The answer is quite a long time.
It is possible to learn piano by ear very quickly. However, most pianists are quite terrible at memorizing the notes on a sheet music. In fact, a common test at the university in Germany used to be to sit in front of a piano and play at a fairly low tempo. Every time you did this, you would hear a note in your ear! This was called “stuttering” – but it only lasted about 30 seconds (!) before you had to adjust your tempo. You’d play the notes as slowly and precisely as possible, but you couldn’t always see the notes exactly the way they appeared on the sheet music. When it comes down to it, there is more variation in pitch, so you’ve got to pay attention to this sort of thing.
There are some problems with this approach – you need something to read and listen to for as long as the process, which means that you are constantly learning new music. But this was a small price to pay, as if the process were short enough, people would stop listening to something altogether and just pay attention to how fast they could play each note.
Now you want your brain to keep turning notes into chords – like a guitar player learning scales and arpeggios – but this is much more challenging, because every time another note is pronounced, you need to keep looking at the music as it appears on the paper.
What if I want to listen to music as quickly as possible, and don’t have access to a music instrument?
You can learn the piano by ear – but this is not practical. The best music theory for practicing piano is the one taught by experts at the piano schools who know what they are talking about. However, with this approach your brain is just being fed information at a very rapid rate. What would be nice to know is when the music you’re trying to practice is supposed to make sense. When you know, you can go back into your study and try to learn the words you see on the paper (which usually means going back into your study to change the order of the notes). For example, the notes A in the first part of the A Minor scale have a lot of ‘stutter’; and you have to stop and think to realize what they mean.
If you go to the online tutor section of the piano school, you can watch the lessons and listen to the audio file – but the teacher isn’t listening to any notes.
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