Thank you for your patience

Hey all. Thank you for coming to our humble abode. It seems we have been spending more time in the studio and less time here. So, we do want to thank you for your patience as we are working on a facelift in between studio sessions (and video production). Thank you so much, Michael & Deborah Anderson

You know, at first, I was going to say that I wasn’t sure if I agreed. But, he is warm and entertaining and appears to be one of us, as musicians, producers, etc. And, I don’t want to spoil his advice, but he does reiterate it and especially at the end. So, how about we watch the video 🙂

Even those of us who have been doing this for 30 years would agree (and yes, we were doing it before there was software!).

This is a great video by Nu-Trix, the Synth Guy. I didn’t want to steal his thunder, so definitely visit his youtube to get the links to the products that he mentions 😉

And, with that, please show some love for the video owner and his/her YouTube channel (like, share, comment, etc.). And, don’t forget about while you are at it – We love engaging 🙂

It doesn’t matter what type of music a musician plays, whether it is rock, jazz, bluegrass, or country music. Even if they have learned to play music by reading music, they have still listened to music and plucked it out on their instrument.

Hey, I am an accomplished piano player who plays the piano (keyboard, for you modern listeners). And, even though my mother handed me a program to learn how to play by ear, written by an accomplished professor of music and a college known for their music program, it was not the zing that put the learning in my soul. Instead, it was getting down to business and simply tinkering with the piano and playing what I heard. There was really no “program” that did it. Instead, doing it did it! Does that make sense?

You may be afraid that you are too old to play music by ear. But you are not! You can do it!

Where to Start

The key to where to start involves listening.

Even though there are no methods per se that work as well as just doing it, there are tips that may help you on your way.

Practice the Basics

Even though you are going through the process of learning to play by ear, don’t discontinue the basics, the foundation. Keep practicing your chords and challenging yourself of your progress with mastering the instrument.

All of this will help you in the long run when it comes to playing by ear. Also, it helps to make you a great musician.

Method 1: Slowing Down the Music

For example, one tip is to slow down the music so that you can hear it slowly and apply it to your playing on the instrument.

In some cases, you probably don’t have to slow down the music. For example, there are ballads that are already quite slow and you may be able to pick up the tune just by listening to it at normal speed. But, if you cannot, and need to slow down the song, don’t worry. You are still normal and possibly exceptional 😉

It used to be a lot easier years ago when slowing down the music. For example with reel-to-reel, you could just use half the speed of the normal speed. Of course, reel-to-reel is basically ancient these days.

reel-to-reel recording

Some of us may have had the privilege to use reel-to-reel when being trained as a sound engineer, but there are so many digital options that it is not often used these days.

The challenge, when using the reel-to-reel back in the old days was that slowing it down affected the pitch as well. So, it was not necessarily a perfect solution.

And, even with the slowing down that the reel-to-reel provided, at, say, half-speed, it was often too fast for some to catch the music by ear. It has been said that a one-tenth speed is a better speed for most people to learn to play by ear.

The Migration to Digital Recording

While reel-to-reel was convenient, like a flip of the switch, we are actually fortunate that we have moved into the digital age. Fortunate for the reasons listed above, but also because we are more likely to be able to reach the goal of one-tenth the speed or whatever speed we want.

And, you can slow down the music without affecting the pitch! That is huge! I mean, what are you learning to play be ear (notice the “ear” and hearing part of that) when the pitch isn’t right? Are you learning to play something incorrectly?

With digital recording technology, you don’t have to worry about it as much. But, the scope of the how-to is a bit beyond the scope of this article. Usually, it is a slider in the software, where you can use your mouse to change the speed. Of course, it depends on the software, but it is usually fairly easy to find, especially with the user guide that comes with the software.

And, with digital music, it is often fairly easy to import the music into your software. Again, be sure to consult your user guide.


Method 2: Humming the Music Back to Yourself

It is also normal to be confused when listening to a whole band (or orchestra). It can be confusing when you are hearing several notes. If you find yourself drawn to a particular aspect of the song, feel free to go with it. You may be learning the harmony part, but that is ok. It is still complementary to the song and will work for that role. In the case of trying to separate out the different instruments and harmonies and melodies, the “humming” method (below) may help.

Also, slowing down the music may help you to separate out these different parts.

But, another method is to use the humming method. That is where you listen to the music, pick out the melody, and then hum it. You can keep humming as you find the notes on your instrument. The advantage is that you can manage the replay with minimal effort. You can slow down your humming back or speed it up again.

You can also use this method while you are doing something else (like cooking 🙂 ). And, if you have the words typed out and printed, you can stop to write in the chord (note) as you figure it out, but of course that is easier with your instrument than with a pot full of spaghetti, eh?

Do you need some help in reaching your goals for home-cooked meals? Check out the once-a-month meal-planning for 30 days that is done for you! (This is an affiliate link, but love it because it helps me with my once-a-month cooking.)


Why Don’t I Just Buy the Songbook

Surely you could buy the songbook if you like. But, will that make you happy? There is a certain satisfaction that accompanies playing something by ear. Instead of giving credit to those who transcribed the music into a readable sheet music form or included in a songbook, you have cracked the code yourself! You have accomplished it all yourself!

There is some pride in learning to play music by ear!

Granted, if you learned how to play music from a songbook, like I did, as a child (three years old or so), then playing music from something printed in front of me can be relaxing and enjoying. It is like sitting next to a comforting, peaceful stream.

You may also listen at Deborah E, Jazz Singer


If that describes you, then sure, play music with the songbook or sheet music. But, then likely you are not reading this article because you already have it all figured out, playing music by the book or playing it by ear, or any combination thereof, as you please.

But, this article is about the process of learning (or acquiring the ability) to play music by ear.

Method 3: Combination Approach

If you are able to read music, you can use that skill, in combination with your music by ear skill. Use the songbook or sheet music as a quick look to see what the notes are. You can also use it confirm that what you have been coming up with is right on target.

Don’t feel like you are cheating. You are still accomplishing your goal of the ability to play music by ear, but you are using the resources available to you. That is a good thing!

The “Fun Factor”

Part of the reason that it is good to learn how to play music by ear is that it is fun! Just think of the blast you can have at parties. Someone pulls out a guitar and you join right in on the musical fun.

If playing an instrument isn’t your thing, you can practice singing. Sure, it may seem easier but in this case, you can learn how to replicate the tonal aspect of the singing and the little tricks of the voice 😉

Afterall, the voice is an instrument as well!

Of course, as with everything, the more time you spend working on your skill, the better you will get and the faster you will get there!


So, in summary, here are some tips for learning how to play music by ear…

  • Slow down the music so that it is easier to break down the music.
  • Hum the music back to yourself and continue to do so as you repeat that on your instrument.
  • Use a combination method of learning to play by ear and confirming it with a songbook, if that is something you are comfrotable doing.

It all started, the promotion that is, when we enrolled in a team challenge where a bunch of us musicians decided to follow along together through Ariel Hyatt‘s Music Success In 9 Weeks (affiliate).

Oh, we had already produced the album, thanks to our friend Alan O’Day and Denny Martin. The album turned out even more wonderful than we had anticipated. I guess that helps when you are attempting to do well in the stats, eh?

You may also listen at Deborah E, Jazz Singer

Granted, there have not been as many efforts to reach #1 since then and Deborah E has still stayed at #1 for much of the time and even recently hit #4 (and then #3) in the world! But, that is where the quality product comes into the picture.

So, if we broke this down into steps, it is fairly easy:

  1. Create a quality product.
  2. Learn the process of promotion and getting your music to #1.
  3. Maintain your status. This is usually done in the same way that the first step was accomplished.

Now, it is time to go get the book that started it all 🙂 . I don’t say that because of the affiliate status but because Ariel Hyatt and the Music Success In 9 Weeks may not have started it (that was Deborah E) but it definitely got Deborah E’s music out there and provided the opportunity for hitting #1 in Jazz on Reverbnation (and keeping it).

Deborah E Top of the Charts

It is no small wonder that Nintendo Wii has been phenomenally popular and then even more popular than that. Who can resist the cute little cartoon characters and the realistic playing experience, even before virtual reality came on the scene?

Nintendo made a name for itself back in the days of Mario and his brother Luigi and it was as if we were a part of their family. (Or, were they a part of our family?) Either way, it felt as if it was the family time when we sat down to play the popular video games. Then, as guilt may have tried to creep into the mix, warning us that we were spending too much time with our eyeballs glued to the screen, as video game junkies, the Wii gaming system was introduced to the public.

Now, it was not a case of playing video games, but it was a case of exercising, which is good (no, exceptional) for the health and it was a case of spending time with the family. Now, we were no longer a globe full of slothful people sitting in our rundown hole-in-the-seat chairs, eating Cheetos and spilling sodas on the stained carpet, but we were athletic, in-shape, healthy people (or so we told ourselves).

According to Nintendo, they are a bit at odds with the idea of virtual reality (VR). Then, again, hasn’t Nintendo pretty much always done what they wanted to do? Isn’t that part of the mystique and intrigue of the company and its products? It is a leader of the pack and Nintendo doesn’t wait to be told what to do. Instead, they tell the rest of the world what the rest of the world should be doing. Such is the case with Wii and such is the case for a lack of need (or desire) for VR.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For those individuals who do not necessarily want to take the full plunge into VR, there are other options. For example, there is still the option of playing the games available on the Nintendo systems, including Wii. It is not like there is a marriage commitment, but rather a choice that is made each time a player moves forward. That person decides what he or she is going to do for that moment, whether it is VR, Nintendo Wii, or something else.

Virtual Reality Coming on the Scene

Already, there is a sense of virtual essence within the gaming system. That is part of Nintendo’s framework, so in that sense, they are ahead of the game.

Trying to compare Nintendo Wii to a 3D VR experience would be like comparing the game of ping pong (with a partner) to that of a ping-pong table folded up against a wall, for the single player. The ping pong table up against the wall in the basement is a solo event. But, the activity of going to the local pub and singing Karaoke is not solo. One is a singular event of improving oneself and the other is a social experience. While there may be a crossover between the two events, they are not the same. One involves the building of the community and social growth. The other involves the personal and physical growth of that individual.

Now, let’s add some color to our example. Let’s say there are ping pong tables and Karaoke at the local pub. Playing ping pong in your basement (with the half table) is a solo event. However, going to the local pub on Friday night and playing ping pong or singing Karaoke is a social event. It is a social experience.

One involves the building of the community and social growth. The other involves the personal and physical growth of that individual.

Back to Nintendo Wii and VR? They are different events (like ping pong compared to Karaoke), but they can be used in different ways (whether a solo event or a social experience). So, at the end of the day, if someone wants to skip VR and play Nintendo Wii, why not let them? To each his own, no matter what the definition is.