When it comes to teaching people to play the piano, I have no teaching experience other than little bits of advice I’ve given to a few who have desired to learn to play by ear. I have only had a small taste of traditional piano lessons (probably less experience than most of the piano players you know). But I have great faith in the ordinary person to become a great musician. I believe that anyone – anyone who truly desires it, can become a great piano player. I have seen ordinary people who consider themselves completely “un-musically inclined” become so proficient at the piano that people ask them when they are going to publish a CD. People are surprised to hear that they have only been playing for a year or two.
Over the years, I have tried to notice things that could help me introduce others to the field, and to hopefully help them to know what to look for, so that they will not have to take as long as I did to learn what I have learned. As a matter of fact, it has taken me longer to learn to play by ear than it does for most people. I have been learning to play by ear for about 13 years, and there are a few things that, if I had known them earlier, would have gotten me further faster.
Let me also warn you up front that this is not a music theory discussion. It is not a method to replace piano lessons. If you truly desire to become a proficient piano player, you’ll need piano lessons. I have neither the expertise nor the desire to teach you how to read music. That is not my intent. If you are striving to become a well-trained piano player, this method is discussed as a supplement to your lessons, not a replacement. I have studied a lot of music theory, and I may use some few of its concepts, but I’ll probably use very little of the proper terminology, since that is not my purpose. Besides, musical terms tend to scare some people away. Some people are annoyed by musical jargon. Sometimes I am one of those people, even though I usually understand it. For the sake of the intent of this discussion, I’ll only use enough theory to assist in explaining a principle. But the bulk of the material in this book will be independent of traditional music theory.
I have structured this discussion to teach both those who have never even seen the face of a keyboard, and those who have had 20 years of piano lessons. Whether your intent is to become a great musician, or just to have a fun, new hobby, this discussion is for anyone who has ever had the desire, or just the mere curiosity, to learn to play music by ear. I also hope to go into as much depth as possible about learning to write your own music.