How To Play Piano Chords By Ear

Having been in the music industry for well over 30 years, I have met many “play by ear pianists” who have great talent, however who’s relationship with their piano sadly originated in the wrong fashion. They discarded a golden rule in learning how to play piano chords by ear and as a result had been restricting their own piano playing skill. Overeager to learn to play piano chords they quickly learned the progression of three primary piano chords related to a specific pitched key, normally that of the key of C, and hampered by ignorance with regard to basic fundamentals, they lack ability to proceed beyond that point. Generally not in favor of learning sheet music notation “play by ear” musicians often fall victim to the said practice.Yes, there is indeed a right way and a wrong way of going about learning how to play piano/ chords by ear. A person who is serious in becoming a skillful pianist should strive from the very beginning to learn to play the piano in all twelve different pitched keys, as well as becoming familiar with the progression of at least twelve different piano chords in each pitched key. Yes, it is indeed possible, however, only by commitment and lots of practice, meaning that the student determines his/her own success.Contrary to the pianist capable of playing from sheet music notation, the play by ear pianist, totally dependentable on his/her auditive perception, needs to be suitably equipped for the task of playing the piano. It can be compared with driving a motor vehicle. In order to get the engine to start and perform its duties, there needs to be fuel in the tank. Likewise, a piano requires fuel in order to perform at its maximum efficiency. Well…not exactly the same type that one would use to fill up your car’s tank. The fuel I am talking about in this case is better known as: piano chords. Yes, metaphorically spoken, piano chords are the fuel required by the piano in order to fire on all its cylinders. Once the driver has started the vehicle, he steers it into motion and he submits to his senses detecting as to when to switch to which gear and he enjoys a pleasant journey. The same principle applies to playing piano chords by ear. Acquaintance with the basic fundamentals of western music, enables one to start off at the right point and to submit to one’s senses detecting as to when to switch to which chord and lets you enjoy a pleasant music journey. Question: How should one start learning to play piano chords by ear? Answer: Start off by familiarizing yourself with the layout of the piano keyboard.
*Set yourself a long-term goal as to what you want to achieve.
*Break up your long-term goal into a specific number of daily goals.
*Endeavor not to deviate from this goal.
Learning the piano keyboard:
*Learn the names and arrangement of the 7 natural notes/keys of the C major scale e.g. ascending:
C-D-E-F-G-A-B and descending: B-A-G-F-E-D-C
*Use masking tape and a marker to label each key with its note name. Once you are familiar with the note names the masking tape can be peeled off without leaving residue.
*Learn the repeating octaves e.g. C-D-E-F-G-A-B-[C] or: E-F-G-A-B-C-D-[E] etc.- ascending and descending.
*Learn the names and the functions of the 5 modifiers (black keys) – sharps/ascending and flats/ descending. Sorry I don’t know how to format the “sharp” and “flat” symbols so that it shows up here. *Start each practice session by running your fingers over several octaves, ascending and descending, every time covering a full Chromatic scale.
*Practice frequently!
Be on the lookout for more tips on how to learn to play piano chords by ear.
Good luck!

About Author
My name is Wouter Nel. I have been in the music industry for over 30 years. See my downloadable e-book in PDF format, titled: Play Piano Chords by Ear on

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