How do I go about learning a song by ear?
Here's my answer to the question. When I listen to songs...
1. Find the melody (some of it first) and listen for where a song resolves. For example, at the end of the verse, you can hear the I chord (one chord) or the "tonic" chord. That tells you the key the song is in. When you know the key, then you can figure out the progressions from there, usually. And, it just takes time to hear major or minor keys.
2. Next, listen for bass notes. Most of the time you can hear the bottom the best, and then you figure out what chords will go with that bass note. I can hear "suspended" chords well (C F G) and augmented chords(a chord w/a sharp 5th) for instance C(#5) is C E G#. I can also hear a bass note with a different chord over it, for instance C\G = LH/RH G\C E G. Listen for your bass notes. Once you have your bass notes and a pattern, go from there.
3. Organization is the key. Type out the words, while listening to the CD. Stop, start, stop, and start. Get all the words typed out with space in between each line to write. This way, you can see and hear, the verses, choruses and vamps. So many songs are so much alike (at least very similar) that once you start to really engage your ears, you find you can play one song, and you can play 4 or 5 others you like.
4. Successful ear players have a plan, and a method. Find your own method. I need to "hear" things over and over, hearing the patterns, the chords, and paying attention to what's repetitive in the song.
5. Harmonize the melody. The melody note, that is the soprano part if it's a choir singing. Build your chord beneath that melody note and you have the choir parts too!
So, is it possible to Play The Piano By Ear?
* Yes, the ability to play a piece of music is simply listening to it repeatedly!
* Repetition is a great way to understand a song and chord structure.
* Figuring out the notes and rhythms to a song helps you to learn how to effectively structure a song in that particular genre.
* Playing by ear is also beneficial in helping a musician develop his or her own style; creating something distinctive, something indicative of them only.
* Learning music is the same as learning a language; it's acquired by years of hearing it, eventually coupled with formal training.
* Anyone can learn enough about the basics of playing by ear if they learn the following skills:
Being able to hear a tune and have a general sense of the contour of the melody -- when the tune moves higher or lower as the song progresses.
Learning to chart that melody contour either on paper or in their memory.(as mentioned earlier).
Learning to match the melody to appropriate chords.
Playing by ear is really a combination of three factors:
1. Using your tonal memory to recall music you have heard:
2. Using your ears and fingers to help you reproduce what you recall;
3. Using "melody contour" (the "shape" of the tune), "chord structure" (how to form the chords on the keyboard to match the tune), and "chord progressions" (the path chords take as they move through a song).
The real key to playing by ear is learning how to chart the shape of a tune, learn how to construct chords, and then determine the likelihood of chord progressions -- in other words, which chord comes next.
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Learn To Play Any Song By Ear
Learn Big, Rich Jazz Piano Chords
Understanding Jazz Chords
Jazz piano chords can sometimes be confusing at first glance. In this article, I am going to explain how jazz players usually interpret chords and pick tensions to create lush chords. Bear in mind, every musician has their own "tricks" that they use to form their chords. However, there are some basic harmonic concepts that you need to understand and I'll cover some of them in this article.
If you are looking for an instructional course on creating full chords at the piano, I'd suggest the JazzPianoLessons.com Piano Chords bundle. This three-DVD set covers both basic seventh chords along with advanced quartal voicings, tensions, alterations, upper-structure triads, rootless voicings and more.
Learn more about Jazz Piano Chords
Let's begin with a basic seventh chord for D-7. Example A is what a typical voicing of a D-7 chord might look like.
O.K., that's pretty simple, right? Now take a look at example B. Does this still look like a D-7 to you?
You might look at this chord and think F Maj7 or D-9. We can rule out F Maj7 because the root is a D. However, why didn't I label this chord D-9?
I did not label the chord as D-9 because it is common for jazz players to automatically add tensions to the chords that they are playing. Jazz players know which available tensions each chord can utilize. Personally, I'd rather see a chord written as D-7 than D-9 or D-9 (add 11). I think that many (not all) pianists would agree with me because as jazz players, we are accustomed to working from a "shell".
Basically, when I see D-7, I already know that the 9th and 11th are probably available to me. When looking at a lead sheet, especially in a low-light gig situation, I want the lead sheet to be as un-cluttered as possible.
The "Right" Tensions
You might be wondering, which tensions are the "right" tensions for a particular chord? Well, let's go through the three basic chords: Major, minor and Dominant 7th chords.
Major 7th available tensions are: 9, #11 or 6 (usually replaces the 7th)
Minor 7th available tensions: 9 and 11. 6 would replace the 7th.
Dominant 7th available tensions: b9, 9, #9, #11, b13 and 13.
Chord Type Available Tensions
Major: 9, # 11 or 6 (usually replaces the 7th)
Minor: 9 and 11. 6 would replace the 7th
Dominant: b9, 9, # 9, #11, b13 and 13
So, looking back at the D-7 chord in example B, you'll notice that I am adding the 9th to the chord. This is just one of many different voicings that I cover in the Piano Chords bundle.
Dominant 7th Tensions
I want to draw your attention to the Dominant 7th available tensions. Once again, they are b9, 9, #9, #11, b13 and 13. Let's go through the notes for a C7 chord.
C7 chord tones are: C-E-G-Bb
Available tensions are: Db-D-D#-F#-Ab-A
You'll notice that the only two notes left that are not represented are F and B. F would be a sus4 and B would change the C7 to a C Maj7 chord.
I like to bring this up because remember, when you improvise, you can use any chord tones or available tensions in your solo. So, on a Dominant 7th chord, there are really only two notes that you would try to avoid. This also means that when you play a Dominant 7th chord, you can add almost any note as a tension. Well, let me put it this way, you have a 10 out of 12 chance of hitting the "right" note!
The Million Dollar Question, "Why 13 and not 6?"
I have been asked this question for years! It is a difficult question to answer because it is like asking why does 2+2=4? However, I do have my explanation. Let's take the C7 chord as an example again.
The chord tones (notes that are found in the chord and not tensions) are C-E-G-Bb for a C7 chord. The C is the root, E is the third, G is the fifth and Bb is the flatted 7th.
It is perfectly reasonable to think of D, F# and A as two, sharp four and six. However, we would call D the ninth, F# sharp eleven and A the thirteenth. You might be asking, "Why?"
Since chords are predominantly formed by "stacking" thirds, we would consider the D-F# and A as being "upper structures" of the chord.
Learn more about Jazz Piano Chords
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