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HomeLJS PodcastEar TrainingHow to Learn Chord Progressions By Ear (Step-by-Step)

How to Learn Chord Progressions By Ear (Step-by-Step)

Welcome to episode 174 of the LJS Podcast where today I walk you through a step-by-step process for learning chord progressions by ear. Learning chord progressions by ear is usually the more challenging aspect of learning jazz standards by ear, and the benefits of learning by ear are numerous. I show you how the power of ear training, a tiny bit of harmony knowledge, and some practice will have you unlocking chord progressions.

Listen to episode 174

Whenever I tell people how to learn jazz standards, I always tell them to learn them by ear. And naturally, those who are a little less experienced with learning music by ear, and are more comfortable with reading music, are a little bit skeptical at first.

Maybe they can wrap their heads around the idea of learning the melody by ear, that might be a little bit easier to latch on to, but they have a harder time imagining actually hearing chord progressions by ear. That’s so much harder than simply learning a melody.

So, in today’s episode, I want to go over my method for learning chord progressions by ear, from scratch, and technically, you don’t even need your instrument in order to be able to do this.

In this episode:

1. Identifying cadences and resolution points

2. Identifying the root notes of the resolution points

3. Figuring out the root notes and qualities of the chords in between

4. The power of interval and chord quality ear training

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Learn Jazz Standards Podcast. If you aren’t already, make sure you are subscribed on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

I look forward to having you join me in the next episode!

Important Links

How to Play What You Hear (Ear Training Course)

Video: How to Learn Chord Progressions by Ear (No Sheet Music)

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."


    • Hey there! If you go on YouTube we have hundreds of them for free, however, I used a backing track mostly to avoid copyright infringement. I would suggest using an actual recording to practice.

  1. You have definitely convinced me that learning by ear is the way to go. But I could swear you once said that it's not a good idea to use backing tracks to learn the chords to a jazz standard?


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