Can you expect to learn to play piano by ear within a reasonable amount of time even if you have no current musical background? The truthful answer is yes. Now, let’s qualify that answer. Do you recall the first time you uttered a word or two as a youngster? Chances are pretty good that you won’t be able to answer that since your first words were expressed during a very early age. However, chances are really good that you can remember talking prior to your having the ability to actually being able to read or write.
We learned to express ourselves by listening to others and mimicking what we heard. So, in a very real sense, “playing (with our language) by ear” was one our first most impressive accomplishments. We didn’t need to know how to read or write the words, “I’m hungry” in order to let them be heard. We heard that phrase, quickly associated it with a manner by which to get some food, and repeated it rather efficiently.
Music is a language. Learning this language works in much the same way as what it was like learning your native tongue. Therefore, it stands to reason that expressing yourself via the language of music can, in fact, be accomplished without necessarily having to know how to read or write music notation. Just like speaking any language, it happens in stages. The more experience you gain, the more fluent you become. That said, doesn’t it seem odd that the concept of being able to play music by ear is often perceived as a talent possessed by a select few?
Who can we thank for this misconception? Well, this isn’t about blame. However, a large majority of the musical instruction that takes place in the marketplace is aimed at learning via reading. That’s no surprise. When you enter the school system, that’s pretty much how it works. However, when it comes to learning about your language (English, for instance) prior to that first year of schooling, you had a few years of natural training in the areas of listening and speaking that language. Those few years were powerful when it came to developing confidence with expressing yourself. However, unless one has the luxury of exposure to music in the same fashion prior to those first lessons, that confidence with musical expression prior to those lessons is lacking.
The solution? Well, it would make sense to connect with a piano instructor who is cognizant of this “missing link” and is equipped to deal with it in an effective manner. Learning to play piano by ear can (and should) be a part of the lesson curriculum. The reason it’s usually lacking is because there are fewer piano teachers who can effectively play by ear than those who cannot, the reason for which has been mentioned. It thus becomes a continuous circle of events. An instructor cannot teach what he or she does not know. Since the teachers not equipped to integrate playing piano by ear into an overall learning agenda happen to largely outnumber those that are, it has become accepted as “the norm” to be taught in a fashion that reflects this limitation.
Is it fair? Perhaps that is subject to interpretation. However, what cannot really be debated is that, if learning to play piano by ear is not a part of ongoing lessons, complemented with the nurturing of reading and interpretation skills, the student most definitely gets cheated out of a well-balanced learning experience. (Hint: When beginning lessons with a piano teacher, inquire about learning to play by ear. If the response you receive resembles “that comes later” or “you’re not ready for that,” then walking the other way might be your choice). Keep looking for a piano instructor who can encourage you and help you to nurture the musician in you. This applies to both children as well as adults.
Can you imagine a child not being allowed to express himself or herself verbally until having learned the alphabet and learning how to assemble words with those letters? As far-fetched as that may sound, that’s the approach most people are experiencing each and every time they show up for those early piano lessons. You owe it to yourself to do the research and ask the right questions of a prospective piano teacher. Doing so will certainly be conducive to both those short-term and long-term results being positively affected.
Posted in: Adult Piano Lessons, Choosing A Piano Teacher, Piano Lesson For Kids, Play Piano By Ear, Reading Music, Starting Piano Lessons | Tags: choosing a piano teacher, music by ear, piano by ear, piano lessons Sarasota, play piano by ear