Play By Ear: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas: Play By Ear l PianoDiana


You can read the entire article by Andrew Eales I wanted to share a few snippets with you because I'm a firm believer in ear training. As teachers, we spend way too much time in method books insisting that our students become excellent note readers. We forget to balance our teaching methods with listening to note sounds, key tone centers and identifying intervals. My students are becoming more aware of tonality – what key they are playing in and where to find “home base.”
Below are a few quotes from Andrew's article, "Sound Before Symbol": Lessons from History.
“There is no such thing as a proper age for a child to start playing the piano. I avoid saying ‘to start his musical education’ because I believe that an education in music should start very early, perhaps years before the child ever actually learns how to read notes, or can find his way among the black and white keys.” -- Andor Foldes
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was playing the keyboard by the age of three, and improvising and composing by the age of five. At the age of six however, he still depended on his father Leopold to notate his pieces for him. One of the foremost musicians of his generation, Leopold was able to offer his son the best musical education, so it is instructive to note that he encouraged him to develop his musical ability, while only teaching reading and writing at an appropriate stage in that onward development.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) similarly came from a musical family, and was taught to play informally at home until the age of seven. At that point he started formal piano lessons, and at the age of ten he finally started to be taught music theory. He followed a classic progression from exploring sound and playing informally to taking formal lessons and learning to read, and finally learning structured academic knowledge.
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) – by all accounts a superb sight-reader – became a celebrity teacher who assumed his advanced students could read the notation fluently. His high level teaching centred around aural transmission through his demonstration of the essence of music in a way that the notation can only hint at. This provided a model that influenced many subsequent teachers, underlining how aural transmission of musical ideas is of crucial importance even for the most advanced players.
Béla Bartók (1881-1945), according to recollections written by his mother Paula, started to show musical aptitude at the age of 18 months. By the age of 3 he was drumming in time to her playing, and by 4 he was already playing the piano by ear. Formal tuition, once again, came later. Based on this foundation of aural learning – “sound before symbol” – young Béla had made extraordinary progress by the age of 11, as we read in Kenneth Chalmers’ excellent biography:
“One of the fundamental mistakes in pianoforte teaching has been that only one sense was appealed to, and that the wrong one. Music reaches heart and brain through the ear, yet we have usually tried to teach it through the eye. It was always “look” and never “listen”. Children were introduced to notation before they had consciously observed any of the musical phenomena which the notation symbolises. They should learn those facts of pitch and time through listening, comparing, judging, naming, and then use notation as a means of expression.”
“A pupil so taught is not a slave to notation but its master.” -- Mrs. J. Spencer Curwen
Below are some fabulous music resources from Hear and Play for your personal music library.









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I hope 2015 has been kind to you and that the new year ahead will take your piano playing to new levels. Thank you, dear readers.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!






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