Can I learn to play by ear, or is that something I need to be born with?
This is more of a common question than you think. And the answer is yes, yes you can learn to play by ear, and no you don’t need to be born with this ability.
You CAN learn to play by ear.
What is playing by ear?
The ability to play by ‘ear’ means that an instrumentalist can just ‘wing’ it when they are playing. It means they can play a tune or even make one up without seeing sheet music or having worked on memorizing the tune before.
You don’t need perfect pitch or a supernatural magic bone in your body. You can learn to play by ear. I teach people how to everyday. I can’t fit the whole recipe in this article, but I can give a pretty good outline that will help you understand it more.
That all being said, I should mention that it’s true that it is much easier for someone who seems to be born with a knack for hearing pitches. Also, some people just are quicker thinkers than others. But, there is nothing in the average (or even below average) human nature that will block them from learning to play by ear. (barring deafness and other severe conditions)
I think it’s important to mention here that it’s not possible to play an instrument by ear if you don’t know how to play the instrument yet… kind of common sense, I know. But, I thought I’d mention it since learning how to play an instrument is the foundation that comes before playing by ear.
So, how can you learn to play by ear? It’s actually not as hard as you think
- Learn to play the instrument well. I mean really, really well.
- Memorize all or tons of sheet music for a few years.
- Practice scales, arpeggios, and intervals for years.
- Practice playing by ear – a lot. A really, really lot.
That’s pretty much it. I have super young students who come without any prior musical knowledge who learn how to play by ear within their first few years. And, they’re actually really, really good at it. It’s partly because of the way I teach. We memorize a lot of music, and I present their new skills in a timely fashion so they can just keep moving up the ladder of success each week. It’s a really good combination. And, it’s really fun!