master chord progressions by ear

How to Master Chord Progressions By Ear?

Being a musician or as someone getting into music, learning the progression of chords will open your mind to ideas you haven’t even thought of. Why do you believe chords play a critical role in the creation of a maestro that’s hiding within you? Do these notes help you make music that’s never been heard? How to determine chord progression by ear? If you’re wondering about such questions, you’re in for a treat! 

This article will explain how you can master these complex progressions and why it is crucial to do so. Let’s dive right in! 

What Is A Chord Progression?

Before we get into the specifics, you need to understand a chord. It is a collection of multiple notes that, when performed sequentially, provide a distinct sound. Was that too technical a definition? Here’s an easier one: a chord is formed when you simultaneously play a minimum of three notes on an instrument.

Most songs begin with a slow sequence of notes and then progress to melodic and other instrumental and vocal components, as you may have observed. The first section comprises chords that set the tone for the rest of the song. These chords are the foundation of the musical piece you’re hearing.

Several chords elicit distinct feelings from the listener. For example, if you listen to ‘happy’ or ‘feel-good’ music, you’re likely to hear a combination of major chords that make it bright. On the other hand, artists use a blend of minor chords to emphasize the sadness or emotional essence of the song.

As an emerging musician, it is crucial to master chord progression, especially if you’re into Jazz or a pianist in a Jazz band, as this particular style of music is all about quick, witty improvisation of musical notes. 

Cheers! You have reached the fundamental checkpoint. Now that you’ve understood what chords are, let’s delve deeper.

Recognize chord progressions

The first step of your learning process is to identify the chord. As you read earlier, these progressions are a combination of musical notes. Let’s take the chords in the ‘C’ scale as an example. As you already know, seven notes will be in between the C of the next octave (C-D-E-F-G-A-B). 

In this scale, you’ll find seven chords with respective scale degrees from ‘i’ to ‘vii,’ as shown below:

• C Major (CM) (i)
• D minor (Dm) (ii)
• E minor (Em) (iii)
• F Major (FM) (iv)
• G major (GM) (v)
• A minor (Am) (vi)
• B diminished (Bdim) (vii)

With this, you have now identified the chords on a scale! Let us remind you that the progressions will change as the scale changes. 

Note: In music theory, the capital letter M stands for a Major chord, and the small letter m stands for a minor chord. Always remember this point

Identify Intervals

Interval in a chord is the distance between one key to the other. Your next task is identifying the intervals between the chords, where chord ear training comes into action. First, you need to know the four types of chords: Major, Minor, Perfect, Diminished and Augmented. 

The difference between these chords is the intervals. For instance, on the C scale, you’ll be able to find seven degrees as shown below:

• Perfect Unison (C)
• Major Second (C to D)
• Major Third (C to E)
• Perfect Fourth (C to F)
• Perfect Fifth (C to G)
• Major Sixth (C to A)
• Major Seventh (C to B)
• And finally, the Perfect Octave (C to C on the next scale)

On any major scale, these intervals will be the same. How would you then play the Minor chord? All you have to do is reduce a ‘half step’ from the Major Third, Sixth, and Seventh. Because the number of half steps does not change from M to m, the Major Second remains as it is.

You must reduce a half step from the minor key to obtain the Diminished chord. And if you add a half step to a major key, you’ll get an Augmented chord. And there you go! You have identified the intervals of a chord! 

Understanding chords

Okay, this is where things start to get interesting. You need to understand how chords function now that you’ve grasped the notion of intervals. Playing an instrument is the most convenient approach to comprehending progressions.

To understand the ‘F Major’ progression, you must simultaneously play the B, D, and F# keys. Then, try to learn these notes individually, so you can comprehend their intervals. The objective is to acquire this sound deep in your ear to differentiate it when you come across other chord properties.

The chord progression must be decoded

The final step in mastering progressions is deciphering or deconstructing the chords you’re playing. We recommend getting a decent ear training chord progressions app to assist you in listening and reading the chords simultaneously.

The most effective way to interpret the chords is to sing while playing the notes on the piano. Another technique to improve your chord ear training process is to listen to classical and Jazz music by various musicians, as these genres emphasize chords.

You can also obtain the sheets of songs with a pictorial representation of the notes of all music parts. 

In conclusion

Mastering chord progressions can be intimidating. But remember that Rome was not created in a single day. Many artists put a lot of effort and attention into making a song noteworthy for the times to come.

Your ultimate goal should be to practice and improve your ear-training chord tonality so you can execute and comprehend complex musical pieces effortlessly. You’ll be a master if you follow the mentioned procedures and maintain a system.

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