Back in 2009 there really wasn’t much information online about ear training and developing your musicality. But one site which stood out then, and which continues to be among the top sites online for playing by ear was

On today’s interview we’re talking with Jermaine Griggs, who started Hear And Play back in 2000 and has had phenomenal success helping musicians around the world to learn to play music by ear. His success has led to him being a highly-sought after teacher and mentor in the entrepreneurial world, as well as a beloved teacher in the world of Gospel music – and even led to him being invited to the White House to meet President Obama.

Jermaine is a passionate educator with incredible insights into how learning to play by ear can be made simple and methodical – for anyone.

This conversation covers his own musical development and how he came to codify his methodology and launch

He shares what makes Gospel music unique, while also allowing it to be an amazing way to learn skills for all genres.

And there’s an inspiring example of one Hear And Play student who found great success despite a seemingly-huge personal limitation.

Jermaine also shares some nifty tips and tricks which you can apply right now to help you start playing by ear – as well as a bit of software that can make it dramatically easier.

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HearAndPlay is one of the leading websites for learning to play music by ear, especially Gospel. Learn how in this interview with Jermaine Griggs.



Wow, this conversation was such a treat for me. Let’s recap the many big takeaways there.

Jermaine first learned to play by ear by experimenting and simply matching notes he played to what he heard. He started with just white notes and learning to create chords by skipping every other note, and then found he could match up notes with the Disney song “Under the Sea”.

Although Jermaine didn’t start by studying music theory and sheet music, he also didn’t just treat playing by ear as a “mysterious talent” or a gift. Instead, after some experience teaching people in person he took the time to analyse his own approach and identify the rules and little tricks that let him quickly figure things out by ear.

This led to a beautiful combination of an “ear first” approach – with actually understanding how you’re doing it.

This enabled him to create his first book and then start, perhaps the first and still one of the leading “play by ear” websites online.

At Hear And Play they primarily serve Gospel musicians – but as Jermaine explained, Gospel music can actually be a vehicle for developing listening skills that work across a wide variety of genres. There are some specific skills a Gospel player needs to pick up, but having trained with the Hear And Play method they’re ready to go out in almost any musical direction and confidently play what they hear.

Jermaine shared several great tips and tricks:

  • The sentence “Why won’t he wear white when hot” as an easy way to remember the “whole whole half whole whole whole half” pattern of whole and half steps that create a major scale. And how you can easily go from there to a minor scale too.
  • Often we find playing by ear difficult because we’ve let ourselves become divorced from the actual sound of the music we’re making. Taking the time to simply play a chord and really listen to its mood, then compare it to a different type of chord can be a great way to start making that ear connection.
  • He shared the “minor chord” trick to help you work out the key of a song – if you’re not guessing the tonic note correctly on instinct then you’re probably accidentally singing the 3rd or the 5th of the root chord. So try creating a minor chord with your guess at the top – and try out the other two notes. If you were picking the 3rd or 5th by mistake this trick will let you go straight to the true tonic.
  • Depending on the genre there are going to be certain types of chords that are highly likely – and highly unlikely! That can really simplify your options when trying to play a chord by ear.

Jermaine shared one moving example of a man who was legally blind and wanted to learn to play piano. The traditional sheet music method would have been extremely challenging for him to learn with. Instead he followed the Hear And Play method and was able to reach an incredible level of performance ability in Gospel piano.

At Hear And Play Jermaine is continually innovating to serve musicians in more and better ways. One of their latest creations is the Song Tutor software which can take any MIDI file you find online and let you slow it down, even play it back note-by-note, giving you a perfect way to gradually figure it out by ear.

There are two things that blow me away about Jermaine.

The first is that he took such a natural ability to play by ear and really methodically turned it into something that can enable others to find that same freedom. And the second is his unstoppable ambition and vision. From the outset Jermaine wanted to serve a huge number of people with Hear And Play and even after incredible success he’s still dreaming of even bigger and better things to come.

I came away from this conversation hugely inspired and excited, and I hope you’re feeling the same way. Jermaine has proven that learning to “Hear – And Play” is possible for anyone, and that there’s no limit to what we can accomplish in our musical lives if we continue to dream big.

If you’re feeling inspired by today’s episode. If you’re a Gospel musician, or you want to be. Or if you can see the benefits that Hear And Play’s Gospel or Jazz Music Training Centre, or their SongTutor software could bring to your musical life, regardless of your favourite genres – I highly recommend heading over to and dive deep into Jermaine’s incredible teaching there.

Thanks for listening to this episode! Stay tuned for our next episode where we’ll be thinking about wearing white when hot and talking about the power of whole steps and half steps.

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