Learning to Play by Ear: Final Results

I will be using Alain Benbassats app, Functional Ear Trainer, to try and learn to play piano by ear within a two week timeframe.

Functional Ear Trainer

I will be using Alain Benbassat’s app, Functional Ear Trainer, to try and learn to play piano by ear within a two week timeframe.

If you have not read the previous articles in this blog series, this post likely won’t make sense. The first week’s post can be found here, and the second post is here.

These past three weeks of learning to play songs by ear have finally come to a close. Below, I present my final results.

To summarize, my goal for the past few weeks has been to hone my sense of pitch using the Functional Ear Trainer App and learn to identify and reproduce the melody of a pop song on the piano. I managed to do this fairly successfully, but with a minor shortcut and some trial and error.

Unfortunately, I was unable to immediately recognize all of the notes in Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” This was slightly disappointing, but it is what I expected. It is unreasonable to expect myself, or anyone else for that matter, to learn a skill in a month that takes most musicians years to develop.

As a shortcut, I ended up playing a sustained note in the background, which helps block out the other instruments in the song and keeps my sense of pitch “oriented.” This had a surprisingly drastic effect, and I immediately went from being unable to identify a single note to being able to recognize most of the primary notes. I still couldn’t identify the shorter, faster parts using solfege, but after I found the critical notes, figuring out how to connect them wasn’t too tricky.

After about ten minutes, I managed to learn a decent amount of the song and play along with the original, which I think is good enough to consider “learning the song” for such a short period. I made a few mistakes, but a lack of practice mostly caused them, and I’m sure that I could fix them if I practiced the song for a few more days.

Ultimately, it doesn’t seem possible for anyone to develop perfect pitch recognition with less than a month of practice, but is it possible to learn an instrument quickly by using this method? The answer seems to be yes, and if I had to learn an instrument from scratch, this is undoubtedly the method I’d choose.

Without further delay, here is the video of me learning “Stay With Me.” If you are uninterested in me making mistakes and puzzling out the melody, the final play-through starts at 5:17.