How to Play Piano By Ear

How to Play Piano by Ear by Brent McCollough

Over the past six years I have spent teaching hundreds of students how to play piano by ear, I have experienced first-hand countless mistakes that modern day piano teachers make. How many times have you heard somebody say, “Ahh, I used to play piano but I quit…I really wish I had stuck with it!” Well the absolute truth is, it’s not that person’s fault that they quit. Teachers these days shove books in front of you and tell you to play what’s on the page. But the reality is that most of the musicians out there playing piano for a living did NOT learn that way!

The absolute best pianists in the industry that are getting hired all the time all have one thing in common: they play piano by ear.

Playing piano by ear has become this mystical thing that everybody thinks is a gift, or that there are only certain people that can do it. However, this is not the case. So many people eliminate themselves from being able to play by ear by convincing themselves that it is impossible before they even try it!

Playing piano by ear is just as easy as playing guitar by ear, but is incredibly more uncommon. Why is this? Because on guitar your teacher starts you out by teaching you chords and showing you how to apply those chords to the songs you want to learn. And before you even realize it, you’re playing the songs you wanted to learn in a matter of a few hours.

Well unfortunately most of the piano teachers start out teaching you how to read music you don’t understand and setting you on a training path that is only meant for people who want to be classical performers!

Now what would happen if we taught piano the same way we are so used to teaching guitar? I wonder…

I have been playing piano by ear for over 15 years and am a professional keyboardist that is in high demand because of my ability to play by ear. I have taught both guitar and piano to students ranging from age 5 to 47 years old, and have successfully been able to teach every one of them how to play by ear.

I have seen and heard countless students say they took classical lessons for years and then finally quit piano. And what do they have to show for it? Absolutely nothing. These students that spent an impressive amount of hours learning piano technique and how to read and perform classical music were unhappy and 99.9% of them could not remember how to play a single song from all the years they played piano.

As one of the very few piano teachers that teach how to play by ear, this is extremely upsetting to me. There seems to be a serious disconnect between the piano teachers and piano students in this world, and it needs to stop. I don’t know about you, but I wanted to learn how to play piano so that I could express myself and learn all of the songs I enjoyed listening to. I guarantee that if I had started out in classical piano lessons, I would have been exactly like every other casualty that I have heard about. And it’s only getting worse.

Naturally, 99.9% of those pianists that happened to stick through all of those classical lessons end up teaching because there is such little demand for classically trained pianists outside of traditional churches and symphonies. And do you think these classically trained pianists are going to teach their students how to play by ear? Of course not…they are going to teach their students exactly how they were taught.

So now you see the problem. But how can we fix this? The solution is simple. We need to teach more people how to play piano by ear.

And that is exactly what I have set out to do. Since teachers like me are greatly outnumbered by classical piano teachers, I wanted to use the internet to our advantage. So I have put together a complete online program that is fun, fast, and straightforward for teaching anybody how to play piano by ear. In just a few weeks you will be able to play your favorite songs on piano with ease, and really enjoy it at the same time.

Here are the steps in order of how to learn piano by ear:

1) Learn the basics of scales and chords

2) Learn how chords fit together in any given key

3) Apply these chords to songs you are familiar with and learn them in all 12 keys

4) Learn more chords and more songs

5) Learn the two magic scales for improvisation over any song and practice using them

6) Have fun and enjoy getting better every day!

Sounds pretty simple right? It is. If you’re interested in checking out the program, click here for more information. If you have any questions about the program or want to help teach people how to play piano by ear, email me at If you’d like to find out more about me and watch some videos of me, click here.

Can’t wait to see you on the other side!

-Brent McCollough

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