Playing by ear – is it innate?

‘Oh you can play by ear’?

‘You’re so lucky – I’d love to be able to do that’.

‘You either have it or you don’t’.

Well…there are some things in life you either have or you don’t – two eyes, ears, arms, legs if you’re lucky. Three brothers and a sister. A sunny climate in your country.

Most other things can be bought or learned. Including how to play an instrument by ear.

For some reason there is a myth out there that it’s innate. Sure – like any other skill in life some people are born further along the road than others, but thankfully, like any other skill in life it can be learned, worked on, improved.


Above are the first 7 notes of Desperado. Can you find the next 5? If so…keep going.

PS – It won’t work unless you know the melody really well in your head.

PPS – if you have done a bit of this already – can you find the extra syllable Henley sings in the word ‘Desperado’? And in ‘senses’?



2 thoughts on “Playing by ear – is it innate?

  1. Thanks for the message Mary!
    No more than playing by ear, I’m sure sight reading is something that you could improve on by giving it some focused attention.


  2. Have always played by ear , and despite being musically literate, cannot sight read to save my life! Managed to get to diploma level by learning my pieces and most thankfully my sight reading exercise for my diploma was The Irish Washerwoman which as a trad enthusiast was no doubt familiar to me! Mind you would love to have it both ways. Enjoying your blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

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