There are plenty of people who want to learn piano but who don’t want to get involved with the classical approach that involves sight reading and formal musical notation. They want to be able to sit down at a piano and play popular tunes that they may have just heard without apparent effort. Wouldn’t that be great? But how do you learn to play like that?
Playing by ear brings into play a skill, that, although it’s important in conventional sight-reading, becomes predominant when learning to play by ear. This is ability to hear chords and deconstruct them into their component notes. It sounds difficult to a beginner, and it is, but as you progress, you’ll find that this skill beomes more and more intuitive.
Before the advent of computers, this posed a big problem for anyone wanting to learn the piano in this fashion. Sure, it was possible to listen to a live performance and watch the pianist’s hands on the keyboard or to listen to a recording and try to figure out what was going on. But without properly structured lessons explaining how certain chords are constructed, it was a virtually impossible task for anyone under the rank of musical genius. Unless you were especially gifted (and some people are, of course) it’s very difficult to work out how to do this.
Now, things have improved enormously, there are several software packages or online memberships that offer exactly the tuition you are looking for if sight-reading is not on your agenda. Two of the most popular are Piano by Pattern, which explicitly focuses on the development of a familiarity with chords and the way they are constructed, and Hear and Play by Jermaine Griggs. This is probably the most well known of the learn by ear systems and has a first class reputation. Find out what current opinion says about these packages from the menu on the left.