ear training

Playing By Ear

It's around this time of year that music students and music teachers alike feel a bit brain dead. I try to change things up a bit so that my students are learning, but learning music in a different way - playing by ear. Playing by ear is a great way to practice your ear training and brush up on your music theory.  My ConCan students would tell you that this is just a step up from their Keyboard Harmony and Transposition requirements for their piano exam.

Shortly after Halloween, my students started working on Christmas music. A couple of my older students wanted a bit of a change, so they opted for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa music. One week, I asked them to pick out the tune to one of their favourite songs. Subsequent weeks involve adding the harmonies. Then, if they wanted to sing along with their song, I would ask them to transpose the song into their range. It doesn't have to be seasonal music. Popular music is great for this exercises - the melodies have narrow ranges and most likely, you only have four chords to deal with. The one thing I've noticed with songs I've learned by ear is that I tend to remember them longer than pieces I've learned primarily through note reading and repetition.

Piano Tutorial of a Beginner Arrangement of Happy Birthday

This was inspired by one of my beginner students. His mom's birthday is coming up, so I thought it would be neat to have him work on this. However, I was stumped to find a really easy version of the song for beginner piano students who are still at the pre-reading level. Then I remembered: folk songs and popular songs like this are best learned by ear. Beginners already know the rhythm, they just need help with positioning: