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


  1. I appreciate the emphasis on playing by ear. As someone who's done some research on this skill, I couldn't agree more with you. It's foundational. Critical for anyone wanting to perform any style of music. Including classical!

  2. Thank you. Anybody that plays the piano should learn how to do this. It makes playing and reading music 10 times easier. In the classical community there is resistance that must be overcome to reach the next level. Your observation is straight to the point. It really is a "critical" skill for all to master.