Playing by Ear vs Reading Music: Which Piano Technique Dominates?
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Have you ever wondered whether playing by ear vs reading music is better? Especially if you’re considering taking piano lessons vs learning to play online, discover the pros and cons of each technique before you decide.

Distinguishing the Differences in Playing by Ear vs Reading Music

You will find musicians who play piano by ear but wished they could read sheet music. And you’ll find others who can only play by reading sheet music but wished they could play by ear. So which technique truly dominates?

Playing by ear means you have the ability to simply listen to a piece of music, translate it in your head and reproduce it on the piano without any help from written music.

When reading and playing by sheet music, you observe and translate written music that instructs you while you play. The written music lets you know which notes to play, what tempo to use, how long to hold the notes and pauses between notes.

So which technique dominates?

Discovering the Pros and Cons of Piano Playing by Ear vs Reading Music

Learning to play the piano, whether by reading music or by ear, takes time, patience and perseverance. Most music schools will teach you how to play using sheet music so you know how to read written music. Especially when playing in groups, like in an orchestra, playing from music helps assure that no one misses a note or pause, and that everyone’s playing in sync.

Retired Adult Piano ClassesPlaying from music also:

  • May seem easier at first, since you have written cues to guide you.
  • Provides you with a good foundational technique so you don’t pick up bad habits that might slow your learning curve.
  • Gives you another perspective on music that can enhance your appreciation of it.

Meanwhile, when a pianist knows how to play by ear, she can often hear a composition one time and reproduce it after just one or two attempts. But learning to play by ear can take more time since you have to train your brain to break down audio music into notes and chords.

When you play by ear, you:

  • typically learn new songs more quickly since you don’t have to read and process the written music first.
  • likely have more equal coordination in both hands which may give you more creative freedom.
  • have a better chance of picking up on and correcting any errors from others while playing in a band.
  • develop an ability to create your own compositions, (if want to pursue teaching, playing or producing music professionally).

So does playing by ear vs reading music dominate? Perhaps playing piano by ear dominates if you want to pursue music professionally or create your own music.

But if you can’t play the piano by ear yet, don’t be discouraged. Most people learn to play from sheet music first anyhow. Then eventually, you can learn to play by ear.

If you want to learn to play the piano, consider choosing an instrument that’s ideal for beginners, like the Kawai CN24. When you buy a new piano from Lacefield Music, you also get free lessons for life. And in our Level 1 class, you’ll learn how to read music and play with both hands in 8 weeks!