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Comments for Should I study piano theory or just play piano by ear?

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Combine both playing piano by ear and piano theory studies!
by: David from www.piano-play-it.com

Hey Malanie,

That's a good question. Many people ask me if it is not better to only play the piano by ear instead of spending much time studying piano theory.

My answer is that it's important to do both.

Playing the piano by ear plays an important role in studying to play the piano.
Many Jazz players started their way by listening to songs or pieces they like and slowly trying to get the melody in their hands.
The ability to hear and imitate is important to making a progress and developing your musical senses.

However, studying piano theory is necessary if you want to be able to analyze what you heard in order to use what you've learned by imitating so that you could acknowledge the concept behind it and use it cleverly to your needs.

I'll give you an example. Let's say you learned to play a song from one of our piano tutorials.

They are usually being played in C major scale since it's the easiest scale to learn or they are being played in the original key of the song.

The song Hero by Mariah Carey for example is being played Eb.
Mariah sings pretty high and what if your voice is much lower?

If you'll master piano theory you'd be able to know the functions of the songs right when you hear them (Because you have musical ears right?) and then you could transpose the song to another key with an effort. It's great to do that.

Let's say you want to accompany a friend of yours and you practiced playing the song in a certain key but when you went to perform your friend was a bit sick and she asked you if you could maybe play the song a bit lower...

Man, that can be hard but if you studied piano thoery you could do that and be a blast!

Do you follow what I'm trying to say?

The combination of having musical ear and musical knowledge is the key to succeed playing the piano in very high level.

One more thing, studying piano theory could really help you to play better.
By knowing the function of each voice and harmony in the music you're making you'd be able to express what's more important and hide the least important. You'll discover that your knowledge helps everything to fall into the right place.

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