Based on the circle of fifths, we discover that a single flat relates the F major key to the D minor key while a single sharp relates the G major key to the E minor key as well. Two flats relate the Bb major key to the G minor key while two sharps relate the D major key to the B minor key too. Three flats relate the Eb major key to the C minor key while three sharps relate the A major key to F# minor key. Starting to see a pattern? The concept is of course easier to understand with a visual.

circle-of-fifthscircle of fifths chart

The Enharmonic Notes

The 5:00, 6:00, and 7:00 hours are unique in that they help you identify different notes with the same pitch. These notes are said to be enharmonic to each other:

  • “5:00” can either be B Major (G# Minor) with five sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Cb Major (Ab Minor) with seven flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).
  • “6:00” can either be F# Major (D# Minor) with six sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Gb Major (Eb Minor) with six flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).
  • Lastly, “7:00” can either be C# Major (A# Minor) with seven sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Db Major (Bb Minor) with five flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).

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The Digital Piano – An Introduction

The digital piano becomes increasingly popular.

The digital piano becomes increasingly popular in today’s society for some pretty sound reasons. If you haven’t giving this sort a serious look, look again. You may be in for a pleasant surprise.

This type of keyboard is a different breed of the classical stringed piano in that it uses technology to emulate acoustic sounds sent through sound chips.

It’s normally played in bands rather than in orchestras, and the versatility of the sounds that it can produce allows musicians to imitate the music of other instruments (organs, flutes, violins, etc.). Some of the more advanced can record new sounds or even record an entire performance.

Advantages

At first sight, this instrument may seem like a toy to the musician who has studied and played classical piano for numerous years, and many such musicians refuse to appreciate it as a serious instrument. But there are some distinct advantages to playing one that shouldn’t be ignored.

One of those advantages is its relevance to today’s technologically obsessed society. For example, today’s musician can easily connect one of these pianos to a computer and create MIDI sound files.

It never needs tuning, it’s lightweight and portable.

Sounds

Known as the synthesizer of the past, the digital piano can emulate the sounds of almost every kind of classical piano known (upright, grand, tack, etc.) but it’s rarely used to generate the sound of a single instrument. It’s so versatile, musicians imitate the sounds of several different instruments at once to create the sounds of a small quartet or intimate band.

Of course one of the most frequently asked questions about this instrument is, “How did they get the sounds in there??”

Essentially, the sounds that you hear are sounds recorded from actual (non-digital) instruments. The higher quality ones will produce sounds that are more faithful to their natural counterparts, making it nearly impossible for some to distinguish the output from real instruments.

Brands

If you’re interested in playing this kind of piano, you may delight in knowing that some of the world’s best technologists are digital piano manufactures. They include world-class Yamaha, Roland, Suzuki, Casio, and more. Chances are that you’ve seen these brand names on other products around the home.

The same quality that you enjoy from these brands is incorporated into their musical instruments as well. So you can feel confident that your Roland digital piano for example is just as first-rate as your Roland stereo system or amplifier.

The Interface

The learning curve required to play one of these is relatively short and depending on the goal, musicians experienced with the classical piano and computers can get started with one rather quickly. This is because its interface combines the interactivity of a software menu with the traditional piano keyboard.

Above the keyboard are options that change the volume, bass and treble output, and instrument tone.

More advanced pianos will offer additional options and could include various drumbeats as well as a nice assortment of percussion sounds. Spending some quality time learning how to change the available options without losing your place in a song is what turns a beginning digital piano player into a pro.

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Piano Man Billy Joel Sings About Life

Piano man Billy Joel is one of pop music’s great pianists and songwriters. He has captured the heart of many others how like to play piano. And rightly so.

Just ask yourself:

Wouldn’t you just love to be able to sit down at the piano and play a song like “Piano Man”? Billy Joel truly captured a slice of real life in that great hit from the past.

Click Here And Learn How To Play Piano Man By Billy Joel!

The insightful lyrics reflect what was actually going on in the lives of Joel’s fans that gathered in a downtown night spot to hear him perform.

What a haunting, sweet melody, too! Back in 1972, when Joel wrote “Piano Man,” popular songs were often softer and more melodic than they are now. “Piano pop” is an apt name for this style of music, which has a timeless appeal.

When Billy Joel’s memorable song was drifting out onto the air, a lot of today’s pianists were still children, and had never even dreamed of seeing the inside of a bar! Still, the message of the song rang true – and still does.

Actually, there is more than one message, as you consider that each person in the bar has his or her own message. Each one has a different motivation for coming out to hear the singer/piano player who is entertaining that night. Yet one common motive affects each of them…

You can still feel loneliness in the middle of a crowd,
but somehow being part of the crowd makes you feel less alone.

People love ballads. Joel’s personal vignette is not exactly a ballad, although in a way it does tell a story. The difference between this song and a traditional ballad is that the ballad is like a motion picture (or at least like a good commercial!) while Piano Man is more like a still life.

Read more about the song that made piano man Billy Joel famous.

The World Wide Web and computer technology have really changed the way we listen to and learn a song like Joel’s signature tune! Computer technology has given us the ability to. . .

  • Buy an MP3 of Piano Man by Billy Joel
  • Hear a free midi-file of the song
  • Learn to play the song, by using a CD-Rom
  • Read the lyrics and even comment on them
  • Find a source for the sheet music
  • Learn all about our favorite piano man Billy Joel, and other singers and song-writers

It might seem unrealistic to think that you could learn to play songs by Billy Joel without a teacher, especially a challenging song like this one, just by teaching yourself with a CD-Rom or an online course. You might be surprised, however.

Many of the greatest musicians have taught themselves how to play instruments and write songs. It all comes down to motivation, practice and good tools.

Check out all the high tech music options sometime! Maybe someday you, too, will be entertaining a crowd of people just like Piano Man Billy Joel, and you’ll have them “feeling all right”!

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