Reading Music vs Playing By Ear

“I’ve always wanted to take piano lessons but the idea of having to start from scratch and learning how to read music kind of scares me a little. Do I have to learn this way?”

Why do we love this question? Because it contains a wealth of information that represents, in whole or in part, the mind set of so many adults who interested in lessons but never scheduled that first lesson.

Within that very common question exists many implications. For one, it implies that one must learn to read music in order to make music. It also implies that each and every individual who signs up and participates in Lesson #1 is subject to the exact same routine – i.e., page #1 of Book 1 opens and the discussion begins, “this is a G,” etc.

Well, that actually is the way it goes with many music studios , which can lead to more new students quitting within the first month than sticking it out. However, that isn’t the way we approach things. Each person’s situation is unique and, thus, treated with respect.

I Can’t Read. Can I Play?

So, is playing music really contingent on reading music? Well, the fact that there are many musicians out there who can’t discern an A from a B on a music staff gives us that answer. That said, do you open your possibilities when you know how to read? Of course.

Why Not Both?

Playing by ear is a topic discussed a lot in our studio. Yes, it takes the right teacher to be able to help you with that. If you have questions about this, share them with us. That said, we would like to say that the musician who can read music and play by ear experiences his or her world of music with deeper insight and appreciation. While we like support and nurture a person’s musical education this way, we are very sensitive and receptive to a student’s specific goals.

Let’s Talk About It

The key is to communicate your intentions upfront with your prospective teacher. You see, the majority of beginning piano students approach that first lesson wondering if he or she has what it takes. A better, more beneficial mind set might be, “Can this piano teacher help me with what I want to learn? “