Ear training in Piano Lessons

Are you learning to play by ear in your piano lessons?

Austin, Texas is the “Live Music Capital of the World”.  So, we’ve got our fair share of musicians–especially pianists and other keyboard players.

There seem to be two types of pianists in the world:  those that play by music, and those that play by ear.

But those two skills need not be mutually exclusive, and should not be.  All too often students who learn to play by ear do so on their own, with or without formal piano lessons. They learn incredibly valuable lessons that way, but may miss out on the thousands, if not millions, of pieces available in print.  They also miss out on the teacher who can guide their understanding of music theory, correct posture and hand positioning issues, and introduce them to the “standard” literature.  While play-by-ear pianists may be able to pick up simple classical pieces in that method, they are going to be hard-pressed to recreate more complex pieces simply by listening.

On the other side of the coin are students who are very carefully taught technique and the standard literature in the course of their piano lessons, but couldn’t play “Happy Birthday” or “Yankee Doodle” without sheet music.

Strange as it may seem, it is easier to teach a pianist who plays by ear to play from sheet music than it is to teach the sheet-music taught pianist to play by ear.

There are so many things that have a well-tuned ear helps with:

  1. You hear mistakes more easily.
  2. You begin to innately understand music theory, even though you may not have the terminology for it yet.
  3. You build a direct connection between your ears and fingers.
  4. You’ll actually learn music faster.

If you are taking piano lessons now, or intend to soon, ask your teacher if he’ll be helping you develop that skill. This includes two critical learning areas: ear training and sight singing.  In music school, we affectionately called that “ear-straining” and “sight-screaming”!  Ear training is designed to get your ear tuned to hearing melodies, rhythms, chords and intervals. Sight-singing is designed to get you to be able to reproduce melodies and rhythms without the aid of a keyboard.  For instance, you may know where a C and F# are on the keyboard, but can you HEAR that and name it?  Can you sing it?  Those are key skills in developing your ability to play by ear.

Once you become proficient with these skills, you can sit down and play the most kick-butt rendition of Happy Birthday your friends have ever heard–not because you have the sheet music, but because you know how you want it to sound.

Piano Lessons in Cedar Park, TX


Coronavirus giving you a case of “cabin fever”?  Break up the monotony! We now offer dual-cam online lessons (one cam on the teacher, another on the keyboard) so you can hear, and see in crystal-clear fidelity. Some students find it better than in-person lessons because they get to see so much more!

Piano Lessons in Cedar Park

The Austin Center for Musical Excellence teaches piano lessons, both in-person and online, in Cedar Park, TX.   Get your children going on a new lifetime skill, or pick up lessons where you left off, or even start a new hobby.  The Austin Center for Musical Excellence is committed to making musical experience FUN!

Near the border of Cedar Park and Austin, we are convenient to Anderson Mill, Buttercup Creek, Oakwood Glen, and lots of other metro Northwest neighborhoods.

Our Studio

When you learning piano, you’ll want to be working with the finest pianos.  After all, if you’re learning to drive a car, you don’t start by hopping in your Big Wheel!  Our two Mason and Hamlin grand pianos are concert-quality. Mason & Hamlin is revered by piano aficionados as one of the highest quality pianos ever built. And if you are studying computer-based music and composition, we utilize graded and fully-weighted keyboards to simulate the action of a real grand piano.

Above and beyond piano lessons, we also offer computer-based music notation, recording, electronic keyboards and digital audio workstations (DAW).

Gee, I Wish I Had Learned to Play Football…

Never heard that one… but I have heard countless friends and new acquaintances wish out loud that they had learned to play piano. And like so many others, you may have sitting in your living room or den a dusty, unplayed piano. Dust it off, and learn a valuable skill you can enjoy for the rest of your life!  I love working with adults, and I have good reasons for that:

  1. Adults are highly motivated, and consequently very dedicated
  2. They understand that the easy way is anything but easy
  3. And adults understand the importance of establishing priorities.

Don’t let age stand be an excuse for not getting started.  We’ve worked with all ages, and know for a fact that age is just a number!