Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/relative pitch


Someone told me that the whole idea is to develop your relative pitch, being able to identify elements of the music in comparison to a known reference.
I want to learn how to play by ear but it's so difficult as I don't have absolute pitch. Let's say I have an easy song with a nice saxophone melody in the intro and I would like to figure out how to play that melody on my keyboard. Now, where do I, with only relative pitch, start in order to succed and find out the melody?


   questions: how to develop relative pitch?  how to play by ear? how to pick out a melody on the keyboard? (WITHOUT ABSOLUTE PITCH skills?)  It seems these are your concerns here? have it got that right?  

   a) develop relative pitch is like learning the audible COLORS of tones like learning the visual colors of paint or light...  it is a memory development and yes there is also a comparison to a known reference.. so if you have pitch pipe skill or a tuning fork skill of using a standard or even an app on a tablet that plays pitches for you, you can hunt and peck your notes to find the exact notes to duplicate.. Usually helps to have a working knowledge of scale tones and how those notes relate.. Most people that I know (without any background on this) usually do the trial and error method with a keyboard so they sing and hunt for that note remembering how that melody was played..

   b) playing by ear is a more developed skill (down the road) that uses the knowledge of scale tones to duplicate that melody or chord on the piano.. so that people who improvise have a high level of playing what they HEAR IN THEIR HEAD, much like a sculptor who carves an image out of a block of wood or clay..

    c)  Picking out a melody on the keyboard is (as mentioned in A above) IS A COMBINATION of many skills..  when I hear a melody on the radio or cd or in concert, I am envisioning the notes I hear, in my head and come to the piano and play what I heard because I have heard a melody in connection to the scale tones and in connection with a general feeling of what key the melody is in and can sit down and play that melody WITH a harmony and rhythm I choose to use. None of this came easily for me, but it was in my desire to develop this from my days in college, and after many years of developing the above mentioned skills and learning how to use them, I am now able to do this (as you say you'd like to do, LEARN HOW TO PLAY BY EAR) after many years of practicing and listening to others and reading, and copying, watching those that can do this.. I have not been a ''natural gift'' of playing by ear, and I am not a person that was blessed with a skill that came like a ''talent'' but yet I can do as you want to do, SO MY SUGGESTION IS THAT you acquire the skills on your quest to learning to play by ear... and in the journey make sure you are as proficient on the keyboard as you need to be to PLAY the music you hear others doing that you want to copy....

chuck (there are piano teachers that can teach ''playing b y  ear'' - SEEK OUT john mehegan piano course to studyt also)

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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I am a professional musician, I can play by ear, I arrange music write music, teach music in the public school system, and teach privately. My father was a school music teacher, and I have written three volumes for teaching beginning string players, taking them from scratch to high school level. I have performed in a local production of Music Man (musical) with celebrities John Davidson/Susan Watson and have my masters degree in education. I retired from the classroom in 2004 with 38 yrs. experience-now still substituting for music- and writing arr. for my cello trio(with two audio cd's and one dvd of a performance) I have directed church choirs and am principal cellist in our local community orchestra. I really love to arrange music for the groups I perform in and sing and have music in my life every day. A day without music, is a mistake, like having a day without sunshine.


Employment history: I have been employed by our local school district since 1967 as a music teacher from grades 1-12 Organizations: I play cello principal chair in the local community orchestra, and sing in a chorus,and perfom in a barbershop quartet

Education: My early life in high school and college was summer workshops in choral conducting with founder of Westminster Choir College (N.J.) Dr. John F.Williamson (in Who`s Who in Music) and summer workshops with Robert Shaw in San Diego Grad. of Sacramento STate Univ.and masters from Univ. of La VErne, ca

Awards: awarded the Bank of America award in my high school senior year for music

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