Playing By Ear ear training

"You hum it, I'll play it" is the classic response of the bar-room pianist to an unknown song; but why is it that some people seem to have an innate ability to instantly play anything they have heard while most of us struggle?

Virtuoso musicians like Mozart or Jaco Pastorius gained fame for being able to recall hours of complex music after a single listen, but for the average musician that's only a pipe dream.

Like 'Perfect Pitch', playing by ear is often talked about as if it's some kind of innate gift which only some people possess (and it's true that some people seem to develop this skill without really trying) but as with all aspects of music, hard work usually beats talent in the end.

If you want to develop some serious playing by ear skills nothing beats time spent with a CD player or iPod, wearing out the rewind key while working out your favourite tracks. Working on your aural skills with dedicated play by ear training will give you a serious advantage and speed the process up considerably though!

Ear training skills which can help you play by ear include:

Using ear training exercises to develop each of these key listening skills can help your overall play by ear training and make it faster and easier to play music by ear.

Playing by ear is a wonderful skill to develop and one which is often neglected in the classical tradition, where players can become reliant on having the sheet music in front of them. With a bit of ear training under your belt, a limitless repertoire of music opens up to you.

Ear Training Resources for Playing By Ear

Start Playing By Ear eBook

Many musicians assume that playing by ear is a gift you have to be born with. This is simply not true.

"Start Playing By Ear" explains how you can learn this most impressive and satisfying of musical skills.

Chord Progressions ear training eBook

Thousands upon thousands of songs use the same 3 or 4 chords - knowing about this makes learning to play them by ear much easier!

"3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick" is your all-in-one guide to these essential chord progressions.


Pitch and Harmony

The Learn to Play by Ear series explores the what, why and how of learning to play by ear, featuring a range of top guest experts to share their perspective on how to become a natural play-by-ear musician.

Questions about Playing By Ear

Articles about Playing By Ear Ear Training:

An Easy Approach to Playing by Ear

An Easy Approach to Playing by Ear

You may already have a few good reasons for training your ears, or maybe you’ve just heard that “good musicians need to have a pair of good ears”. I had often heard about ear training, but wasn’t really sure about what it meant. Ear training is about “musifying”...
Bass Ear Training: How-To

Bass Ear Training: How-To

Bass players get a hard rap among musicians.Just four strings? It must be easier than guitar.Playing from tab rather than sheet music? You must not be smart enough for “real” notation.Whatever. One thing that bass players often have better than anyone else...
101 of the Best Ear Training Tips

101 of the Best Ear Training Tips

Have you spent time training your ears…… but then lost interest? Have you ever found yourself in need of a little advice and encouragement to keep working on improving your musical ear? We all need a helping hand now and then when it comes to learning...
The Top 10 Reasons to do Ear Training

The Top 10 Reasons to do Ear Training

Ear training is something that musicians tend to either: Do, reluctantly Because e.g. their music course or instrument exams require it. or Ignore completely Thinking it’s completely separate from instrument learning, associated with music theory, or for expert...
Top Tech Tools for Playing By Ear

Top Tech Tools for Playing By Ear

So, you want to play by ear? Here are our top tools for practising and improving your play-by-ear skills! Just joining us? Read this series on learning to play by ear from the start to find out: what playing by ear means how to learn to play by ear what you can...

Capitalising on aural inspiration (Part Two)

If you haven’t read Part One of this article, here’s a quick summation: in ear training, as in most musical pursuits, some of the most productive moments don’t come from dedicated practice time or specific exercises. In fact, they come from those fleeting moments of...
Four Chords and the Truth

Four Chords and the Truth

There’s an old joke that asks: “What’s the difference between a rock guitarist and a jazz guitarist?” Answer: “A rock guitarist plays three chords to a million peopleand a jazz guitarist plays a million chords to three people!” That may be true, but if you...

Step and a Half: Melody Training – Out Now!

At Easy Ear Training, we’re hugely excited about the potential for technology to revolutionise ear training, and we think training apps on smartphones are leading the way. Our newest app release, Step and a Half, is a game which teaches you to understand...

Announcing our new iPhone app: Step and a Half!

We are excited to announce our new ear training app for iPhone and iPod Touch: Step and a Half will be released on the App Store this Thursday, 8th July, and we wanted to give readers a sneak peak of the new app in advance! What’s it for? One...
Want to play it? Hear it first!

Want to play it? Hear it first!

Note: this post originally appeared on in March 2010. It may sound like a contradiction, but if you want to create music when you play you must be able to hear the music first – in your head. This goes doubly if you want to improvise,...

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