Hello everyone, I’m a newbie and I’m wondering if you can help me figure something out.
I played a lot as a child and teenager – eg flute grade 8, piano grade 4, GCSE music, orchestras, flute groups, jazz groups, recorder groups, choirs, I set up my own music groups and put on little concerts. I really enjoyed it. But at university the groups I tried to join were all quite pressured / competitive and it sort of fell away such that I haven’t done much during the last 20 years.
A few months ago I chanced upon a piano book that had a section on basic harmony, showing you how chord progressions work so that you can play from lead sheets / fake books, improvise and play by ear.
I have to admit that this was a complete and utter revelation to me! I hadn't understood harmony at all before! And I’d just never thought to play like this – I had always just read the dots…that’s the only way that it had ever been presented. Obviously I knew that some people can improvise and play by ear, but that was for specially gifted ‘musical’ people, or something you could only think about doing when you were really expert. The ‘dreaded’ aural tests in exams were always a struggle so I knew I wasn’t one of those naturals.
So I went over to the piano with some music with chord symbols on top and played the melody with the right hand and just played around with the chords with the left. And it sounded, well…INCREDIBLE! SO much better, SO much easier than trying to read every note on each stave. But more than that it FELT so different – like I was making music myself rather than trying not to make a mistake. Just play any notes in the chord…mess around! In fact it was rather freaky – like I just woke up one day and could suddenly play the piano.
Since then I’ve been playing all the time, I re-started lessons and I’m improvising and working things out by ear on all my instruments and it’s amazing. It’s been life-changing – one of the best things to ever happen to me.
But I am confused: How on EARTH did I miss this despite doing all that music and having so many lessons when I was younger? Any thoughts on what went wrong here, or similar experiences? I still can’t really figure it out.