Child resting on piano keys
music manuscript

Music by Way of Imitation

When I was young, I thought that music was an art that lived in the manuscripts of great composers. Classical music was on the top strata of the most respected play list in popular broadcast media. If you read music, then you can play anything. As far as the music business goes, “the publisher makes a greater percentage of the money”.

Educators felt that note reading was the only way to enter the world of the musician. Private lessons and public schools offered a set reading system. Learning to read music was the only option available to entering the world of becoming an instumentalist.

Contrary to this, Most musicians first got involved in music through imitation. We act out what we enjoy and desire to become. Then we are told, “In order to become good at that you have to do this”.

Now, lessons from schooled musicians is all well and good, but too much theory buries creative growth of the artist within.

Short of memorizing the music, we stopped playing when music sheet was taken away. It was like we were addicted to the sheet music. It was like, reading out loud from a book and suddenly the pages went blank. Music was strongly dependent on theory and notation understanding.

Music Verses the Muse?

Notation is a system of writing music to be reproduced by the reader’s interpretation of the many symbols representing the pitch, time, rhythm, volume and articulation, etc of the piece before the reader. Where did composers have the mystic genius to make up such stuff?  Where did such a muse come from?

The manuscripts that they created were once blank sheets of paper or empty staves. Many writers don’t use staff paper to sketch their ideas on. Many artists learn the song by listening to a recording or performance and making assumptions of the harmonic content or “chords” they hear. Writing down ideas was not dependent on the notation system, but on musical memory of patterns singing in their heads.

Classic composers were engaged with melodies of their own idols. As the musician in us emerges and is influenced by our paradigm of the world crafts its song, we develop the tools we need.


Beethoven father was a court musician. His followed his stormy moods, from the Classic, Romantic and Heroic Period.  Beethoven is a transistion figure in the history of western music.

Teachers Develop Music Consumers

Music teachers develop students that become consumers of sheet music. Therefore, the instrumentalist whom wishes to play something that he/she has in their head with look to the publisher for a copy of the music. Then they get a folio or sheet of the artist’s music and work out the performance from the written arrangement. Teachers are programed to be readers.

There are musicians who have allowed their ears to interpret the pitches directly to their instrument. About 8% of musicians have a desire to bridge that gap by trusting what they internally hear and bring it directly to their instrument. You could say that about 90% of musicians are brainwashed that reading is the only way. It’s the way it has always been done. I was taught that reading was the correct thing to do.

piano teacher

Playing by Ear - Really?

A student, similar to many of my own students, want to learn to play piano. As majority of teachers are readers, they feel that the student is asking, “How do you do it”? The teacher learned to read music and teaches the same system.

Ear training is more organic and increases the awareness between the instrument and the musical ideas within the player.

Jazz musicians learn to write down the notes they hear. This is a good habit to building the ear. Some musicians can go right to their instrument and imitate the sounds directly. Understanding how to transcribe music to read at a later date, is a good way to learn. Understanding what the ear has heard, they play back the sounds from their audio memory.

ear training

Auditory VS Reading Skills

Both directions of playing music are worthy. The creative musician wants faster results and to play “on the fly” and the “by ear” student would get great benefits learning the system of notation.

Our reading musician would enjoy the freedom of interpreting songs of their favorite artists without the need of a score. The by ear trained musician interprets what he/she has heard before.

A musician whom relies on solely on reading as their basic “go to” method of playing is slow to embark on the processes of developing a good ear.

I call this audio to tactile awareness. Visual and cognitive abilities  become less important as the auditory and tactile signals grow stronger.

In Conclusion

Interval Ear Trainer​ - QUIZ

Interval Song Examples Chart - LEARN INTERVALS


Continue Ear Training

Most of the training of my ear is done away from my instrument. Having a piano is all too covenant. The ear tools are there in your brain, but without labels to access them by. Therefore, using a piano while being needful at first, is not going to help developing instant access to the pitches.

There are two ways we acquire knowledge of pitch:

  1. Absolute Pitch (called Perfect Pitch) and
  2. Relative Pitch (commonly using a reference tone).

Relative Pitch is what 90 – 95% of people like you and I have. Absolute Pitch is rare, and it’s a birth thing that happens, but rarely.

Working with Relative Pitch will reveal if you have and tendency towards Prefect Pitch and came properly name the notes you hear like colors in the rainbow.

If you have experienced music, and you can identify songs in less than 12 notes, then you have have good ears and just have to understand what a gift you have.
A teacher can open your ears just like when you open your eyes to see. When you say “Red” it is because that is the label your mom or dad told you it was.

Ear Training Tools



  • Help you to enhance your sense of rhythm, play accurately and improve your musical awareness.
  • Tempo range: 40-208 bpm. Beat selection:0,2,3,4,6.



Performance Plus
Pitch Pipes (C to C)

  • KORG Tuner and metronome functions can be used simultaneously or independently
  • Large backlit display for improved visibility; twice the battery life of the tm-50
  • A wide detection range of c1-c8 supports a broad range of instruments
  • Metronome ranges from 30 to 252 beats/minute; three types of tempo settings and 15 rhythm variations
  • Convenient memory backup function and Auto power-off.

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