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Top Five Ways To Play Piano By Ear

by Tania Gleaves on April 12, 2015

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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Top 10 Ways To Effectively Practice Piano

by Tania Gleaves on March 21, 2015

Let us start by admitting piano practice isn’t always fun. At times, it can be as grueling a task as mopping the floor or teaching your York Terrier to roll over (even when he hasn’t done it for the hundredth time). The key thing about piano practice however, is that it isn’t really supposed to fun — it’s supposed to improve your skills. That doesn’t mean that practicing the piano **can’t** be fun. We’ve even written an article describing how to **make** it fun. This article however, focuses on how to make practice more effective. And effective practice often accompanies a little thing we like to call, “dedication.”

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Plan your practice time and set goals.

Yup – as with every thing else under the sun, perfection at the piano requires a dedicated set time of practice. So take a look at your schedule and **make** time (don’t ‘squeeze’ time) to practice. Make sure that this time slot is uninterrupted and void of frivolous phone calls or visits from friends and family. Put the terrier in the back yard and unplug the phone. This is how to build “you” time, or more correctly, time to strengthen the love affair between you and your instrument. On such a lovely date, you may want to finally figure out a passage that has been troubling you, or you may want build your basic skills. If it will help, write into your schedule book, the task that you’d like to master on each day that you practice. That way when you look at your planner, you’ll remember how even Beethoven started out!

Play With Your Metronome.

Don’t forget the metronome. Metronomes are designed to strengthen your rhythm skills and if you insist on playing without one, you’re destined to produce inconsistent music (no matter how well you can count). Put your trust into the mechanics of a metronome and you’ll stay on beat, every time.

Get Smooth

After a while, you may notice that your metronome is getting on your nerves. If so, chances are you’ve either got it turned up too loud, or you’ve advanced so much, you’re ready to concentrate on other aspects of piano music — like smoothness for example. During this phase of your lessons, your rhythm and timing have obviously improved, and now you’re more interested in playing with emotion than following a steady beat. This doesn’t mean that the metronome is useless however. It simply means that you can start focusing on letting your music flow. Turn the metronome down to its lowest level and refer to it only when you’re nervous about getting off beat.

Practice in front of others.

Talk about getting nervous! Failing to regularly play in front of others will only turn you into a master among one: (yourself)! Get used to entertaining small crowds and you’ll eventually gain the courage to play for a crowd of a thousand. With just a few more years of experience, you’ll soon solo at the symphony!

Kill the mistakes.

This is where practicing in front of others really pays off because if you make a mistake, you can be sure you’ll hear about it. And as daunting as this may seem, it’s actually a good thing. You certainly want to catch and correct mistakes before you solidify them as a permanent fixture in a public performance.

Practice Every Day

Yes, even when you’re tired, grumpy, or just plain don’t feel good, you must practice every day. You don’t have to produce a masterpiece every time you sit down to play the piano, but you can at least run through the drills. This will help keep your fingers limber and your pedal-work coordinated with your hands. Of course when you’re feeling up to it, go on and rock the house! Just don’t skip a day. Not even one. The masters didn’t!

Work the Right Hand.

Since the right hand often plays the most intricate part of a song, you’ll want to exercise it as much as possible. Take it slow if need be and then speed up to the right tempo when you’re ready.

Speed It Up

There’s an interesting theory in the piano community that claims playing faster, increases skills. This is a theory of course that only works after you’ve mastered a piece at tempo you’re comfortable with. And it’s idea claims that “speed playing” makes music appear easier to play than it really is.


You’ll never master the piano if you continuously play it while tense, angry, or nervous. Certain pieces of music require that its musicians relax. If you never learn how to relax during practice, your tense, angry, or nervous condition will eventually become your personal playing style. And the music that you play will instill the same condition within your audience. Yikes! Learn how to relax your wrist, hands, shoulders and arms. Find a comfortable position and learn how to smile while you’re playing. Yes, playing the piano is hard work, but it should never be forced.

Record Yourself.

Strengthen both your playing and listening skills by recording yourself playing the piano. Depending on how good you are, you may be in for a pleasant or terrifying experience. If the former – don’t stop improving. If the latter – don’t give up. After enough practice, you’ll improve on your own without the aid of a tape recorder — and you’ll do so the instant that you press a key.

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The Piano Chord – Making Sense of This Versatile Music Concept

March 20, 2015

The first key to remember when trying to make sense of the piano chord is that they’re based on…you guessed it…piano scales! In our examples, we will use the key of “C” but the formula applies to all keys. Remember that the major piano scale for the key of C is C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C – where the […]

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Seventh Piano Chords In It’s Many Forms

February 14, 2015

Seventh piano chords are just like the triad chords PLUS the 7th note in the scale. It’s used a lot in jazz, gospel and blues piano music. Just like with the triads, seventh piano chords can have several forms: Click Here To Get The Lowdown On Seventh Piano Chords! Dominant Seventh: Symbol: 7 The dominant […]

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Free Piano Chords – They’re The Path To Beautiful Music

February 12, 2015

Piano music is much more beautiful when it’s played with free piano chords because chords create harmony. Built from single notes starting with the first note or root of the simple major triad chords are the result of playing a root note (also called the tonic or degree I), a third tone above the first […]

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Piano Chords – More Than Just a Group of Notes

February 9, 2015

At their most basic, piano chords are formed by playing three or more notes simultaneously. The combinations that result set the mood of a musical piece – happy, sad, powerful, soulful, etc. Historically, major chords have always evoked positive emotions while minor piano chords evoke the opposite. That’s a fairly simplistic observation, but it gives […]

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Piano for Beginners – Different Ways of Learning

February 8, 2015

There is a bit of a mini-revolution going on in the world of piano teachers. And it all has to do with teaching piano for beginners. You see, there’s the old way of teaching piano. This way focuses on learning notes, learning to site read music, and learning where each individual note is on the […]

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How Popular Chord Progression Works – A Simple Guide

January 18, 2015

What is a popular chord progression? Chord progressions are actually series of chords which are played one after the other to produce a harmonious tune. By now you have learned the different piano chords and may have memorized them a bit. The knowledge you have about chords will help you a lot in playing the […]

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Top 10 Ways To Improvise On The Piano

November 6, 2014

1. Use fake books. Fake books, as one of the top 10 ways to improvise on the piano, are gentle introductions to what could be interpreted as the Wild West of improvisation. Improvisation is largely based on freedom of expression. Without having a good foundation of the basics, beginners may feel intimidated by the possibilities. […]

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E Chord Chart for Piano

August 26, 2009

Using the the piano chord chart table, Here are the E Chords: E Chord Name Symbols Chords Notes* E Major (implied if without notation) EM or Emaj or E E G# B E Minor Em E G B E Augmented Eaug or E+ E G# C E Diminished Edim or Eo E G A# E […]

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