Here is an example of what real musicians can do – modify songs instead of just playing them off the music sheet. While it may take you some time to reach their level of finesse; at least you can be on the right path instead of wasting time learning unnecessary things that contribute little or nothing to the ability to place creatively and also playing exactly how you would like to interpret your favourite songs.

Just to say the least, would you be happy even if you could play 1/10th of what they can do? Yes, right? Click through the below to see what’s the difference and pick up ideas from there.

Video #1 shows the original cover version. Listen to every timbre of sounds you can detect: the piano, the string, the harpsichord, the bass, etc. Also listen to the harmony chosen for this song. We will make a comparison later :

Video #2 shows a male singer giving the Japanese rendition. However, your focus should be on the keyboardist who supplies the background to fill it up. Notice how the intro is different. Notice how he applies harmonies that are somewhat different here and there throughout the song. You can say that he has changed the intro, endings, the fills, the harmonic, the bass line, etc. where improvisation is concerned. There are also changes to the harmony which is beyond the scope to describe here. If you are a Play By Ear student, you will know the elements used here:

Video #3 shows a female singer doing the same. Again, your focus should be on the keyboardist (same person as 2nd video) who adds the harmony and rhythm to the music. Here, the harmony is using the full extended chords (PBE students: remember your Level 2 training?). Notice his use of slurs and syncopations to add more effect? Even when it comes to the instrumental part, he applies Melody Faking improvisation. At the end, he applied Deceptive Cadence improvisation. The ability to know what the drummer is doing can help your appreciation of music.
Now, not everybody can appreciate the singers but your focus is the things that can enhance your music. That’s what you are here for:

What does it take to be able to do this? Fundamentally, your mind must be open. Then your must be able to know how to integrate the melody, harmony and rhythm together. You should also be exposed to the various variations you can possibly do to the same song.

There are a lot more intricate details to explain here but for sure, you will not be able to just use your graded studies alone to get there. You need more than that. Talk to your Play By Ear coach and discuss with them. More info at