“Say” rhythm, harmony and melody as naturally as speaking words

As children we learned basic things: colours, shapes, numbers, letters, words and all the familiar objects in our world. That is how you must learn to use the principles and elements of music. If you listen to music and enjoy it, you already have a passive or unconscious grasp of musical language. Your inner musician was trained from birth and it is powerful. It understands the deep meanings that music conveys. You must trust your inner musician completely. This course sets out the kind of focused practice that will set your inner musician free. Sadly most people today, including the majority of trained musicians, lack full musical fluency. A fluent musician can:

PLAY BY EAR – Play any music we can remember (fluency is not the ability to recall music – most of us already have this ability after hearing a piece of music enough times)
IMPROVISE – Make up music on the spot without any pre-existing melody or chord sequence etc.
SIGHT-READ FLUENTLY – Look at an unfamiliar score and hear it playing in our imagination just as we subvocalise and understand words as we read‎ text. This skill makes learning new music quicker and easier.

So musical fluency and fluency in language are similar. Once you know the elements of rhythm and tonality and their underlying structures, you can express music on the keys as naturally as speaking in your native language, rather than merely executing it passively which is the current norm. A true musician with deep passion for music has no desire to create sterile, formulaic music. Fluency gives you access to the inexplicable magic that even a simple phrase can possess when it comes from your body and soul and there is no gap between your musical imagination and the sounds you create spontaneously. By contrast, when we devise music using theory, set formulae, show and play instructions or even using algorithms in music software, the results inevitably lack that spark.

The skills that a fluent keyboard player possesses form an excellent foundation for songwriting, composing, arranging and producing music. Because there is no gap between your musical imagination and the piano keys, you have the ability to create music with more speed but less effort. You ultimately become a musical sponge, easily studying and creating music across many different styles and genres whilst also finding a deeper connection to your own personal unique musical voice.

Imagine knowing and understanding elements of rhythmic and tonal vocabulary on the keys just as you do words in language: once you remember any music, you can “say” it with your fingers!

Playing by ear – what it is and what it isn’t!

A fluent keyboard musician “tags” elements of music in real time. These elements must be easy enough to hear and imagine within the space of the keyboard so that no time is required for processing or working out. Tagging elements of musical language instantly, in real time means that you don’t need to stop the flow in order to work anything out. Notes, intervals and chords and other conventional theoretical elements are too difficult to recognise to be useful in real time. Also, we think of them in a linear way that is unmusical. When we internalise a simple model of rhythm and tonality, we make the sounds we want to with our fingers on the keys, directly and instantly, as self-expression, not execution. We communicate real meaning from within.

A common misconception about playing by ear is that someone with that skill can play a piece after just one hearing. Could you recite a 3-minute poem verbatim after listening to it just once? Of course not! Playing by ear is the ability to play any music you can remember. Most of us can remember music when we have heard it a few times, especially if we like it. And when we hear it playing in our heads, it is naturally in the right key, with the right rhythms. Fluency is the skill to identify and reproduce or “understand” and “say” elements of musical language that make up all music and not just whole melodies or pieces of music. This skill involves no decoding, no rehearsal leading to correct execution, and no trial and error. It is instant and spontaneous.

Fluency is built on meaning. We mean words when we speak language fluently, we don’t merely execute them correctly. So assuming you understood the meaning of a three-minute poem, even after just once hearing, you could tell someone the gist of it and maybe remember a few phrases or words that really struck you. So it is with playing music by ear. As long as you understood it fully and clearly noticed and identified the tonal and rhythmic elements as they went by, you will be able to play the gist of it even though you won’t remember it note-for-note. That said, remembering music precisely, is much quicker when you are fluent.