Saturday, December 10, 2011

How Good Is Your Ear?

I’ve been away playing-by-ear my future as I guess many of us are these days.  Here in December the stresses of money, getting the right gifts and living up to everyone’s expectations are upon us, rejoice!  I found some relief from holiday pressures by volunteering to play piano for my kid’s elementary school choir.

A Total Play-By-Ear Situation

There was no written music, just audios of songs I didn’t know.  Usually, playing by ear involves picking out familiar songs so this was a little different for me.  Though these tunes were above general 101 levels of skill, to me they were fairly standard.  I took an hour and went through all six songs and wrote the chords above the words.  The hard work was through. 

For the first 3 weeks those chords worked fine but some songs didn’t seem quite right.  Something was missing.  I realized I hadn’t listened intently enough so I went back and concentrated on the parts that were lacking and everything changed.  That’s really the key that you must not ever discount.  Listening.

When a Rose Is Not a Rose

You have to truly know the song inside and out in your head.  I slacked on the beginnings, transitions and endings (and figure this is probably typical of most people).  The songs were there but the basic chord arrangements weren’t enough.  The finishing touches were missing which turned out to be the very parts that gave the kids direction.

So if your arrangement is lacking, go back and listen to what you might have missed in a song.  What is the hidden spark?  It may be a simple hook or musical answer to a verse.  Maybe you’ve got some of the chords wrong.  Maybe you’re playing it straight when you should be shuffling between measures. 

These things are the true essence of playing by ear.  Concentrate on hearing and emulating the subtle attributes that bubble underneath to bring life to your arrangements. 

Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist. Click here to get the free companion book to this blog. See his other sites at and

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Playing Riffs On The Piano

Oscar Peterson
When playing the piano by ear the masters never improvise a song the same way twice.  They do however, play the same riffs repeatedly and call them up as their mind leads them.  They are spontaneous and play what they feel at the moment.  For them it’s like walking or talking in their ability to express themselves musically without effort.  Not knowing what's coming up makes the music exciting.

They think it and it happens.

How did they ever get so good?

They have a mental acuity for music that most musicians do not.  It’s the same for the greats on any instrument (guitar; clarinet; sax; etc...).  They’re riff collectors.  They hear or see something new and file it away for later.

Everyone has some bent towards collecting or a deep keenness of some subject or another.  The accountant and numbers; handicapping horse races; remembering dates, addresses and phone numbers, etc...

For the piano giants, it’s the same thing except they collect riffs.

How Infinity Works in Music.

This subject is deep.  First, consider that an infinity of music is created with 8 notes.  To that, compare the infinity of combining just 8 riffs together in different orders.  Those possibilities are infinite as well.  Take it further and imagine having a hundred riffs up your sleeve (or maybe a thousand)!  That’s yet even more to add to the infinite-variations mix.  Improvisation is a numbers game in the infinite musical universe.

Actively apply the concept of infinity as you watch and study the masters.  How did they learn to play with such style?  It’s hard to say but having a thousand riffs to tap as they feel is part of it.  They are a conduit through which music flows and -if they are a perfect vessel- have the technical ability to express their thoughts.

All the masters seem to have clean technical skills as accurate as a bullseye.  Add to that proficiency one more thing.  Again, infinity.  With so much technical control of their thoughts, there are no mistakes.  Even when they hit a wrong note, it's still the right note.

How to incorporate things into your improvisations.

Playing by ear is both a listening and watching skill.  It’s good to have musicians to learn from.  However, as you watch Oscar Peterson perform an impossible solo you might think “How in the world can I ever learn that?”

You learn it one riff at a time.

Become a conscious riff collector.  Try to extract just one little riff out of a complicated solo that you can play right now.  Make observations of inflections, accents or ways of passing from one chord to another.  Just make a small extraction and don't try to comprehend the entire solo at one time.

Listen only for the things you can do and sit back and marvel at all the rest.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Faraway Look of "Getting Down"

It’s a crowd pleaser no doubt.  Acting, peppers a performance when it comes to that faraway look.  That’s a musician’s indication to fans just how much they’re digging themselves.  They send out a vibe for you to tap-in to with hopes you can mainline their coolness.  
For some, not looking stupid comes naturally but others have to work on it.

Some concert pianists need training in this area.  Some of the faces they make -quite honestly- just make me feel uncomfortable.

They start slow, close their eyes and then work themselves into an orgasmic trance as the crescendo rises.  It can be beautiful or indecent. Is it planned or an act?  Let’s really explore this science. 

The Look Of The Pompous Artiste

Concert pianists and rock stars can travel to Never Never Land in their mind while putting their fingers on autopilot.  It’s a mental state that appears to be somewhere between hypnosis and an LSD trip.

Sometimes they pull a “Ray Charles,” sway in their seat and exhale a shudder of ecstacy.  Onlookers can only hope to experience 1/100th of the emotion of a single note.

Sorry to be so blunt man, but that lemon-eating look isn't becoming.  At the very least, practice in front of a mirror. 

Are They Really Into It That Much?

That’s the question you want answered if you’re going to give them some slack.  I mean, how much can Whitney Houston really get into “I Will Always Love You” anymore?  Probably makes her want to puke, but she’s got that sparkle so you buy it.

But concert pianists are different.  Everything seems to send a shiver up and down their spines and their actions are exaggerated.  Imagine a Victor Hugo scene of a classical pianist in a day-labor line.

“What can you do?” The boss asks.

“Man, I can feel music . . . every note.”

“Got just the job . . .  see that bell tower?  Go ring some bells.  You’ll feel every note.”  

Now that's a look you'll be sure to believe.

The Rapper

If you’re rapping, all you have do is bring out the girls to convey your greatness for you.  It’s hard to resist watching five chicks show you how the music makes them hot.  Just hire the most beautiful girls you can to dig it and it’ll be a hit.

The Metal Guitarist

Is there anything more self-ingratiating and embarrassing than the exaggerated moves of rock stars? Lots of metalhead punks took lessons from grandpas Gene and Ozzie to refine and master the art of “selling it.”  Hendrix played guitar behind his back and picked it with his teeth.  That was raw.  Townsend was the first to smash his guitar.  Truth is, most acts today just copy the masters.

At a recent Metal revival tour, a lot of young-budding guitarists got a clinic from an old master shredder.  During one part, the guitarist did his signature move.  He dropped to his knees and fell backwards with eyes rolled-back in bliss . . .

     “No, wait man, false alarm, the dude needs a defibrillator."

     “Yeah, but before he checked out, he was really digging himself.”
     “Yes, a true artiste.  ROCK ON!!!”

Justin Bieber has that faraway look all the girls are reading loud and clear.  Sparkling-eyed teenage sex.

OMG, I think I better stop!


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Roadmap to Playing By Ear

When playing the piano by ear, the science of music organizes your musical mind and controls how you get around.  It’s the plan.  It’s what all musicians that play by ear have in common; they all  know how to get around.

While many get lost in the notion that “getting around” is some mysterious skill, it’s not.  The system is the same for everyone who wants to learn it.  It's simple and is based on first knowing the basic major and minor chords (Command) and thinking numbers over tones.   It’s a combination of set, minimum proficiency skills and a focused way of thinking.

Become The Smartest Beginner In The World

You can become the smartest, inexperienced musician in the world with specific training and direction.  Finding your way around the key is a numerical roadmap but that understanding is served up raw.  It only documents how to get from one place to another.

However, it doesn’t convey any style whatsoever to your playing (but that’s a small price to pay for learning the basic chords quickly).  When you reach Command, you are years ahead of others who’ve never even thought about it.  So what if you aren't playing with style after 4 months of concentrated learning?  At the start, giving yourself the tools to go forward is far more important. 

Before You Can Play With Style You Must First Play Without It

Putting yourself in a position where you analyze the chords, their similar fingerings and places on the keyboard, puts you in a different league altogether than other piano students.  When you reach Command you’ll feel great independence knowing chords as a reflex.  At that point you will be able to take it to the next level.

Many neo-piano-methods attempt to teach you to play with style before you are ready.  Often the tips and tricks you learn are out of context to your level of ability.  Though tips and tricks are good, they are most often the mask of being a faker. 

Standard And Faker Lessons Are The Same

You either understand what you are doing or you don’t.  It all starts with learning the positions and recognizing the chords.  If you do that, you will become a diamond in the rough; an inexperienced expert. 

Otherwise, your training is just rote memorization out of context to your  musicianship.  There’s no difference between sight-reading (following) classical music or blues licks when you don’t know what you are doing.

Take time in the beginning to study the roadmap.  Learn how to read it and you'll go directly to where you want to go.  

Treading Water

You need to get to a point where you can tread water in just a few keys and understand how to read the roadmap. That doesn’t make you an Olympic swimmer and likewise, Command alone doesn’t make you a great pianist.  However, it does give you independence and teaches self-reliance (which is the only way of a true musician). 

All you have to do is learn those 24 chords, follow the roadmap and TRY.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Gift of Playing By Ear


When it comes to playing by ear and playing the piano in general, there are always people that play better than you.  Just like any skill, some people just have natural abilities but the deck is stacked against you if you don’t have at least one “gift.”

You might have more than one if you are lucky.  What are they?

The Gifts 

1.    The desire to express one’s self musically.

Your motivation to play music is at focus.  If you want to get good you have to have strong desire.  There has to be a spark because without it, music is not a priority.  In the beginning it is the desire to learn the instrument.  After that it is the desire to master music.  Desire is a gift.

2.    Superior, natural-dexterity skills.

Some have long skinny fingers that are controlled with piston-like motion and have a knack for accuracy.  It goes beyond being well-practiced (but that is much of it as well).  Their fingers just know what to do. 

3.    A natural understanding for music.

My young son loves gymnastics unlike anything else.  Put him in a matted room with apparatus and something clicks.  Gymnastics captivates him and he always wants to do it.  If you feel that same way about music then that is an important gift. 

“Playing By Ear” ISN’T a Gift

“Playing by ear” is a term that means everything to everyone which is far too broad a definition to be valid.  It is totally misunderstood by those that can’t do it, and those that can have misconceptions as well.

Playing by ear is a combination of proficiency, knowledge, experience and exposure to mass quantities of music.  All come together to create a musician that possesses an independent ability to play the piano.  It’s a self-made thing that builds on skills and understandings from the beginning, not just tips and tricks.

You Have To Be Able To At Least Swing The Bat

On the most basic level, playing by ear is hearing a song in your head and picking it out on the piano?  Some say this is a gift.  Maybe so because not everyone can do this (and even some experienced musicians are lost).  That stands in the way of playing by ear and akin to tone-deafness.

Staying on key is another problem.  When singing accapella, some people start singing in one key and wind up somewhere else.  Again, no help there.  This wandering of melody tends to carry over to the piano.

I always have hope for everyone.  You can only get better.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Sunday, July 31, 2011

How To Play Anything

Reading music is a major part of playing the piano by ear.  Ideally, you want to look at any lead sheet with chords and make your own arrangement.  The Ultimate End Game is to quickly interpret and play any song that is written; familiar or not.

The best music in your future is stuff you don’t know.  You can only go so far as a musician until you master this skill so focus on  learning it well, early in your training. 

How Do You Figure Out Songs You’ve
Never Seen or Heard Before?  

Suppose you pick up a jazz REAL book that has about a thousand songs with lead lines and chords.  Besides playing chords, there are two things required to figuring out a song;

Counting and Reading a Composer's Intent.

Within the pages of a score (or  even a simple lead sheet) there are many signs of intent to size-up.

Does it appear fast?  Is it easy to count?  Is the beat-note tempo in line with the verse meter?  Do the lyrics affect melody phrasing?  How fast should it be?  Is there something unique?  Why is it in 2/2 vs 4/4?

My membership into the Hidden Universe lets me evaluate composer intent in seconds.  I’m always looking for unique, creative streaks but overall, once you read thousands of pieces you see a lot of the same intent over and over.

Where to Begin?

The tendency is to locate and play songs in the book that you already know but that’s a very small percentage of the overall book.  Of the songs you know, you may not like them or they may be in hard keys to play.  However, as you page through the REAL book you see lots of songs in C, F and G that you could play if you only knew how they went.

This is where most people stop because it just seems too hard.   Well, get over it!  Everything's hard when you don't understand it.  Study and master counting and take command of this crucial skill.

Make Up Your Mind 
 To Be a Good Musician

That means you don't run at the first sign of adversity.  If you want fast progress, follow the Yellow Brick Road and master counting. 

Fake books contain the best songs ever written; jazz and popular standards; songs that have stood the test of time.   

Those are the songs you want to learn.

Most people, however stop before they start because of poor counting skills. There comes a time, after bypassing all the songs you don't know, that it becomes obvious to you that really, you don’t know anything about figuring out written songs.

When you master counting, the entire musical world opens up to you.  You realize it is the key to figuring out anything and unlocks a limitless musical library

All You Need To Know 

Counting is a limited discipline in either half or quarter beats.  The following equation is where it begins and ends:

One Beat is counted: 
1 + (one-and) or 1e+a (one-E-and-uh).

That’s it!  The big secret.  Spend an afternoon studying music pieces that you know and don’t know and figure it out.  Take the time to school yourself in this master skill now, early.  Explore the questions you have along the way.  Find answers that satisfy your questions.

While rhythms are endless, the equation 1+ equals 1e+a is the full science you need to concentrate on.  When you actively look, there comes a point when the light goes on and everything falls into place.

Chords PLUS Counting 

Playing chords to your own arrangement is part of it but you won’t be able to go anywhere until you figure out how the song goes.  That means you have to be able to play an accurately-counted, one-note melody line of the song with your right hand.  That’s a REQUIRED skill.

Once you’ve got the one-note rhythm and melody down in your head, all you have to do is add chords and voila, a song is born.  You must learn to count accurately as a second nature.

To fly high you can't get there by winging it.”


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Monday, July 25, 2011

Play Piano Like Guitar

The most amazing concept you can apply to learning to play the piano by ear is one simple realization.

You Can Play The Piano 
Just Like The Guitar

If you think that is obvious knowledge, it is not.  Those words are simple and unbelievably powerful.  I’m not the first to say them but am certainly the most emphatic.  It's mind-expanding and heart-palpitating to think you can learn to play the piano as well as you might the guitar in so little time. 

There’s no beating around the bush.  Applying this concept is a major game changer for piano players and hopeful students.  The very fact that you know that you can play the piano like guitar gives you immediate direction and purpose.

This is a revelation since music has always been taught the most complicated way possible.  We’ve become indoctrinated to think that “complicated” is the only way it can be done.  The paradox is, the  “complicated way” is much easier to understand if you learn the “easy way” first.

Captivity vs. Freedom

 There is no comparison of outcomes for two approaches that are so different.

• The standard method, you are totally dependent upon reading music to progress.

Sight-reading, scales and fingering exercises are never-ending means to improvement.  

They’re important yes, but those skills do not teach you to understand chords, structure and how to play music without written music.  You need to look elsewhere for that.

• The chord method approach, you learn to play chords and songs with or without music.

“Chords,” in this case means the basic major and minor chords and their inversions; a level called "Command."

There are 24 chords with 33 different fingering positions between them.  What stands between you and freedom is 33 different fingering positions on different parts of the keyboard.

When you concentrate on chords you learn quickly.

Goal Driven

Command is a level that is goal driven and gives you freedom that can be measured in results.  As you focus on learning chords you can’t help but learn to play well.  You can only get better and your results will improve.

Quick progress comes on the guitar or piano when you play chords first and start the building process.  Theory comes later.  It’s a stark truth of Command and there is no wishy-washiness to it.  Chords first and theory later.

You Have To Get Out Of Your Own Way

There are many levels of playing that limit peoples’ progress.  The play-by-ear skill is hard to define without knowing what to look for.

It clearly starts by practicing chords exclusively and taking FULL charge of learning them until you get it.

Taking FULL responsibility is the problem.  You’ve got to concentrate on the goal for a couple months and resist the urge to tumble back to the comforts of what you already know.  Keep your eye on the prize.  Force yourself to learn in this area.

Use written music to follow chords above the staff but don’t read the notes; just the chords.  Chord-out songs one after the other and develop a “can-do” attitude.  You’ll start recognizing patterns and shortcuts in no time.

Give up the notion of practicing something a million times to get it right before moving on.  For learning chords, that’s counterproductive.

“Moving On” To The Next Song
Messes With Your Mind

We are programmed to think that the next song we learn should be harder.  That follows the standard lesson approach of “graduating pieces” and presents us the biggest challenge we face starting the next song.  We’re all afraid of the next song!!!  It’s the unknown that magnifies our fright and tells us the next song has to be a bigger challenge.

That’s the wrong way of thinking.  Reality says the next song is just like the one before it.  It has chords and rhythms like all songs.  It is generally and structurally the same across the board.

Play As Many Songs As Fast 
As You Reasonably Can

There’s no time to waste spending a couple weeks learning just one piece.  Play your own chord arrangement of that song and get on to the next one.  Turn a lot of pages in popular songbooks and move quickly from one song to another.

Can’t play something?  Work on it a bit and then go on to the next song.  Try it again tomorrow.  Don’t read the music, learn the chords.  Look at them.  Memorize them.  Analyze them.

Saturate yourself in materials and -good or bad- start playing hundreds of songs NOW.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Sunday, July 17, 2011

And It Was Good - Composer Intent

I took a play-by-ear hiatus and visited Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.  It took Mr. Gutzon 14 years to blast out the rock and chisel the faces.  Then, they were done.

Just think about the day he made that final decision.  Realizing finality-of-task, he looked at his work and, in His best image as a mortal man he declared it was good. 

“Yeah, that’s good.”  he said.

Knowing When You’re Done

It's the same with musical composition.  The same song can be written with any time signature at least a dozen different ways.  Some ways are easy to count and follow and others are not.  Some do not capture the feel of the song at all.  The same song written in 2/2, 4/4 or 6/8 may say the same thing but some time signatures don’t express obviousness as well as others.  It’s a judgement call.

The composer has to find the happy medium that discloses -in the most obvious manner-  how the song goes.  There are dozens of variables in composition that conflict with each other and the composer has to be the referee.  It’s a tougher call than you might think.

Any Time Signature Can Be Used
To Write Any Song.

How can that be?  It just is.  Music is in-motion in space and time where a series of  4 triple-beats (in 12/8) is equal to 4 beats (in 4/4).  A beat is a beat.  This is another way that music is infinite.  It's the hidden universe where any time signature can be used to write any song.  

When you see something numerically opposing or confusing, ask yourself what the composer is trying to say.  You’ve got to learn to look for intent but first you’ve got to be aware that intent always exists. Intent is just somebody’s opinion.  Now, consider the dozens of ways a song might have otherwise been written. 

This is what Chopin is talking 
about when he says 

“Simplicity is the highest goal . . . achievable when you have overcome all difficulties.”   

 It’s the challenge a composer wrestles with to lay out his intent in the most obvious manner for all to see.

The goal is to compose in an infinite world of choices, in the ultimate quest to say exactly what you mean.

How Do You Know When You’re Done?

You just know it.  It’s just like the last part of a puzzle that snaps into place.  Once you get all the disciplines to work together in harmony, everything comes together into one defining moment of expression. 

“Yeah, that’s good.” you say.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One-Dimensional Thinking In The Music Galaxy

Throughout taking standard piano lessons, we are piece-mealed music theory at the rate and order that the teacher thinks best.  When you end lessons, you may grasp some theory but overall, lack the full picture because you don't have all the pieces to the puzzle.

It's a puzzle that you cannot see without first having all the pieces laid out before you.  Once you have that, it is much easier to put that puzzle together to see the full picture.

But nobody thinks about the full picture
when they teach theory.  

Everything is a one-dimensional fact; delivered without any insights into motion.  However, music is not one dimensional!   All theories interact in concert.  You cannot realize those relationships by studying any one theory in and of itself.

There is an underlying river of motion beneath the surface that organizes all the moving parts.  For example:

Time signatures show the intent of a composer that most people don’t even realize is there. 

Written songs use note size-scales that give a good indication of implied speed.  Recognizing that innuendo is the skill of a play-by-ear master.  That's how they can interpret thousands of songs they’ve never seen before in fake books.

Then, there's counting.  

You must learn to count notes like an expert until you “get it.”  You “get it” when you can easily play a one-note melody line of a song you’ve never seen before; another skill of the play-by-ear master.

If you think what a seasoned musician knows is too vast for you to understand, you are wrong.  In the end, everything distills down to simplicity.  Even the most complex of concepts is rooted in one simple relationship of notes or another. 

Approach learning theory on a multi-level understanding with a higher goal in mind.  A pro's knowledge may be vast, but the categories are well-defined and limited.  Once you know those categories you have a proper syllabus to base your learning quest.

Always focus on inter-relational concepts beyond music theory.  The one-concept-at-a-time approach is flawed in that it doesn’t give the whole picture, reveal the end result or show the working machine in motion.

As far as I am aware, there is no inclusive goal to teach music theory as a unit in motion.  However, to become an expert quickly, you’ve got to be able to see this particular light.

You’ll never ever see it with one-dimensional thinking. 


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bach Was a Hack

Playing by ear is perceived as a hack skill.  You may not be able to sightread a technically-written concerto but still be able to play it by ear.

Knowing chords, you can play anything and that puts you right up there with the top players in the world.  What?  You and Herbie Hancock in the same league?  Maybe not skill-wise but I guarantee, Herbie knows his chords.

Knowing the chords is just your foot in the door to the Hidden Universe - the minimum plateau of membership.

I’m Better Than You

There’s no “who’s better or best” comparison between the classical pianist and the play-by-ear hack.  They both wish for the talents of the other but what they want most are the skills of the hack; to understand the instrument and be able to play by ear.

Embarrassment and Snubbery

A“hack” is one that lacks technical training.  Therefore, it is far easier for the classical pianist to master the hack’s skills than the other way around.

But it’s so embarrassing for some classical players to admit they lack in this area.  They can’t concede to learning anything of value from the rogue musicians on the other side of the tracks.

Instead, they snub and shudder at the very thought of even associating themselves with the word “hack.”  After so much academic breeding, to lower themselves to the teachings of a hack feels somehow demeaning.

Everyday, “Classical Rebels” are shedding their pride to become “closet” hacks. BUT WAIT!  You really don’t have to cover your face!

Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and all the longhairs were hacks too!

Hacks First and Composers Second

Imagine the music scene back then.  You’d go to a Mozart concert and he’d play variations of all his hits.  We tend to romanticize and marvel at Mozart's amazing abilities but how was he any different from the modern day rock star? 

Just like today's solo artists, all he was doing was jamming  an 18th-century-jazz style.  That's all it was, classical improvisation.

The composers of fame were far more than hacks but without that basic command of chords, they couldn’t have written anything.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Black Hole in the Music Galaxy

Being able to play piano by ear is more than just playing the piano.  It is a science of numbers that lets you keep track of where you are and where you are going.  You play intelligently because you understand chords and how to put them together.

It really is that easy.  Knowing the basic 24 chords (Command) and how to build establishes a very high degree of proficiency way over and above 95% of all pianists.

When you know the chords, you’re good and you know it.  It's really not such a long ways off with a little focus.  What then?

Improvement is totally up to you.  Command of basic chords is the springboard that you base any improvements.  Command is a high degree of proficiency and knowledge, but really just the beginning of learning advanced skills. 

Chords Are The Great Equalizers

The path to learning chords paves the way to playing by ear; they're one in the same.  No matter how good you are, it's very difficult to play independently if you don't know chords.  Chords are the great equalizers that let all musicians operate on the same plane to create independently. From there, it's all practice and talent.

The Basic Chords Are The Starting Point

This is an absolute truth.  There is no other equivalent starting point to excellence for the masses to aspire to. You don't have to be a concert pianist to be good in the way you want to be good. 

When you concentrate on chords, learning piano seems more natural and makes more sense.  Chords are the most important factor to playing piano, PERIOD!  They are the foundations of all melody and a leading skill that unfortunately, many advanced sight-readers do not possess.

You Have a Lifetime To Learn Theory

You’ll spend your lifetime putting the music theory puzzle together.  It’s a black-hole puzzle that is infinite.  It will never be complete and in itself is the beginning and the end.  Imagine the black-hole puzzle as one that contains the entire universe of music (all melody and sound) and absorbing it into it’s infinite center.   This is a very apt metaphorical picture.

Music Is Infinite But The Border Is Defined

You’ll spend 25 years of searching on your own in the right places to define the border before you can see the Hidden Universe.  As sure as the nose on your face, it is there.

It is the wisdom of the master’s vantage point.

Chances are you can’t see it because it hasn’t yet sunk in.  Once you reach Command over your fingering, the next stop is to discover for yourself the Hidden Universe as quickly as you can.

To do that you must fast-track defining the border (that will otherwise take you 25 years to assemble).  The pros, over time analyze things and sometimes put it together immediately.  Some people instinctively know what the puzzle looks like and how to put it together from the start.  There's an X-Factor here for some.  But most of us need help in defining the puzzle border because we don’t know what it looks like.

However, you've got one great advantage; a picture of the puzzle on the box.  That's a great advantage but you’re still going to have to put it together.  When the border pieces are in place, music makes a lot more sense as you fill in the middle.

Music Is More Than Pitch, Tempo and Meter

We tend to define music as pitch, tempo, rhythm and meter but those are only the outcome of a  musical process; the sound-product of banging a drum or singing a song.  Music is a lot more than what you hear.

Under the surface, all the theories work in concert to put structure to the creation of music expression.  Conscious or unconscious, these interactions occur every time a song is played or written.

Theory is finite but music is infinite!  It is this gray area between the two concepts where the “Hidden Universe” lies.  Take a moment and think about this.  Ask yourself if you can believe there is something more to music than meets the ear. 

The Mind-Set

The“Hidden Universe” defines the Play By Ear Discovery mind-set.  You are seeking an encompassing awareness of musical insights that are years beyond your experience.  If you think it seems complicated, then put things in perspective.  Musical creation is complicated but managing it is simple in the Hidden Universe. 

Do you believe me?  If not, then come and see me again in 25 years. 


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2012 Keyed Up Inc

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fly Little Birdy - Start Improvising Music

This is a stark lesson of playing by ear.  When you're done taking lessons and know your chords, you'll settle down on a comfy perch atop your plateau of skill.

You aren’t seeking out advanced courses in styling or other courses and maybe don’t have the time.  You 're satisfied with how you play but know you could be a lot better.  C'est la vie.

What’s Holding You Back Little Birdy? 

See yourself 3 years down the road after learning this now.   An improvisation king you probably are not.  However, at this point you are definitely in command of chords and have advanced skills.  You can play a lot of songs -written or by ear- but may not play with much style.  If you’re not careful, you can stagnate in this state for 20 years.

During stagnation you play all your favorite songs like a juke box without deviation or improvisation.

These personal showcase tunes are your conquered standards that you tend to play over and over again.

Stagnation is the Curse of the 
Play-By-Ear Master

You give up style and improvisation in return for being able to play massive amounts of music without written music.  There's no time to bog yourself down to one written arrangement.  No time!  When you can play your own version of any song, you just want to get on to the next song.

At this point you've reached a high degree of stagnation. It is the stagnation of "sameness to your playing" from one song to the next.  You're good, no doubt but nothing's new.

Like an addict, you hunger for more songs to play, sacrificing style and improvisation for instant gratification.  When you straighten up, you ask yourself why in the world you can’t improvise after all these years of playing?   

I’m Going to Tell You Why

 Despite your skills and knowledge, you have not yet given in to the force of enlightenment.  This force is "one" with the infinite number of variations that can be played with JUST ONE SONG!  Again, one song can be played an infinite number of ways.  Slow it down or speed it up.  Use more or less notes.  Add a different rhythm.  Substitute a chord.  Combine different factors.  Anything!

All music exists in the infinite world of variations.  Improvisation begins with a strong realization of that concept of "infinite variations."  You conclude that if there are a million ways to play something, then why ever bother to play it the same way twice?   

Dig into your conquered standards and start there.  Pull them out fresh, dust them off and vow never again to play them the same way twice.  Your mind begins to expand when you start playing one variation after another of familiar songs.

Take little steps in rhythm, notes and chords and start exploring your options.  Focus in on the freedom you feel to express yourself emotionally.  Let you mind wander to play how you feel and let the music flow.

When you get that “freedom” mindset, it sets the stage for improvising.

Attack all your music like this.  Play anything, any way you want.  Take yourself to the next level and you’ll start to get it.

It's a much bigger galaxy of music out there than you can imagine.

Keep looking.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The End Of Piano Lessons - Graduation Day

We think of "Graduation" as the end of a grade level and diploma time.  However, in piano lessons language, that means graduating up to the next level of skills to a harder book or piece.

Traditional graduation doesn't really apply to piano lessons.  Just ask a piano teacher when you graduate and they're thinking something else.  Surely, you don't mean getting a diploma???  No, standard lessons are lessons without end. Therein lies the problem. 

A Set Time-Frame

 The whole dynamic of beginner lessons would change if there was a set time frame for completion followed by graduation.  It might cover a time standard of 2 years (or less) to achieve a specific level of proficiency skills and knowledge.  Imagine!  A two year course for which you would graduate!

At this level, you've learned your chords ("command") and know how to get around with or without written music.  "Diploma" means that lessons are over.  At that point you either take more lessons or take the next year or two off and really figure out what's going on on your own.

Standard Lessons Are Sort of 
False Advertising By Omission

Because there's no defined end to piano lessons, you have no other choice but to quit.  "Quitting" has a negative stigma.  "I've taken enough. It's not for me. I don't get it" people say.

After quitting, people are dumbfounded, wondering when in Sam-Hill the boat sailed by.  They didn't see no boat!  For many it is hard to continue after having such a numbing experience.  They become a "took lessons and quit" statistic.  There is something very wrong with this.

Wouldn't it be phenomenal to fuse extensive chord training into the first two years of standard lessons?  I mean really teach people how to play the instrument independently as a matter of course.  We don't do this but we really must.  We have the technology but do we have the will?

It's not going to be easy to change the world.  It's the "Civil" War

My graduation story is that my son graduated from 8th grade today.  I remember life at 14 idly thinking "Truly, the worst must be over."   


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thinking in the Music Galaxy

Playing by ear is easy after you learn command of the 24 basic chords and their inversions.  Keep adding new ones until you’ve gone through all 12 majors and minors.  It’s okay to play well in certain keys and not in others.

In the beginning, it’s more important to get a good feel for what it means to be good on the instrument.  Once you master a comfortable key, you are able to approach harder keys with greater confidence.

Make The Decision

The only thing standing in the way of your success is resolution to devote quality time to learning the basic chords.  You can do it in about a month if you put your mind to it.  To take control of your lifetime learning process, you’ve got to practice.  Do it everyday. 

Study the chords and their patterns.  Work on ones you don’t know and memorize the positions.  Test and drill yourself as you analyze what you are doing.  Work your own math, figure things out and ask yourself the hard questions.  Become a motivated, inquisitive student to learn what you must.  The answer is there and you've got to keep looking for it.  Always look for deep answers to simple questions.  Ask me anything if you get confused.

But it's totally up to you how motivated you are to MAKE THAT DECISION. 

When you reach command of the basic chords, you'll know you are good on the piano.  That’s when your entire world opens up.  At that point you realize you can get as good as you want (if you are willing).  Furthermore, you can go in any direction you want with confidence that otherwise would be empty without command.

Confidence Issues

People with command often underestimate their control over the instrument.  “I can’t improvise.”  is a common lament.  Improvisation comes with time, effort and experience.  Gauge your abilities on how long you've been in command.  Be aware of the accelerated type of knowledge you use to teach yourself to get better.  You are a rare person of exceptional potential because of what you know. 

Reread the previous post “The Musical Universe” and immerse yourself into that information.  You must keep this in the forefront of your mind and not allow yourself to backtrack to traditional trappings.  If you want to lead then you must follow the numbers path.  Learn this and the rest of your piano days will be bright and rosy.

People tend to get hung up on so many notes and keys to keep track of because they cannot shake “96-concept” thinking.  Discard your dependence on alpha tones and laser-focus only on the 8-note order.   That's what puts order to the Musical Universe.

"Exploded Engine," a sculpture by Rudolph de Harak,

Music theory is just like anything else you might not fully understand.  An engine, for example, is a bit complicated but -once broken down and explained- makes perfect sense.

There’s a technology to music the same.  While the product of music theory is infinite, the interactive components of the technology are concise and limited.

Numerically, all theories you use to keep track of where you are, are all rooted in 8-Concept thinking.  Transposing, modulation, key signatures, melody lines, progressions and more all use the same measure and rely on your insider view of the major scale.  Do not view any of the theories as singular to themselves, they are not.  They are merely tributaries to the major scale; offshoots totally dependent upon 8-Concept thinking as well.

Atlas Ability

It is very very powerful to realize you can control such a big instrument with proper 8-Concept thinking.  THAT, my friends is how playing the piano is easy.  You quickly get to a point where your mind plays better than your fingers do.  As you gain experience, the concept becomes a part of your being.  However, in the beginning you must continually look to the major scale for answers. 

Some think that piano talent is a kind of mystical “gift.”  Any play-by-ear, piano-bar musician out there knows how to get around.  Style aside, anybody that’s good knows the math of music.  It’s not a willy-nilly, just-get-a-feel-for-it kind of thing.  It’s a simple mathematical science that is the roadmap to getting around.

For most seasoned musicians it’s been a long road to 8-Concept awareness.  For you it’s a turbo-boost to your musicianship.

The only thing you have to do is realize it.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mapping Out The Music Galaxy

This post is going to give you an enormous insight into music that has never been revealed before.  It is the most powerful understanding of Command.  This simple concept takes people a lifetime to learn IF EVER.  You’d think it to be such an easy understanding that there’s no use in discussing it and in fact, that’s exactly what happens.

Playing By Ear is Your Ability to 
Control 8 Notes 

People think they understand this but are totally clueless to the magnitude of influence the 8 notes (of the scale) have on the governing theories of music:

1.    Mapping the key to keep track of where you are;
2.    Building chords (1-3-5-7-etc);
3.    Transposing progressions (numerically and tonally);
4.    Figuring progressive orders of the keys (circle of fifths);
5.    Figuring progressive orders of notations (adding sharps and flats);
6.    Identifying the key on sight;
7.    Modulation from one key to another and back;
8.    Figuring the 6 guidepost chords of any key quickly;
9.    Combining Major and Minor key signatures
10.   Figuring out the most logical order of notes to a melody.

"8" is the number of music.  8 is also an infinity sign.  When you truly understand the many ways that 8 controls music, you will rule music. 

The Major Scale is the SEED

 “How can it be so simple?” you ask. 

The “8-Concept” seems so obvious that no one thinks it’s important enough to teach.  They teach the facts of the major scale and figure you’ve got it.  Trouble is, you might "get it" but certainly don't understand it.  The major scale's influence cannot be sidestepped.  In fact, the major scale is the most important part of music and deserves MUCH study.

But that’s not what we do. We do nothing.

Analyze this subject HARD!!!  Really comprehend the ENORMOUS leap in knowledge this conceptual-understanding gives you to CONTROL music.  It’s far beyond the surface-facts of the book-learned definition of a major scale.

If when you’re through here, you don’t see it, LOOK HARDER until you do.  It may take a while for this concept to sink in so always look for answers in this direction.  When you get it, you'll know it.  You'll feel a sense of enlightenment and overwhelm to the infinite possibilities.  Things make sense.

Higher levels of musicianship understand this through their long experience (though they may not be able to define it).  But most musicians never discover the controlling insights of the number 8.

For you, knowing about it up-front makes a huge difference.  It puts you in control.  It simplifies the process and gives you direction and hope.

96 Confuses 

 There are 12 keys with a different 8 notes for each.  All keys use different notes -sharp or flat- that follow the C pattern numerically. 

The hardest thing to overcome is your misguided attention to only thinking of music tonally (C, D, E, F, G, A, B).

With “Tonal Thinking," you must keep track of 96 different notes over 12 keys. You can’t add, subtract or manipulate alpha characters like you can numbers.  The “96 Concept" is very difficult learn and takes years of study and hard work to master.

This has been the mindset for standard piano lessons through the ages and remains the mindset of the music industry today.  This way of thinking teaches you to follow but not lead and stands in the way of your rapid progress.  You must discard  your dependence upon "Tonal Thinking" and be free of this anchor if you want to be free on the piano. 

8 Controls 

The key of C is made up of 8 white notes that lay side by side in a specific numeric order.  With 8 numbers you manipulate and control music.  The 8-note-order of all major scales are the same and follow one simple order.

There are half steps between the 3/4 and 7/8 intervals.  All the rest are whole steps.

That’s the numerical formula for all keys.

The only reason we use sharps and flats (black notes) is that, when we change the position of the root note (C above) to start on D, the numerical order must likewise, shift physically to adjust to the different position it holds on the keyboard relative to C.  We use sharps or flats simply to maintain the numerical order.  

The key of C is the most-obvious template to study.  “Template” in that all keys follow the exact same 8-note order.  There are 12 keys but only one, single numerical order that lets you understand and control them all equally.  This 12:1 ratio is what gives you tremendous leverage and command over music.

The names of the actual tones of the scale order change between keys but the numbers always stay the same.  If it applies to C, it applies to any other key the same.  With numbers, the key doesn’t matter.  Numerically there is no sharp or flat; only 1 through 8.  They're all the same.

Two Names!

Accept that we think of notes as both both alpha-scale tones and numbers at the same time.  The alpha names change as the keys change but the numerical order always stays the same.  The numbers are symbolics for whatever note of whatever scale may be at that position. 

 “8-Concept” thinking lets you keep track of where you are, where you're going and the millions of ways to get there.  You control it all with 8 notes.

Your mind should be racing about the infinite possibilities surrounding the number 8.  If not, then read this post over several times and keep looking until you find it.The "8-Concept" is the map you will use for the rest of your life as you travel your musical expeditions.  

Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The "Civil" War Between Old and New

Playing By Ear and Standard Piano Lessons are in a “Civil” War. Standard Lessons dominate the world but there’s a revolution brewing between traditional lessons and neo-piano methods based on learning chords.

Standard Piano Lessons start with reading music, note recognition and progressive sightreading.  Later, lessons turn to advanced pedagogy, interpretation and fingering of difficult pieces. The method follows hundreds of years of proven, entrenched standards and disciplines.  Classical music is taught with near-exclusivity.  Standard lessons are great if you want to learn classical music but they don’t teach you how to play by ear.


The piano-teaching industry is an unstoppable force made up of publishers, organized teachers, and schools worldwide.  It’s rooted in 16th century theory and has grown for hundreds of years to become the Titan it is today.  It’s extremely good but would be better if it incorporated some of the 21st century chord technologies that neo-piano methods use to get faster results.  Because the institution is so big, change is slow, especially because there is no central authority that leads the industry.  The easiest path is to not change at all . . .but change is inevitable.


Playing By Ear begins by learning command of the basic chords and focusing on specific concepts.  From there, you add your experiences over a lifetime.  You stumble upon a useful pattern or discover a concept-in-theory out of need.  You know what you are doing.  You don’t need written music to play (but often appreciate having a lead sheet of some sort to follow).

Neo-piano students are learning to command the piano quickly through some of the online, chord-based, neo-piano methods that are leading the charge.  But not all neo-piano methods are equal.  Some supposed “neo” methods are just standard piano lessons in a box.  There’s nothing new there.  You have to sort through 99.8% of rubbish online to find useful information.  If you don’t know what to look for, you might easily miss it.

Where Is the Best Place to Get
Information On Playing the Piano?

Right here.  That’s my goal.  Between this blog and a developing website, you’ll get the best compiled information made available to you in one place.  This will include the Best of Youtube, Best of Classical, Best Blogs, Free Music, Free Lessons and links to the best sites online.  There will be interviews, guest blogs,   Podcasts, giveaways and special promotions.  All is going to take a little while to build but it’s coming and I’m very excited about it.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Friday, April 8, 2011

History of the Guitar - The Beatles

Playing by ear on the piano is the same as playing the guitar.  Both require you to play chords as a condition of mediocrity.  Both can be learned with about the same amount of effort.  Yet, the piano is not viewed or taught that way.

There’s no reason it shouldn’t be the #1 instrument, but the piano takes a back seat to the guitar which dominates music as the modern-day-sensation instrument of choice.  It wasn’t always like that.

The Guitar Did Not Come to the Forefront
of Our Attention Until 1964. 

 In 1964 the Beatles took America by storm with an intensity that only a few artists per century ever reach.  In the 1930s it was Sinatra.  In 1956 it was Elvis.  In 1964 it was the Beatles.  These overpowering music forces were met with stiff resistence.  The kids loved it and the parents wanted to ban it.  It was the start of the boomer rebellion. 

Let me synopsize the Beatle experience:
1.    They were the first “stadium” band
2.    They were cute, white and respectful young men
3.    They were from mysterious England
4.    Their wore their hair long (actually tame today)
5.    Girls would not stop screaming.
6.    They wrote, sang and played their own stuff
7.    Their music was like nothing we had ever heard

We couldn’t get enough of them.  In 1964, the Beatles had six #1 hits and rocked our culture to the core.  They recreated the music business practically overnight.  Before the Beatles came along, there were only a handful bands that wrote, sang and played their own music.  Almost overnight, anyone with a guitar could become a star.

The Beatles Got Our Attention

The Beatles single-handedly caused an entire, industry-wide,  music-scene explosion.  From 1964 forward, guitar bands came out of the woodwork from England and the United States  playing folk, rock and blues.  Everywhere you looked, somebody was playing a guitar protesting the “man,” the war, civil rights and exercising civil disobedience.

 The Girls Will Tear You Apart

In 1967, a group called The Byrds had a song called “So You Want To Be a Rock and Roll Star” that typified the current music scene.

Part of the lyric went:

“just get an electric guitar and
 take some time and learn how to play.
 Then in a week or two if you make the charts
  the girls will tear you apart”

That made it sound easy.  It wasn’t long before everyone was learning three chords and playing the guitar quickly.  They didn’t have to become stars.  A lot of guys were motivated by the idea that if you could play, you could get the girls.

The guitar was linked to simplicity, quick results and sex. That was the perfect recipe for motivation.  That’s how the guitar became the modern-day-sensation instrument of our time.

The Time Machine - The Rise of the Piano 

If we reeled back 300-plus years to the dawn of classical music we’d find that the piano was the modern-day-sensation instrument of that time.  Back then, like the guitar today, the piano’s rise to popularity was driven by the current music scene that we call “classical” today.

However, in the classical era you really had to work hard to become a “Rock Star.” It wasn’t perceived as an overnight thing because to be a good follower required lots of practice.  I’m sure the motivation to get the girl was probably still there. We haven’t changed much in that regard.

Back To The Future 

Fresh back to the future we find ourselves confronting the fact that classical isn’t the driving force it once was.  Popular music today is based on improvisational styles which cannot be taught using the classical approach.

It’s a dilemma, entrenched in a 300-year old tradition, that views deviations from the status quo with great resistance.  The classical approach won’t teach you how to jam and there’s no indication that anything is going to change that fact.

Today our focus is on becoming modern-day rock stars and play like Elton John.  We want to jam with friends and write our own songs.  We want to play by ear.

The piano must be reinvented to become the NEW MODERN DAY SENSATION instrument based on today’s standard of popular music and teaching technologies.  To do that, you must apply the same mind set you would to learn the guitar.

It’s as simple as that.  Take a lesson from the guitar and drop all the baggage you think is associated with the piano.  It’s a chord instrument and that’s where you should eat, sleep and breath if you want to get good.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Greatest Cassius Clay Sings Stand By Me

Do You Want To Be Great?

I aspire to be as great as I can be without killing myself.  I have advanced play-by-ear abilities and sight-reading skills.  I don’t play professionally nor do I want to.  What I love the most is to explore the journeys of my extensive sheet-music collection.  That’s what I love.  The journeys.

I love reading other peoples’ music, learning their styles and reading the lyrics of gifted pros (pun).  How to interpret what the composer is trying to convey so clearly.  Show me sheet music and I’m off.  Thousands of pieces played at times.  There’s nothing that rivals the thrill that reading music gives me. 

 . . . and playing by ear, you can’t ever get away from that.  It’s always a reality.  You play everything by ear, even the stuff you read.

Reality says there comes a point in peoples’ lives when they are preoccupied with work and lovers and things other than the piano.  The question is whether you can withstand a 6-month lull in playing and still come back to it like you never left.  That’s command.  How do you get that good? 

The first thing is to understand that 
Command really isn’t that good.  

As a level, it’s high but really, compared to others that know their chords and play with style, it’s only the beginning. 

A person in command doesn’t necessarily possess great fingering skills.  However, they do possess strong chording skills and that puts them in a power position.  They have command of the piano just like someone who plays a guitar.  The concept for the two instruments is identical.  Learn the chords and the sooner the better.

Do you want to be great?  Great enough, for sure.  Never-forget-it great.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Listen to Gilligan's Island Stairway To Heaven

To play piano by ear is to play with creativity.  Click on this rare song to listen while you're reading this.  It's better than Zepplin, lasts half as long as the original and uses the art of imitation and creative license.  The overall affect is for the listener to say "Hey, they ripped the theme from Gilligan's Island.  I thought I heard that before . . . " but it's not the truth.  Far from it.  It's the nature of music to be misleading and this song really takes you on a fun ride.

But let's be realistic on this song.  The cadence to the Gilligan lyric is easily altered to conform to the cadence of Stairway.  The Gilligan theme style is a sea shanty that somehow conforms to the ethereal, slow-burn chord progression of Stairway.

Outside of a common chord progression,
the songs are nothing alike. 

The nature of music says you can take any song's lyric, rhythm and chord progression, modify it slightly and spit out a completely different version of the same song.  Such is the case for Gilligan.  Think of other songs that this applies.  The Byrds singing Dylan songs.  Joni Mitchell's Woodstock vs. Crosby Stills and Nash version of the same song.  There are many many more instances where the differences from the originals are like night and day.

Led Zeppelin sued Little Roger and the Goosebumps over this song to cease and desist.  It's funny to note however, that Robert Plant called this his favorite cover of their famous song.  


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Strong Right Hand To Command The Keyboard

To play by ear with authority you need a strong right hand.

“Strong” in a way that is not only proficient, but wise." 


We're “Right” Most of The Time  

There’s a science here somewhere, but my opinion is that most people are right handed, right legged and pegged generally right-minded. 

Learn Chords On Your Dominant Hand

Your dominant hand is easier to train and learns to play chords as a reflex.  I suggest you learn chords on your strong-suit hand; that's where you're going to find the most long-term comfort. 
There are positives of being either handed.  Music is written for  "righties" but "lefties" are often ambidextrous and can boost their playing with superlative bass-hand skills. 

Giving You The Down Low

Play a basic octave span (or single note in the bass) and work on your right hand exclusively in the beginning.  Don’t try to learn all the chords at one time.  Just concentrate on the chords of the song you are playing.

Then play more songs that use those same chords and really drive those movements and positions into the indelible part of your memory.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc