Many pianists out there suggest that the best method to learn piano is by listening to the music and playing it by ear. Some even believe that this is an important skill to adopt. Joel Forrester, a jazz pianist and composer, did consider that being taught how to play by ear is very important to a jazz musician.
This method is so famous that it’s easy to find tons of online courses encouraging new students to learn to play piano by ear, just by doing a quick Google search. Frankly speaking, out of 10 online courses on the market right now, it is likely that around seven to eight are based on this method.
However, just like any existing method, learning to play piano by ear has its weaknesses. Following are some significant pros and cons of this way that you should know before deciding whether to choose it or not.
Pros of learning to play piano by ear
- You learn new songs more quickly because you don’t have to read and process the written music first. You can play the songs you want without worrying that there is no sheet music available.
- You don’t need to memorize anything. No more relying on sheet music to know what to play next because you understand why chords are played at certain points in songs, and once you have a good grasp of chord progressions (pattern of chords played one after the other), you will immediately know what chords to play next.
- You can be more creative and add in your style. When learning to play piano by ear, you will be likely to use equal coordination in both hands, which might give you more creative freedom. From this foundation, you can easily explore new directions in your music and add your own “flavor” to the song instead of playing exactly whatever is written on the sheet music.
Cons of learning to play piano by ear
- Not everyone has the ability to play by ear. You need to develop your musical ear, which means you need to train your ear to tell the difference between melodies, chords and notes. You might have heard stories of a talented kid that could listen to a piece of music and then sit down at a piano and play right away, but, frankly speaking, how many people have that gift or can learn to master it? Would you risk your time and effort on something you don’t know will work or not?
- It costs you time. Learning takes time, but too much time without any improvement can leave you feeling frustrated and discouraged. The progress of training your brain to break down audio music into notes and chords correctly requires patience – you won’t master the skill without practicing and making mistakes a lot.
- You could learn incorrectly without noticing. If you are a beginner without any form of training, you might learn songs wrong, choose the wrong notes, or practice the wrong techniques. When you have formed those habits in playing, it’s very hard to fix and return to the right track. The worst part is, you don’t even know you are wrong and continue wasting your time.
Having the ability to play by ear is recommended by some musicians, but make sure that you consider all the cons. Learning to play by ear could cost your ability to learn to play the piano correctly. There is nothing worse than picking up a method just because it sounds cool, only to end up losing your passion for piano.
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