The progression from one chord to another is the harmonic bedrock of music.
Some genres such as the blues are even defined by their characteristic progressions, while hip-hop, and drum'n'bass are notable for their lack of harmonic movement.
Particular chord changes tend to have characteristic uses, and learning their sounds is very empowering as a musician. For example, a chord change such as the 'perfect cadence' can create a powerful sense of resolution, or in the hands of Richard Wagner can take the listener in unsettling new directions.
Though a musician is free to string together any chords to create their own chord progressions, Western music typically follows particular rules and traditions of harmony that result in the familiar musical sounds we all know instinctively just through regularly listening to music. This means there are some particularly effective ways to organise chords, and a number of classic chord sequences such as the "three chord trick", the "circle of fifths" and the "doo wop progression".
Ear training can help you to recognise chord changes and common chord progressions, allowing you to:
- Easily transcribe the music you hear
- Play songs by ear
- Gain an appreciation for the characteristic progressions that define a genre
- Be a flexible performer, improvising arrangements by understanding the underlying harmonies
- Harmonize melodies when song-writing
- Solo over unfamiliar changes when improvising
Interactive chord progression training
Want to get started learning to recognise chord progressions?
Try the Speaker Chords game from Theta Music Trainer:
If you've enjoyed this game, we recommend the full Theta Music Trainer.
Have we missed something, or do you have another idea about this topic?
Help us improve this page by telling us what ear training for chord progressions means to you: