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LJS 80: Chord Progressions and How to Identify Them By Ear

Welcome to episode 80 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about hearing chord progressions by ear. We are in the middle of Ear Training Month where we are delving deep into training our ears to hear on a deeper level. Chord progressions are an important next step. Listen in!

Listen to episode 80

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When it comes to playing what we hear in our heads, learning chord progressions is a huge one to talk about. If we want to become better improviser and be able to learn songs by ear, we have to be able to hear chord progressions.

So far in our series, we’ve talked about intervals and we’ve talked about chords. Those skills translate directly to being able to identify chord progressions by ear. There has been an intentional progression in our Ear Training Month series, so feel free to go back to these previous episodes if you missed them.

In today’s episode, I go over how to break the process down and hear chord progressions from scratch. When it comes down to it, it’s all about exposure. You need to hear chord progressions over and over again to get them in your ears.

But we all have to start somewhere. I’ll talk about listening to the bass notes, translating descending intervals into ascending intervals and listening for chord qualities for hints. Together we’ll unpack this!

In this episode

  1. How to identify chord progressions by Roman Numerals.

  2. Listening to the bass notes and how to translate descending intervals into ascending.

  3. How to identify chords within a progression using the I chord as a reference or the previous chord.

As promised in the episode, here is a conversion chart between descending intervals and ascending intervals:

Descending to Ascending Intervals

Minor 2nd Desc= Major 7th Asc
Major 2nd Desc= Minor 7th Asc
Minor 3rd Desc= Major 6th Asc
Major 3rd Desc= Minor 6th Asc
Perfect 4th Desc= Perfect 5th Asc
Tritone Desc= Tritone Asc
Perfect 5th Desc= Perfect 4th Asc
Minor 6th Desc= Major 3rd Asc
Major 6th Desc= Minor 3rd Asc
Minor 7th Desc= Major 2nd Asc
Major 7th Desc= Minor 2nd Asc

By the way, if you want to get notified when our new ear training course “How to Play What You Hear” is released in October, sign up for our list.

This course covers in more depth the stuff we are working on during Ear Training Month, and guides you through a step-wise process.

Have anything to add to today’s show? Leave a comment below.

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."



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