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Is this something i should encourage and push?

(22 Posts)
TOMOLBEN Fri 14-Oct-11 12:26:09

Hi all,
My DS2 was 7 in june, year 3. He has alwys been interested in music. DH and I are not musical at all, so i dont really know if he has talent or if it is normal for a child who plays piano.

He can listen to a piece of music on a CD or you tube then he will plod off to his piano and figure it out. A prime example was a couple of weeks ago. He was listening to 'A whole new world'. He then went to his piano and spent an hour playing. He then called me in to listen and he played the whole song beautifully. He did the same with 'Hey jude' and 'beauty and the beast'
He has a piano lesson every week. But the teacher is very focused on his theory and getting him through his 1st exam, so i havent mentioned him playing by ear. Also i dont want to look like a plonker if this is just normal, lol!!

My question is do most children who enjoy piano naturally play by ear or is this something i should persue? If so does any one know the best route?

Thank you smile

MyMelody Fri 14-Oct-11 12:32:08

i remember one of my friends at school could play by ear, and funnily enough she often played 'whole new world', personally i think its very clever but probably normal to those that are musical and have a 'musical ear' if that makes sense. 7 sounds young to be doing it so well, i would talk to the music teacher

wellwisher Fri 14-Oct-11 12:45:20

Does he actually come up with musical arrangements of the songs, using both hands, or just play the melody with one hand? I don't think the latter is particularly unusual.

TOMOLBEN Fri 14-Oct-11 13:01:10

No he plays with both hands, using all fingers. smile

Habanera Fri 14-Oct-11 13:34:20

Of course mention it! Not a plonker at all. The teacher will be pleased you are taking an interest especially if you have no background yourself. Lots of parents take no notice at all, don't encourage, just write cheques then wonder why kids quit after a couple years.
Don't push DS thought, just be an appreciative and encouraging audience at this stage-ask him to practice because you LIKE to hear him and wish you could play like that. Get him to try teach you-that's always good for a laugh in our house.

themed Fri 14-Oct-11 14:01:18

My dad could do this with any musical instrument and he never had music tuition, he could not even read music. My brother inherited it and could do the same since he was 4 or 5 years old. I could never do it, so I would say is an innate ability - despite being able to play the piano very well I still cannot listen to a piece of music and play it!

ellisbell Fri 14-Oct-11 14:10:13

what grade exam will he be doing? He sounds quite advanced for a 7 year old so the teacher may not be starting him at grade 1. Definitely mention it to his teacher, they will be pleased. Encourage him to play each day and ask the teacher what books of music might be suitable for him.

TOMOLBEN Fri 14-Oct-11 14:20:59

He is working towards grade 1. He knows all his notes, counts for each note, quavers, dynamics etc. These mean nothing to me, I just looked through his note book where his home work is!! He loves to play by ear. He can read the music from his books that he practises but he finds this a boring chore. He seems to memorise the tunes that he is meant to be reading and play them this way as oppose to reading the notes.
Thank you for your replies.

rabbitstew Fri 14-Oct-11 21:02:09

Definitely tell the teacher - it's a talent not all musicians have. Maybe, when he's a bit older, he'd enjoy having a go at improvising and jazz, rather than sticking to classical music - it would give him a bit more freedom to experiment.

Notchattingnow Fri 14-Oct-11 21:10:11

I think its definitely "normal" and also a" sort of "talent.
I could play by ear from an early age and still can though I haven't the patience to learn anything other than the recorder [still play it as I learnt it ]and piano.
I can hear all the tunes in my head and just translate it from there its pretty easy if you have a good memory and tuneful ear and are interested.

rabbitstew Fri 14-Oct-11 21:34:38

No, it isn't "normal." Normal is being able to play a tune you have heard (that's really easy if you are even only a tiny bit musical), unusual is being able to pick out the tune and play the accompaniment/harmony accurately. Not many people can do that. My grandfather could do that on the piano. I can pick out any tune very rapidly, but certainly wouldn't be able to put two hands together with any great sophistication - only the very basics of a harmony to go along with the tune.

PelvicFlAAAAARGHOfSteel Fri 14-Oct-11 21:41:29

I went to school with someone who could do this, she is now a professional musician. I've never met anyone else who could do it (the harmony both hands bit) and I do think it's pretty exceptional for a 7yo.

If the teacher is totally focussed on exams it might be worth looking at a different teacher who is more interested in the creative side.

confidence Fri 14-Oct-11 22:15:02

It's certainly unusual, but I think the important part often overlooked is the fact that he spends a lot of TIME working the songs out and then wants to show you because he's proud of his efforts.

It's hard to say whether he has any particular "talent" that others don't, but what he clearly does have is an unusualy level of interest and motivation in doing this. And, compared with other 7 years olds, an unusually strong ability to stick at a difficult task and see it through methodically.

These factors are far more important than anything else in determining success at something like music, so I think you should absolutely encourage them, yes.

Many teachers have absolutely no idea about playing by ear and wouldn't know how to develop it or even engage with it if their life depended on it. So you may find it's something you have to let him just get on with outside the lessons. Depending on where you live or what contacts you can make you could take him to a jazz musician who teaches, but they'd probably want a higher level of technique and grounding to be starting from.

BusterGut Fri 14-Oct-11 22:19:27

Do you think his teacher is up for this kind of virtuosity? Are there any other teachers in the area who teach children in a more creative way? It doesn't sound as if your ds is a candidate for passing exams, but as someone who may have a career in music ahead of him.

HauntyMython Sat 15-Oct-11 09:09:32

If it was just working out a tune, I'd say good - certainly not all musical children can do that, in any cohort of pupils there are usually some who have the Ear and some who don't.

That's how I started, my dad heard me playing ravel's bolero on my tiny keyboard when I was 3. But even now I can't particularly pick out chords/harmonies, so at 7... Wow. smile

I am a bit concerned that you say his teacher is focussed on theory and getting through the exam. I went through the exam system (though I only ever took 5-7) and was a teaching assistant for a few years, so I didn't really question it, but now I've realised there is so much more to music than plugging through the grades. Having the certificates is useful but NOT at the expense of having fun with music and having freedom to choose what you play.

You should definitely let his teacher know - maybe encourage him, just before his next lesson, to go in and play the piece and tell her he worked it all out himself. Hopefully she will encourage it. If she doesn't - unfortunately some teachers resent talent in a student, I found this at school - or tells him exams are the only important thing. PLEASE get another teacher! You've been lucky to discover this, as you aren't musical yourself, it would be terrible to waste it.

Let us know how it goes please smile

Haberdashery Sat 15-Oct-11 21:26:22

I think your son sounds very musical but don't downplay the importance of the theory and more formal musical learning. Being able to sight read music is a fantastically useful skill for a musician of whatever calibre and the theory can open up 'whole new worlds' in terms of being able to apply it to what he can work out himself on the piano. But you should definitely let his teacher know what he can do!

I did both violin and piano up to Grade 8 and was encouraged to take it further but didn't want to. I disliked a lot of the theory at the time but actually it still informs my playing to some extent now (I have kept up with playing both instruments for a long time now - over thirty years!).

TOMOLBEN Tue 18-Oct-11 10:41:36

Thank you all, this has been a real help. He will definately continue with his lessons and do his exam (he likes getting certificates!) I will speak to hios teacher on wednesday and see if at the end of each class she can listen to him play something he has learnt himself.

GooseyLoosey Tue 18-Oct-11 10:45:26

Dd is 7 and learns the piano - she can read the notes and music as you say your son can and can pick out a tune. What she cannot do is work out a tune with both hands and multiple fingers. That would be way beyond her. Your son does sound like he has a special talent.

nickelbabe Tue 18-Oct-11 10:58:05

I would imagine that if the teacher is working lots and lots on theory, then that s because she's noticed that he can do the practical side very well.

He wouldn't be able to pass his exams on playing by ear - he would need to learn what's written on the page in front of him (ie playing the set pieces that are provided in the exam book), and also the scales.

Basically, learning by ear is an amazing talent, but to get he most out of the piano, he needs to be able to read music and all the time signatures, rhythms etc.

oh, PS, if he does have a talent for this, try to get him interested in playing the organ too (not an electronic one - the ones they have in Churches and the Albert Hall) - he has to think about 3 manuals <keyboards> (at least!) and his feet, as well as stops to change the sound.
If he's got as much talent as it sounds he has at this age, then he could make a fantastic organist in the future (and they're very sought after too)

nickelbabe Tue 18-Oct-11 11:07:09

oh, and I agree wholeheartedly with what Haberdashery says regarding theory.
I didn't learn theory, because noone encouraged me to be musical, and now as an adult, I'm finding it very hard to pick up and learn.
I can work out what key something is in by how many sharps and flats it says there are, but only major keys.

Last night, I was playing over some christmas carols using my recorder (and I'm crap at getting the rhythms right first time, so I can't sight-read very well), and I was playing something that I assumed was in Cmajor (no sharps or flats), but when I was playing it, DH immediately said it was in A minor (without even looking at the page). Because he knows music theory, he could pick out the exact key, and know what notes were supposed to be in it (all the while I'm sitting there going "but it sounds odd having a g# there - surely that's not right!" confused)
never underestimate the use of music theory.

plus, remember, if he can play by ear, he can write his own music - but he'll need to know music theory to make it work properly.

snailoon Tue 18-Oct-11 11:10:56

If the teacher is any good, she will probably know he can do this and be very pleased already.
My son is a bit like this, plays another instrument very well, but has immense fun with his guitar (no lessons), because he can sing and play the right chords to go with his song. He doesn't know any formal theory, but can harmonise really well. Guitar is great for this because it is cool, transportable, social, and easy to learn (up to a point obviously).
Your son sounds wonderfully talented and dedicated, a great combination.

quirrelquarrel Mon 24-Oct-11 16:21:26

That'll be a fantastic skill for aural tests later on! Picking out the bass/treble clef and having to sing it or play it back. I don't know how you'd hone something like that but it does sound like a talent.

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