Q&A - Learning to recognize chords by ear

Hi David,

I've been experimenting with your method for improvising for a few months now and it's really starting to click. But I was improvising over a progression today, and I eventually figured out that it had the following chords:

| E         | G#7       | C#m       | F#        | B         | A         |

I found that I had to listen to the progression between 5-10 times before I could recognize the chords. Is this normal? Does it just come down to practice, or should I be able to do this instantly?

Thanks!
Karl

David's response:

Hi Karl,

I can definitely relate to your experience. I used to be totally mystified by people who could recognize chord changes by ear. But it's actually very easy, if you know what to listen for.

The key is to learn to hear each chord as it relates to the overall key of the music. This is how we study chords in IFR, so through your IFR practice you will learn to recognize the chords to that song as the following:

| 1         | 3D        | 6-        | 2D        | 5D        | 4         |

IFR student recognizing chords by earNotice that all of these chords are among the very first chords that we study in IFR. So yes, through your IFR practice you should absolutely be able to instantly recognize all of these chords by ear.

Each one of these chords is explored very deeply in IFR Jam Tracks Levels 1 through 4. The key to recognizing these chords by ear is to study them in a way that builds up progressively, so you learn to contrast the differences between the different chords.

This is exactly what we do in the IFR Jam Tracks series. If you go through that course slowly and really take it seriously, you'll be able to recognize chord progressions like this by ear with no effort at all.

Then when you're ready, here is a fantastic listening activity that will help you make the connection to recognizing these sounds in the music all around you.

Happy jamming!
David