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Playing by Ear with Stephen Marquiss


Jackdaws Piano Tutor Stephen MarquissPlaying by Ear for Pleasure and Technique
with Stephen Marquiss

Friday 16 – Sunday 18 October 2020

Level: All
Fee: £240

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.


Helpful skills:

  • 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

Please bring:

  1. 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)
  2. The title of at least one example of a genre that you’d like to be able to play by ear from recordings


All courses are held at Jackdaws in Great Elm, a small village to the west of Frome in Somerset, approximately 14 miles south of Bath. Frome Train station is just 3 miles from Jackdaws with direct trains from Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and London.

A £50 deposit is required to secure your place on this course.

Course Fee
The Course Fee is inclusive of all meals, refreshments and tuition at Jackdaws, except Breakfast which is included in the separate B&B fee.

The balance payments for fees are due 3 weeks before the course start date, as indicated on your deposit receipt. Balance payments can be made by bank transfer (BACS info sent out with reminder email).

Accommodation Fees are payable in addition to the Course Fee. Jackdaws will take care of booking your accommodation; B&B rooms will be allocated a few weeks before the course starts, and we will send you details of where you are staying. B&B rates start at £40 per night (single room, shared bathroom) and from £50 (en suite, subject to availability) including booking fee.

If you are vegetarian/vegan or have any food allergies you must let us know in advance, so that our cooks can plan the meals for the weekend accordingly. All meals and refreshments (except breakfast) are prepared and served at Jackdaws by our dedicated cooks, Loo and Alex. We are ‘allergy aware’, but we rely on participants letting us know if they have specific food allergies. Please also let us know if you carry any emergency medication.

During the weekend, lunch and dinner will be served at Jackdaws, following appropriate social distancing measures.

In the event that this course is unable to take place in person as advertised because of Covid -19 restrictions nationally or locally, we aim, where feasible, to provide alternative provision to allow this course to run online at a reduced rate. You will receive guidance on participating, alternative timetables and assistance in getting set up. You will also have the option to withdraw your place and receive a full refund, or transfer it to another course within the same season.

Please visit our Covid-19 Secure page for more information.

By booking onto a Jackdaws course you agree to abide by our Covid-19 risk mitigation measures, Terms and Conditions, and understand the Privacy Policy regarding our handling of your data.


Jackdaws Music Education Trust
Great Elm
Frome, Somerset
BA11 3NY
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Start Date: October 16, 2020
End Date: October 18, 2020

Start Time: 6:30 pm
End Time: 4:00 pm

Price: £50.00

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