One of the great tragedies in the way music has been taught over the past century has been the irrational focus on rote replication of classical music. Over the years, I have heard from hundreds of pianists who tell me the same sad tale. Many of them have advanced degrees in music but once they leave the glass tower of education and learn how music works in the real world away from recital halls, they quickly realize that their education had huge holes in it.
Playing by ear is one of those skills they were often never taught. In fact, many pianists today not only are not taught to play by ear but they are often discouraged from it. Yes, that happens and yes, it is absurd.
About a year ago, a parent called me to talk about her child, a gifted classical pianist who wanted to learn about church music and its associated skills such as improvisation and playing by ear. When they broached the subject with the child’s teacher, a highly educated musician from a well-known Christian university, they were told church music was a waste of time and either drop the idea or find a new teacher. Most of you recognize the problem with that attitude but the truth is that many of us have been affected by it and now we are paying the price.
That is why I want many of you to take then challenge this year to learn how to play by ear. Every year I lay out a big goal for the year and I know many of you take me up on it. Playing by ear is this year’s project. If you put aside 5-10 minutes a day for 5-6 days a week for this year and follow the plan in the video below, you will come a long way.
Let me know how it goes. If you don’t see the video below, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjoVRNrjtvo