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

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