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Learning to play the songs that you love by ear is an amazing skill to have and one that can be developed! Here are some tips to help you get started

1) Identify the chord progression

You can spend time figuring out the chord structure of the song you want to learn on your own OR you can utilize google to help you find a chord chart. This will help you to know the chord structure of the song right away. A great first step is to play basic chords and sing along to get a feel for the song.

2) Pick out the melody

The great news is that the melody will land within the notes of the chord. For example, if your first chord is a G, chances are that the first melody note will be one of the notes of the G chord. As the chords change so will the most likely melody notes so that they align with the notes of the chord. This isn’t always true, but it can sure help you narrow it down!

3) Know the song well enough to sing it

Don’t worry, you don’t have to have a good singing voice to do this. Singing the song will help you to connect to the melody which will in turn help you to know if you are playing wrong notes. If you can hear it you can sing it and if you can sing it you can play it! Singing will also help you to connect with the rhythm so that you don’t have to guess about how to count it out!

4) You don’t need to play every single melody note

Play most of them or some of them because in the cases of familiar songs, your listener will assume the melody. If there are spots where you omit a melody note or play a harmony note or chord that is OK! This will give you artistic license and allow you to make the song your own.

5) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes

This is a skill that takes time to develop. When I first started to develop this skill I played MOSTLY wrong notes. This is totally okay!  Every wrong note will lead you toward the right note! Cheesy but true!. So have a sense of humor and curiosity as you attempt to pick out the melody of your song.

What song are you going to start with?

Comment below!

Lisa Witt

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 18 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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