Learn how to play by ear
For many people, the thought of playing “by ear” or being able to anticipate the chords, notes and musical charges in a song you’ve never heard before seems like an impossible task. It’s often considered a gift rather than a skill that can be learned and constantly improved on. Yet, as church based musicians we often have repertoires that consist of perhaps 150 songs that we need to be able to lead confidently in, and preferably without having to locate the music at a moments’ notice. Alternatively, if you’re in the type of church where someone starts a spontaneous worship song wouldn’t it be nice to be able to locate the right key and anticipate what chord is coming next?
And for songwriters too, wouldn’t it be good to be able to hear and try out every chord that is available to us in any key rather than just try to shoehorn the melodies we create into familiar chord sequences that can make a new song sound a bit predictable. Alternatively if we create a melody line that goes just too high for our congregation to sing, how do we know what the correct chords will be if we find that the melody best works in a lower and unfamiliar key? And for some of us who haven’t had any formal musical training, what on earth is a ‘key’ anyway?
Getting familiar with this ‘music theory’ that frees us to know exactly what to play over any song we hear is not the daunting process it appears and couples a little theoretical knowledge with honing your ‘musical ear’. This skill of playing by ear can be developed in the same way as anyone can improve their musicianship, with practice, patience and most importantly, by increasing your musical listening skills. Read More