When it really comes down to it, my real drive is writing music. That’s my passion. I love to write music. I love to sit down at a piano and play something that has never been heard by anyone before. I love to bring to life a brand new piece of music, and then either develop it into a full composition, or allow it to disappear back into the abyss where I found it. That may sound a bit strange or sad – the idea of playing a brand new piece of music for the very first time, and then forgetting it, never to be heard again. But to me, there is something magical about such a piece. It’s as if it has a life and world of its own, making a brief appearance in our world, only to disappear back into its own dimension, never to be heard again.
I may discuss music in terms of its birth and life, since, quite honestly, I can’t think of what else to compare it to. When a person sits down at a piano and plays something new that has never been played before by anyone, I call this playing by heart, because it requires more feeling than skill. Don’t confuse this with the more common usage of ‘playing by heart’, which refers to playing by memory. While that may be the more common use of the term, I’ll stick to my own usage.
I also ought to tell you that the style I generally write is piano solo music, sometimes new-age or easy listening. Much of what I say will refer more specifically to that style, but the basic concepts apply to jazz, rock, pop, classical, international, and most other types of music.
I also hope that while I will focus on learning the piano by ear, you will be able to use the concepts with whatever instrument you play. After starting to learn the piano, I began finding interest in other instruments. I discovered in doing this that the principles of playing by ear are for the most part, the same with all instruments, and I believe that playing by ear and writing by heart are pretty much the same no matter what instrument you play. The only real differences are in the technical aspects the instrument itself. A piano is fingering only, while playing a flute also includes such things as breath control. A drum may be hitting, while a guitar is plucked or strummed, but once you learn how to make notes, the ear and heart become the real instruments.
If nothing else comes of this series, I hope you come to the realization that you can play music by ear, and that it’s not nearly as difficult as you may think. I promise you, if you’re willing to make the effort, you have the ability to play by ear, and write by heart.