A lot of aspiring musicians today are focused on learning to play by ear, and the reasons are obvious: they no longer have to rely on music sheets all the time when playing music, and they have more freedom to move when they are with their instruments. And yes, if you are trying to learn to play the piano or the guitar, it’s highly recommended that you study how to play these instruments by ear.
Among the fringe benefits of playing by ear that you do not immediately realize are:
- You are able to pick up songs easily.
When you know how to play by ear, the easier it would be for you to play songs without referring to a music sheet or chord chart. This is because you immediately recognize the chords used in the song, and you create a visual in your head on how these are played on an instrument.
A lot of musicians practice playing by ear because it helps them play songs that are new to them, as well as songs that they have to memorize when preparing for a performance.
- The easier it is for you to compose your own songs.
When you know how to play by ear, you also get a strong grip on how songs are made. When you write a song, knowing the chords immediately allows you to create a melody for the lyrics until you complete the whole piece.
Playing by ear is a big plus for aspiring composers, as they are the ones looked up to by singers and musicians, and not the other way around.
- You have more freedom to create your own arrangements.
You may not be pursuing a career as a composer, but if you know how to play music by ear, you have more capability to arrange already existing songs based on your preference or that of your group. This helps a lot if you are a member of a cover band, because knowing how to arrange songs makes your group more flexible and put a touch of originality over the pieces that you play for your audience.
You also get to improvise when asked to perform songs that you did not practice, as through your arrangement your band can easily follow your lead without sounding off key.
- You become more confident when playing in front of an audience.
Perhaps the best perk of knowing to play music by ear is that you become more confident when facing large crowds. This is because even if you haven’t practiced your songs, you can easily perform them by recalling their melodies. It also won’t as difficult to adjust when you are given a new song to play (such as one requested by your audience); you just glance over the chords and which key to start, and then you’re off to performing the entire piece.
Playing music by ear requires a lot of practice and dedication, but don’t worry, because a lot of music schools these days offer courses that focus on this technique. You may want to check them out when planning to study an instrument one of these days.