Sunday, February 6, 2011

Play LOTS of Songs

Playing the piano by ear is predicated on one having a desire to play a LOT of songs.  Once you get a bunch under your belt, you discover firsthand how everything starts to come together.  But to get a “bunch,” you have to have a source.  Mine was old 45s.  Let me tell you a story.

In 1974 I started collecting 45 rpm records at garage sales.  I’d ask if they had any old 45s, to which “mom” would say “Let me go inside and take a look.”  She’d often reemerge with a stack of 100 or so, left by her son when he moved out.  “I don’t think he’ll mind.” she’d say.  I knew otherwise but I wanted them so remained silent (as I handed over a five-dollar bill for that stack of black gold).

For the record, I want to apologize to all those sons and daughters that lost their records to me.  Your moms didn’t know how important they were to you.  My collection grew to over 4000 records and provided me with lots of songs I wanted to play.

This is a major concept for you to understand.  Playing by ear takes on many forms, one being having the written music to which you make your own arrangement.  Trouble is, you never have the music for everything you want to play.  For the majority of songs, you’re going to have to figure them out and write them down.  It’s work and a challenge -especially in the beginning-  when you don’t know your chords very well.  Just keep going.  It gets easier with practice.


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

1 comment:

  1. So you're the one that got all my records!!!