Learning by ear or by rote?

In my last post, I discussed playing by ear versus playing by test. This post is the difference between learning by ear or by rote. There are programs where you use neither of these techniques to learn, and some who claim to use one, but is actually using the other. Learning by ear requires training the student to hear a melody, rhythm or chord pattern, and then be able to play it back with reasonable accuracy. Many instrument training courses now come with a CD, so the student has an idea what the piece should sound like as they begin learning. I usually ask my students to only listen to a piece when they first start playing it. Oftentimes, these recordings are played at a very quick tem

Playing by ear or by test?

Over my thirty years of teaching, I have had parents approach me and say, usually with pride, "my child plays by ear." When the child sits down to play for me, I find out he/she is NOT playing by ear, but by test. What is the difference? When you play by ear, you should be able to go to the instrument, and on your first try, be able to play either exactly or reasonably close to accurately what you have just heard or memorized. Mozart reputedly could do this from a young age. This requires a good musical memory, and the ability to recognize pitch and patterns without trying them out repeatedly on the instrument. When you play by test, which many students who claim to play by ear are actual

Meaningful Critiques

As a working church musician, I often hear from church members "loved the music today" or "great job, as usual." Like most people, I like to be appreciated, but in order for me to do my best, I need useful feedback. You do not have to be an expert in music to help me do a better job, and you do not have to criticize, which nice people do not enjoy doing. Just tell me, in your own way, what you "loved" at this particular service, or if it is a concert, at this particular performance. Which piece did you like the best? How did it make you feel? Did it remind you of something you have seen or heard? One piano piece I played recently was based on Psalm 23. The middle section was arpeggios

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