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Home Learning Jazz Ear Training Ear Training 101: Chord Recognition

Ear Training 101: Chord Recognition

Last time in our Ear Training 101 series, we talked about interval recognition. We discussed how important ear training is to jazz musicians (and musicians in general) and concluded with an interval recognition test to see how well you could do. If you haven’t taken that test yet, be sure to do it.

We also discussed the importance of ear training fundamentals. Yes, it is important to learn jazz solos by ear, learn jazz standards by ear, or even take licks into all 12 keys. These are some musical ways we can develop our ear. But as they are in all kinds of skills, fundamentals are the key to success.

The next basic ear training fundamental I want to address is chord recognition. That is, being able to hear a chord played and recognize its quality. The two kinds of chords I want to go over are triads and 7th chords.

Just in case you aren’t familiar, here are some definitions.


A triad is a grouping of three notes that can be stacked in thirds. So the basic formula for a triad is: Root-3rd-5th. The 3rd and the 5th can be altered depending on the quality. The 4 kinds of triad qualities are:

Major: Root-3rd-5th

Minor: Root-b3-5th

Augmented: Root-3rd-#5

Diminished: Root-b3-b5

7th chords

A 7th chord is essentially a triad with an added 7th. So the basic formula for a 7th chord is: Root-3rd-5th-7th. The 3rd, 5th, and 7th can be altered depending on the chord quality. The 5 kinds of 7th chord qualities are:

Major 7: Root-3rd-5th-7th

Dominant 7: Root-3rd-5th-b7

Minor 7: Root-b3-5th-b7

Half Diminished or minor 7(b5): Root-b3-b5-b7

Diminished 7: Root-b3-b5-bb7

Take the chord recognition test

Now let’s move on to the main event. As musicians we want to make sure that we can recognize these different chord qualities by ear. These sounds should become second nature. For some this test might be less challenging and more review, and for others this may be essential.

We are going to keep it simple for this first chord recognition test. We will only cover these basic triad and 7th chord qualities and not deal with extensions just yet. In addition, all of the chords will be voiced in root position, meaning the bass note is the root of the chord, building up in thirds.

For the triads section, each triad quality will be played three times.

For the 7th chord section, each quality will be played two times.

Write down your answers as you go along. When you are finished, click the Get Answers button at the bottom to see how you did. (Of course if you need to work on hearing these sounds, look at the answers right away so you can study them!)

If you did take the test, leave a comment in the comment section below with how many you got right (ex. 18/22).

Best of luck!














7th chords











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How did you do? Remember to post your results in the comments section below. If you are unfamiliar with these, I hope you find this post helpful! Being able to recognize these chord qualities is incredibly important, so study up.

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Got them all, 22/22! Still feel like my ear is a ways off from being useful in an improv context though. Do you have a similar quiz for chord progressions?

    On another note, love your book Zero to Improv, Brent! There's so much included for the price. I've been focused on the scales at the beginning of it for quite a while now. I knew the scales already, but I wasn't fluid with them all. It's definitely humbling to be stuck in the first chapter of that book for so long. Gotta say – 120 scales a day on trombone is pretty rough on the chops, even broken up into smaller sessions. Started to lead to bad sound and habits, so I had to reduce how much I was shooting for in a day.

    I know that learning how to improvise fluently isn't a 'quick and easy' thing, but this is pretty frustrating. Would I be doing myself a disservice if I jump ahead a little in the book and return to the scales? Is there another way to break up the book a little more?

  2. 22/22 – Better than with intervals. Thought it would be more difficult, but wasn't. Thank you, Brent.

    • Hey Paul, no worries. Everyone has to start somewhere. I hope you don't mind a little bit of shameless self-promotion, but we built an ear training course specifically for our audience called "How to Play What You Hear." I think courses in general are better than apps, because it gives you a step-by-step process and some hand holding down the right path. If you want to see if that's something you could benefit from, check out

  3. I did better than I thought for Chord Recognition. 12 /12 and 8/10. Thanks for this lesson and test. Only got 9 / 12 for the ascending intervals. Still Okay

  4. I did much better at this than the interval training. I only missed the two back-to-back augmented ones and even then I suspected they were the same. So I feel heartened that I can perhaps pick out the chord quality.

  5. Yeah !
    20/22 lol is good, but i need practice more and more…
    Thanks Brent and all LJS staff. That is so important to learn and improve our musical perception

  6. Thanks for these. I'll be returning to this one. I find I can't pick out the individual notes, but hear chords as a single entity. Many of these I recognize by their shape or "feel", and from a familiar context in a particular tune. Lots more work to do.

  7. Hello LJS, Let me take the test 🙂

    My answers:


    1. Minor
    2. Augmented
    3. Major
    4. Diminished
    5. Major
    6. Minor
    7. Augmented
    8. Diminished
    9. Minor
    10. Augmented
    11. Major
    12. Minor

    7th Chords

    1. Diminished
    2. Dominant 7
    3. Minor 7
    4. Half Diminished
    5. Major 7
    7. Dominant 7
    8. Minor 7
    9. Major 7
    10. Major 7

    Triads 9/12
    7th Chords 5/10

    Not bad (I guess)


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