The Art of ... Playing Piano by Ear

January 10, 2013
CJ Miles

Veteran forward C.J. Miles has been a calming presence – not to mention a rock-solid contributor – to the Wine and Gold this season.

He inked a free agent deal in August and the eighth-year swingman from Dallas has been good both off the bench and in the starting rotation. Since going for back-to-back 28-point contests in early December, Miles is averaging 15.5 ppg – shooting 47 percent from beyond the arc and 92 percent from the stripe.

Miles had started the previous four contests for Cleveland before a bad back sidelined him against the Hawks.

The numbers tell us Miles knows the Art of Basketball. But he also has another pretty interesting skill – the ability to play piano by ear.

Those of us who’ve trudged through piano lessons hate C.J. for having this skill. And music teachers might want to click back to’s homepage before reading. But in today’s Art of …, the Cavaliers’ No. 0 explains how he learned to do it …

Can you play by ear?
C.J. Miles: That’s how I learned to play. Like, now, pretty much, I just play what I remember. But, yeah, that’s how I learned.

Do you come from a musical family?
Miles: Not really. My whole family, they sang in the church choir.

How’d you choose the piano?
Miles: As far as (musical) instruments, I always had a love for it. It was just something I was always into. I took a class in middle school, like I had an extra slot open, so I picked (piano). And I would just go basically just go in there, and then go to the gym. I would sneak out. So they said, ‘Eventually, you have to get a grade.’

So I played around a little bit and I started to like it. I didn’t stay long enough to learn to read music though.

So you learned to play by ear so you could cut class to play hoops?
Miles: Basically, yeah. I did all that work just to be able to do that. But in the second semester, I started staying in the class more.

Any plans to pick it back up?
Miles: Actually, this summer, I was planning on taking classes so I can learn the right way. I want to really be able to play.

Do you still play at all?
Miles: A little bit. Like, if we’re in a hotel and there’s a piano there, I’ll mess with it a little bit. But that’s pretty much the only way I brush up on it.