Playing by Ear for Pleasure and Technique
with Stephen Marquiss
Friday 16 – Sunday 18 October 2020
View Online Course Timetable
Cultivate real-world aural skills and enjoy effective, flowing day-to-day practice.
Many of the great pianists have or had perfect pitch. Their fluent, expressive coordination is driven by their clear aural ‘imprint’ of the music in their mind’s ear. For those not blessed with this rare trait, this course offers meaningful, practical tools for developing excellent relative pitch.
Reorienting your practice towards hearing the musical details facilitates every aspect of technique and helps to eliminate excess tension. It also opens the door to entertaining at parties.
This course features a range of activities for cultivating ‘inner hearing’ for playing genuinely by ear. This is different from playing from chord symbols or memorised chord sequences, rote-learning or muscle memory, all of which have their distinct role. The outcome is to be able to listen to a recording of your chosen music and reproduce it on the piano. With practice, you can do this increasingly quickly and easily. It may help you to develop the related skill of harmonising melodies yourself by ear, which is beyond the scope of this course.
Subjects covered include:
- Tonic so-fa for pianists
- Scales as aural frameworks, not technical exercises
- Intervals as allies – not Theory
- Hearing and reproducing melodies, bass lines and chords
- Meaningful daily aural practices
- Playing by ear from the score – reorienting your repertoire learning
- Playing by ear for fluent, expressive technique
This course will be oriented towards your repertoire suggestions and will not follow a traditional ‘masterclass’ format. It will comprise whole-group, small-group (if Covid-19 policies permit) and one-to-one activities on rotation. There will be no appraisal of interpretation – only activities to empower all to play by ear.
Requirements: Suitable for all levels, especially those who feel bound by the score and unable to hear and reproduce music by ear, even if able to read to an intermediate to advanced level.
- to be able to pick out major and minor scales at different starting pitches (not necessary to be able ‘perform’ them, exam-style)
- to understand the concept of triads in different inversions (seventh chords a bonus)
- to understand basic major and minor intervals (diminished and augmented a bonus). To already be able to hear the sound of basic intervals is a double bonus – e. g. perfect 5th sounds like Twinkle, twinkle
- At least one score of a piano piece/movement/section that you don’t yet play fluently but would like to be able to (you won’t have to sit and perform it to the group unless you want to, having worked at it during the weekend)
- The title of at least one example of a genre that you’d like to be able to play by ear from recordings
This course will take place on Zoom. You will require your own instrument, webcam, microphone and internet connection to participate. We will receive guidance on participating, alternative timetables and assistance in getting set up if required.
A £50 deposit is required to secure your place on this course; remaining balance payable 3 weeks before the course start.