Tip 75: Start Simple When Learning to Play By Ear

For instrumentalists, playing by ear is a great skill. To some it comes easy – but if you find it difficult, you’re certainly not alone!

Start by playing simple, short tunes on your instrument. Any children’s song, or the hook from a pop song will do. Take your time, and figure out the notes slowly at first, but don’t write them down, try to commit them to memory.

Next, try to play the same piece/hook but in a different key. Move the whole piece up or down by one tone. Change key again. You will soon find yourself arriving at some pretty nasty keys, like Db major or G# minor. The more you practice though, the more you’ll discover that those keys really aren’t that scary – it’s just another combination of notes!

Doing this will also increase your awareness of intervals.

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