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Marion Music Academy  319-377-3343

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Learning To Play Music By Ear

Posted by: david at 9:40 pm on July 17th, 2016

music-keys-piano-theme-colors.jpgMany musicians think of the art of playing by ear as a special skill that only a chosen few are blessed with. Fortunately that isn’t the case. In fact, playing by ear is easily taught and can be learned in a relatively short amount of time. It is even something that elementary children can learn to do.

I remember first learning to play by ear when I was in the fourth grade. We were in the middle of the recorder unit in music class when I discovered this fun new skill. The pre-class sounds were an auditory chaos of 20 children squawking away when I played something suddenly that sounded familiar.

I was playing down the scale when a portion of the melody from “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” popped out from under my fingers. I was so excited that I tried it again, and again, and again until I had more of the melody figured out.

The key to learning to play by ear is to start with a simple melody. You can even work with just two or three notes and expand from there. When teaching a student to improves I always pick a few notes from the 6 note “blues” scale and have the student repeat back to me what I play.

Once you have a solid foundation with a few notes, expand and learn to play with more notes or entire melodies. Folk and children songs are excellent to start with because most students already know them. “Happy Birthday” is an excellent place to start as well.

Next time you practice, start warming up by exploring various notes on your instrument and try to pick out a familiar melody. You will be surprised how easy it actually is once you give it a try. If you have any questions or would like to sign up for private lessons contact The Marion Music Academy at 319-377-3343.


David-Arnold.jpgA graduate of Luther College, David Arnold has been providing high quality private music lessons to students of all ages for over 15 years. His specialties include saxophone, guitar, and bass guitar. Drawing upon his diverse musical background, David provides a unique experience that merges his formal training in music with his professional performance experiences. Students will learn to be confident, well rounded musicians that are capable of performing in a wide array of musical settings.