I think I would have enjoyed being a "strolling violinist" - someone who goes from table-to-table at a restaurant, taking requests and serenading people.
I have always liked to play by ear, even when I was a beginner and very bad at it! When my parents threw parties, I would get out my violin and "take requests" and eke my way through various hits of the day. I'm better at it now, but as an orchestral musician I don't often get the chance to do it - just with friends and family.
When my students show an interest in playing by ear, I try to encourage it. For example, recently one of them was playing from their "reading book" - it was a "song" the student already knew. So we did it both ways - "by the book," reading exactly what was there, and then "by ear," playing it the way he wanted it to sound: changing the rhythms, changing a few notes, adding a little more personality.
On a few occasions, I've tried learning a classical piece "by ear" before looking at the music, just to shake things up. (It was Kreisler's "Liebeslied.") So I listened to recordings and then just picked out the piece. In the end, it was fun to see if there were any differences between what I heard and what the music said - not too many! But I wanted to feel the piece before looking at the music.
I thought it would be fun to talk about "playing by ear." Do you ever play by ear? Do you feel you are good at it? Do you get to do it very often? Is it part of your practice? Or is it something you rarely find yourself doing? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts.
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