The Flute Academy

A Special Little Trick to Improve a Student's Ability to "Play by Ear"

Mar 16, 2018

So, 'cause it's my birthday soon, I want to share with you a cool thing I do with my students in March every year... 

If you're a teacher, I'm guessing your students' ability to PLAY BY EAR range anywhere from totally non-existent to amazing.

And if you're the (adult!) student, how do you feel about being able to work out melodies by ear??

It varies from person to person - some people find this easy to do, and some people really don't know where to start. That's normal.

I believe (and know from experience actually) that you can take any student, old or young, no matter how good or bad their aural skills are, and get their aural skills a lot better.

The trick to doing this is to be able to stretch their brain in the direction that is perfect for that individual student. I'll tell you more about how to do that in a sec... 

Having a student work out well-known melodies "by ear" is a great way to improve their aural skills. And because it's my birthday this month, I'm taking advantage of that to get those aural brains a little bit stretchier!

So I'm giving each one of my students a challenge:

Can they work out how to play Happy Birthday to play me in my birthday week?

And here's the tailored brain-stretch-trick I mentioned:

  • For very beginners who are still learning notes, teach them how to play Happy Birthday (by ear) bit by bit, then have them memorise it for the next lesson.
  • For students who can play fairly well, give them a starting note to make the whole challenge more do-able (don't forget Happy Birthday starts on the 5th note of the scale!)
  • And for advanced students, either let them choose their starting note, or give them one so they're playing in a key with more sharps or flats than they would choose themselves.
  • For the super advanced students, if they can handle it, I get them to work out Happy Birthday starting on every note (there will be 12 versions)! This is the best challenge of all!

Now if it seems a little ego-centric to base this challenge around your own birthday (haha, I hope it doesn't seem that way, because I'm using it with my students at the moment!), you can schedule it around their own birthday to play to themselves in a lesson, or a family member's birthday to play to them at home.

If you're the adult student, why not chose a family or friend who has an upcoming birthday, and work on a little surprise for them!

Whichever birthday you use, you will probably have a lot of fun, because it's something that is different, and so relevant too!


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