Playing by ear

Aviva doesn’t want piano lessons, but lately she has been figuring out a lot of songs by ear–everything from Adele to The Jungle Book.

With both piano and poetry, I was taught to learn to read the music first, to internalize the rules of form before I could rightfully start breaking them down. I began taking piano lessons by choice when I was about Pearl’s age, and continued until my teens before abandoning lessons.

These days when I sit down to play, I usually improvise, leaning forward into the imperfect results of an undisciplined practice. But George Winston’s “Thanksgiving” was one of the first songs I played by ear, sometime in high school, and I return to it every so often, when I don’t know what else to play or just feel like writing, without all the words.

3 thoughts on “Playing by ear

  1. Beth says:

    I play this song (but on the i-pod not the piano, unfortunately) whenever I need to calm or center myself. Beautiful playing, Jena. I am thankful for you!


  2. Robin says:

    My older sister and I were both required to take piano lessons and we had the same teacher, who came to the house to do my sister’s lesson first and then mine. She must have been about 7 when she started, so I was only about 4.

    I can still remember how irritated the piano teacher always got with me because I would play my sister’s practice songs by ear instead of my own with the music. It happened again and again until he finally refused to do my lessons.

    This is when my parents realized I needed glasses. I didn’t even know there WAS sheet music because I couldn’t see it! I thought you were supposed to play by sound!

    It still cracks me up to think about this!



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