Learning by Listening

Questions on learning to play the piano, and piano music.

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newtchaser
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Learning by Listening

Post by newtchaser » 21 Nov 2003, 18:07

I am early retired from the computer industry and I am looking at getting into music teaching. I have a solo piano CD out and as a guitarist I am on a compilation CD and I am in the process of producing a CD playing the fiddle. I perform regularly at pubs, festivals etc so I can honestly say I have never felt limited by not being able to read dots.

I believe I can impart my knowledge and skills far easier by teaching much the same way as I learnt, by listening. Music is after all simply noise that is pleasurable to listen to and the most direct and simple way to start playing is to simply imitate a given noise. A build up of recognisable noises soon develops into sounds and music and I now have a fairly well developed understanding of theory, harmony, rhythm etc so this why I call it Learning by Listening.

My problem is that I have no qualifications and would find it difficult to get students as a result. However, I see that the blind or visually impaired may benefit from my approach but I don't know where to start. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
I am a self taught piano,fiddle and guitar player.

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 29 Nov 2003, 19:35

Teaching to play someone by ear is difficult; you need a natural ability to play without music - such as you yourself have. I have played the piano since I was 4, but the thought of playing from memory fills me with horror, let alone playing by ear - and I've got all sorts of musical qualifications! The Suzuki method teaches the pupil to play by ear, as Mr. Suzuki's reasoning was that when he learned to speak his native tongue, his mother didn't make him write and read Japanese at the same time as he was forming his first words; therefore why do we teach a child groping his way through the first principles of music to read and write what is essentially an aural skill?
You might like to read a few Suzuki Method books to get a feel for his system and see if it would be useful to you.
In my job as a piano tuner I meet many parents of children who are learning the piano, and I'm afraid quite a few of them are more interested in the child achieving grades than in the child actually enjoying the experience of music. And if you teach in the way you want to, you will lose this section of customers.
Finally, your method would be ideally suited to dyslexic kids, as you wouldn't be frightening them with letters and reading an(other)alien code! Similarly, Downs Syndrome children have fantastic memories but trouble with reading; perhaps you could approach specialist teachers.
Good luck - if I have your details I could pass them on to interested people, as I'm based in Marlow, Bucks., and tune in your area occasionally.

newtchaser
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academic self-preservation

Post by newtchaser » 03 Dec 2003, 05:03

Thanks for the advice; it will definitely be very useful. About playing by memory, nobody can do that, what I said was doing it through listening, that means that the ear has a different kind of sound memory and simply attempting to duplicate it is the only trick to learn. What surprises me is that it seems that many academics like yourself (if I can call a dot reader that) do not seem to be aware of this fundamental fact, why? Dare I suggest that this is academic self-preservation? Maybe you can enlighten me otherwise.
I am a self taught piano,fiddle and guitar player.

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 14 Dec 2003, 00:31

No, not academic self preservation - just fear :shock: or self conciousness, call it what you will: that's why I said it was like (NOT the same as!) playing from memory. The trouble with starting piano lessons at the age of 4 is that doing without music is a bit like getting rid of the stabilisers on your new 2 wheeler bike: it's scary, and it's hard work and if nobody tells you to get rid of them, you're not going to bother because life seems easier with them and you're bombing along quite happily.And if you've been on stabilisers (as opposed to tranquilisers...) for 38 years (42, to save you working it out!) it's even scarier to do without, as are most new experiences. It's self perpetuating because I could only teach someone in the way I was taught, and it'll take more teachers like yourself to break the cycle. It IS stupid to be reliant on the dots (or fly-sh*ts, as a splendid old gent for whom I tuned called them, contemptuously: he was an ear-player, too...) because if I DO try to play with no dots I can do it to a certain extent...until I think about it and then it all goes to bits!
Good luck - and many pupils! :wink:
Gill

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Post by newtchaser » 19 Dec 2003, 16:36

Gill, I suppose I sound like I have a 'chip on my shoulder' over teaching by the dots and that is probably true but I do think that if you take a 4 year old and only teach them the dots then it will be difficult to reverse it later. Imagine learning to read and write before learning speech, we would have a society that would tremble in fear at conversation. Surely the foundations of our musical development should be 'by ear' first and later learn 'the dots' if the pupil wants to master classical styles or play in an orchestra. I thank you for your honesty and encouragement. :D
I am a self taught piano,fiddle and guitar player.

Gill the Piano
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Post by Gill the Piano » 21 Dec 2003, 18:24

Here Newt, have a laugh on me; I played at an old dears' carol singsong today and took a stack of music with me. 'Any requests?' some fool asked. 'Silent Night', they wanted. Now you and I know how simple that is...but I couldn't find the music and was petrified! Yet I should have been able to do it standing on my head, but with an audience as well (even though most of 'em couldn't hear) the lack of dots froze me! Fortunately I found the music,(phew) but I thought of you and had a wry smile to myself...your principles are almost exactly those of Mr Suzuki (the music man, not the motorbike man, though I don't suppose he's short of readies either...) who's made his fortune. Do read up on the Suzuki method - I think you'll find it useful and interesting.
Have a merry one!
Gill xx

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chuckles
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Playing by ear... it's not easy but...

Post by chuckles » 29 Apr 2004, 11:56

Re: Ad libbing a song... You might want to have a look at this book, been looking for a book like this for quite a while.

How to Play Piano Despite Years of Lessons : What Music Is and How to Make It at Home
by Ward Cannel and Fred Marx

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... ce&s=books

Hope this helps! :)

Cheers

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