Monthly Archives: February 2013

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #6 Why Ear Training Is Important To Kids, and To You

Sleepyhead, playing by ear, by susies.genii

Sleepyhead, pictured on the left, has discovered that she loves the sounds a piano makes, but at her age, she hasn’t had the benefit of having piano lessons. So as she waits for a traditional music teacher or someone like me to come into her life to show her the way, what does she do with her curiosity? She continues to explore, experiment, and attempt to play the things she hears by ear. This can be frustrating.

I guess that Sleepyhead, like you, me, and most people, started learning spoken language by first listening to its words and phrases, then imitating and reproducing what she’d heard until she got it right. That is “ear training” as it is applied to spoken language. It is a crucially important stage through which everyone needs to successfully pass in order to have their speaking skills and spoken language abilities successfully developed. Phonetics are learned by ear.

This same type of ear training technique, as it is applied to the language of music, with respect to playing by ear, is just as important because it provides the required theoretical framework and infrastructures upon which your “ear playing” abilities are based. Without having such infrastructures, the most sophisticated and experienced music readers may be able to play from memory but playing by ear will present them with very significant challenges.

Being able to hear, being able to understand what you’re hearing, and being able to assemble then transduce those data into instrumental sounds that capture and express what you’re hearing is what ear training is all about. Ear training gives you the ability to identify and realize the musical sounds that you hear externally or in your head and then communicate or bring that sound into the physical world so that someone else can understand and appreciate what it is you’re saying– in this case what it is you’re playing. This is why ear training is important to kids, and to you.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #5 How To Grow Your Musicianship When You’re Not Practicing

Let’s face it. You are going to have days where you don’t practice or even touch your piano. The reasons for this may range from being ill, too busy, or you just don’t feel like practicing!

Now as long as not practicing is only a temporary scenario, there is something very productive that you can do in the interim that will help you to keep your musicianship moving forward, even though you may have taken a temporary retreat for whatever reason.

What is this you ask?

Listen to some music! That’s it!

While you’re listening to music, you are actually involved in an activity that is expanding your musical vocabulary because the music is influencing you in a kind of osmosis. All of the music that you listen to is imprinted somewhere in your brain and your musical mind can later recall and retrieve these musical data and bring them to bear on any compositional or improvisational endeavors in which you may be later involved.   

Now today you and I can use any of the currently available technological devices that  play music. But many moons ago, I listened to music on wire recorders, victrolas, cassette tapes, and various types of turntables, some of which look like the one in the picture just below.

To use this interactive turntable:
1) Select an album track and drag it to the turntable
2) Click the Power button
3) Click “Start”
4) Click the yellow needle cover cap.

Get Adobe Flash player

You can use this interactive turntable or click here to use a larger version to listen to some music and I’ll see you soon in my next blog post.

"Gotta get to my study room!"

AC #4 "Thanks For The Memory" or How To Improve Your Ability To Play Without Sheet Music

How do musicians that play without sheet music do it? They memorize!

Having a good “ear” and having a working knowledge of music theory are important, but if you lack a good memory, you will continue to struggle in this area of your musicianship. Let me emphasize that! Even if you got straight “A“s in music theory class, without having this key component, you will continue to struggle.

Let’s consider professional musicians. There are those who read music and those who don’t. The musicians who do not read sheet music are obviously able to play without it. Then there are the musicians who read sheet music who are also able to play without it. What do these two groups of musicians have in common? A good memory!

Memorizing music comes very easy to some people while it is a real struggle for others. If you are in the “struggle” group, you may have asked these questions: “How do I get a good memory?” or “How do I improve my memory?”

Short answer: Exercise.

Your brain and mind, just like your physical body, will respond to exercise and become more efficient, stronger, and better. To exercise your memory, you have to USE it! As with many other things, you’ll want to start off slowly by working with very small achievable goals, then gradually increase your level of difficulty as you experience success along the way.

Start with memorizing and playing melodies like “Happy Birthday”, “Ode To Joy”, “C Jam Blues”, “Now’s The Time” or any of the traditional nursery rhymes. Then move on to songs like “Heart and Soul” and “Doe, Re, Me” as you gradually move towards learning and memorizing your favorite songs. While working on songs with longer melodies, I suggest that you work on small, fragmented segments at first. Later, you can take on the whole song by joining and combining the fragmented sections for easier assembly.

To help get you started on the process of improving your memory, I’ve included a link to a visual memory game, a link to an audio memory game that combines visual elements, and a few links to some other games.

 Contact me any time.

 Have fun!

Visual Memory Sharpener

Melodic Phrases

Dr. Oz approved this game where you recall visual patterns.
Memory Matrix

Use your qwerty keyboard to play this one.

You’ll recall the musical pitches played in
Music Memory

Concentration game where you match match music symbols.
Memory Matching Game