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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?


David's response:

Hi Karl,

Just practicing the IFR method will absolutely teach you to recognize chord progressions like this one by ear. I'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 earEach one of these chords is explored very deeply in IFR Jam Tracks Level 4: Mixed Harmony Essentials. 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.

Happy jamming!

Related content:

IFR Jam Tracks Level 4

IFR Jam Tracks Level 4: Mixed Harmony Essentials

All of the chords mentioned above are included in IFR Jam Tracks Level 4: Mixed Harmony Essentials. I think you will be amazed at the incredibly rich harmonic landscapes that we can create when we add these new chords to the seven Pure Harmony chords that you have already mastered. I think you'll also be surprised at how familiar these new chords sound to you, because you'll be learning the most important Mixed Harmony chords that appear in popular music.

Recognizing Chords by Ear

IFR workshop: Recognizing Chords by Ear

Begins January 23, 2021. Building on the skills you learned in Ear Training for Musical Creativity, in this workshop you will learn to how to recognize chords by ear so that you can play and improvise over songs without having to ask what the chords are.