The Vault: Miscellaneous Free Lessons

I think it is important for every musician to know how to play by ear. Yes I know that many music teachers disagree with me. I hear stories of teachers who go so far as to punish children that play by ear. But playing by ear is a functional skill, meaning a skill that is actually very useful in real life. It is also a skill that is learnable just like any other music skill. Don’t buy into the myth that you have to be born with the ability to play that way. I did not play by ear until I was out of college with fifteen years of music education behind me.

Playing by ear

Should you play by ear?
Video Lesson: Learn to play by ear in a year
Identifying chords by ear
Playing by ear – A short primer
Charting by ear – An example
Why some songs are hard to play by ear
How to chart a song

Sight reading

A tip for sight reading
Sight reading tip: how to read ahead
Three tips for faking it when sight reading
Using theory to make page turns easier
Playing complicated music without much practice
Four sight-reading tips
Practicing efficiently


Video Lesson: Open voicing
Voicing: A pianist’s secret sauce
Two ways to add 7ths to your music
A simple tip for the left hand
Rootless voicings
Voicing the ii7 chord
Thinking voicing
Important things to know about altered chords 
A simple voicing tip
Drop voicing


Are modulations overrated?
More about modulations
Modulation between any keys
Modulating up a half step 
The simplest modulation possible 
Modulating around the circle of 5ths 
Modulation example #1
Modulation example #2
Why do most modulations move by half step or whole step?
Pivot modulations
Modulations: is ii – V – I enough?
Demo: modulation in “Does Jesus Care?”


Introduction to improvisation 
Making the boring more interesting
How to play a lead sheet – Part 1
How to play a lead sheet – Part 2 
How to chart a song


Demo: We’re Marching to Zion (discusses swing)
Three tips for getting beyond the notes
The biggest mistake you can make as a performing pianist


Play by Ear
Inspirational Improvisation