Popular Progressions | Easy Ear Training

Popular Progressions

It Sounds So Familiar…
So why can’t you play it by ear?

Have you noticed that many songs you hear on the radio sound the same?

As a musician, you’ve probably worked out that there must be a shared formula that these pop and rock songs all use.

So if they all sound so similar

so familiar

so simple

… why can’t you play them?

Do you feel frustrated in music?

You’ve studied music.

You’re good at playing your instrument.

If you look up the chords or have the sheet music: you can play lots of songs!

But take away that written music… and you’re lost.

Even though you work hard and practice diligently, sometimes you feel like a failure instead of a “real” musician, because you can’t do what those “naturals” around seem to do so effortlessly:

Play by ear.

Have you ever felt embarrassed because you know a song is simple – but you still need to look up the chords in order to play it?

You’re not alone.

In fact, most musicians are just like you. They’re frightened to try playing by ear because they think you need to be “gifted” or a virtuoso musician to do it.

But here’s some good news that might surprise you:

Playing by ear is not a magic “gift”.

You can learn to play by ear - it's not magic!You don’t need to be born with a guitar in your hands to play chords by ear. It’s not an all-or-nothing, black-or-white thing. It’s as wonderfully natural as music itself – and, just like everything in music, it can be learned.

So if you don’t need a “gift”, what do you need?

Simple: an understanding of the basic concepts behind chord progressions – and a bit of ear training to bring them to life.

That’s the good news.

Ready for the fantastic news?

You already know these progressions!

These are the chord progressions you hear day-in, day-out. The same ones used in the songs you listen to and the songs you play. In fact, these progressions have powered music for hundreds of years.

These aren’t abstract music theory ideas. These are the musical sounds which are already intimately familiar to you!

All that’s required is to put names to these sounds you already know, and train your ears to connect the theory to your instrument.

The 80/20 Rule of Chord Progressions

The 80/20 rule of chord progressionsHave you heard of the 80/20 Rule? It’s the common name for the Pareto principle, discovered in economics but actually true in almost every walk of life. It’s the observation that when you really analyse something, more often than not you’ll discover that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) states that for many events roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.


  • 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of its products.
  • 80% of your phone calls are to just 20% of your friends.
  • Do the 20% of your activities which matter – and you’ll get 80% of the results..

When you understand this principle and you identify the key 20% which matters, you can achieve vastly better results and waste far less time and effort in achieving your goals.

Training your ear for popular progressions
means using the 80/20 rule to
learn to play chords by ear fast.

A huge proportion of popular songs rely on just a handful of progressions – and many more are based on slight variants of them. This means that:

By studying just these so-called “I, IV, V” progressions (the 20%)
you can actually gain 80% of the play-by-ear skills you want!

Here at Easy Ear Training we’ve spent years helping musicians improve their ability to play by ear.

Our students regularly report playing chords by ear as their #1 goal in ear training. But there’s a big stumbling block they usually hit. It’s this:

They study the theory of chord progressions, and they understand the concept of a 3-chord song.

They do some basic ear training for progressions using synthetic examples… and they see some improvement.

BUT when it comes to real music… when they return to the songs they’re playing on their instrument, or the tracks they listen to on their iPod – it still just sounds like a complicated jumble of notes.

  • Different instruments: guitar, piano, bass, vocals…
  • Different chord voicings: triads, closed form, open voicings…
  • Different chord types: major, minor, diminished, suspended, power chords, seventh chords…
  • Different musical styles: pop, rock, classical, metal, orchestral, dance music…
Simple chord progressions can still be confusing

Suddenly those simple I, IV, V progressions don’t seem so simple, and they find themselves getting lost and confused.

So ever since we invented the Unravelling Music method and created our first ear training album, we’ve known that our mission with the next album would be to tackle exactly this issue and help musicians to hear chord progressions in real music.

The result: Popular Progressions

Popular Progressions teaches you to recognise and identify
the most common chord progressions in real music.

How It Works

Popular Progressions uses the simple 3-step Unravelling Music method:

Step 1:
Listen to real music tracks
and read some short and simple explanations of the musical concepts in each.
Step 2:
Listen to special extract clips
which demonstrate what you should be listening for in each one.
Step 3:
Listen again to the music tracks
and begin to hear more, and understand what you’re hearing.

Once you understand what each track teaches, you simply listen to these tracks from time to time to reinforce the listening skills.

It’s a bit like having a personal ear training tutor sit down with you and pick apart one of your favourite songs: helping you to listen in for the important parts, and understand what’s going on musically.

Let’s look at an example from the album:

1Step 1: Listen to the music track.

Listen to the beginning of “Summer School Rock”:

1Step 2: Listen to the excerpt clips.

As you listen, read the explanations of what you’re hearing.

Here’s the second excerpt clip and liner notes for Summer School Rock showing how the progression is played in the piano part:

Listen to the classic 1950s rock-n-roll piano chord progression I, I, IV, I, V, IV, I in this “rock style” piano part.

The right hand adds in closed chords in a repetitive eighth note rhythm that repeats over the walking bass line from Excerpt 1.

Try to hear how the same chord progression is expressed by this piano part.

1Step 3: Now listen to the track again.

You’ll find you hear and understand much more than you did before.

Could you hear the piano progression?

That’s just one lesson from one of the tracks of the album. When you buy the full Popular Progressions album you get:

  • 5 Specially-Composed Music Tracks
    demonstrating common I-IV-V progressions in popular musical styles.
  • 27 Excerpt Clips
    which teach you what to listen for in each track.
  • Full 46-Page PDF Booklet including:
    • Progression reference charts for each song
    • Detailed notes explaining each excerpt for each track
    • Glossary explaining the important musical terms
    • Full Learning Guide walkthrough on how to practice with this album


  • 5 Looping Vamp Tracks for improvisation practice

    Because so many musicians are interested in chord progressions to jam with them and improvise over the chords, we’ve included a “vamp track” for each of the 5 songs. Put these on loop and practice over them to really reinforce your understanding of the progression and build your ability to improvise effectively by ear.

  • Recap Guide for 3-Chord Songs
    to remind you of the essential concepts of chord progressions.

I was familiar with I-IV-V chord progressions from trying a different play-by-ear method. I started to learn the fourths and fifths of each key but soon got frustrated because I didn’t have anything to relate it to. I was just rote learning and it didn’t stick in my mind.

With this album, everything seemed to click! I started to recognize patterns in my favorite songs and even the soundtrack to some video games that I own.

I already have recommended the album to my friends in the band I sing with.

— Jeff Ramos-Boehm, Arizona, US

In creating this new album, we didn’t want to rush it. Our students expect high quality products from us, and from their reviews and feedback we know our apps and eBooks are popular because they really do deliver great results fast.

We value this trust – and we respect our students’ time too much to waste it with ineffective methods or a slap-dash training product. We were determined to create something really great. We also wanted to use the same superb composer responsible for the Introducing Intervals album – and she’s been busy writing an opera!

Even after the album was made, we spent time testing it in depth to make sure it was ready. Our wonderful “beta team” of musicians and music teachers helped provide us with useful feedback to improve it. In the end they gave it a big thumbs-up.

About Easy Ear Training

Easy Ear Training is a London company founded to make it fun and easy to improve your ear for music.

Since 2009 we’ve been publishing free material on EasyEarTraining.com and creating innovative ear training products like mobile apps and audio-enhanced eBooks to help musicians learn the vital listening skills of music.

Hundreds of thousands of musicians worldwide have improved their ears with Easy Ear Training products:

“Easiest way to train your ear that I’ve come across.

Challenging, rewarding, and fun.

Great way to improve as a musician or just develop an understanding of pitch.

Can’t wait to finish this review and get back to ear training.”

“Even in my 60s, I now know the way to ear training when and where I can find a little time.

I had given up on “hearing” it until my son-in-law, the film score composer showed me this and IT WORKS.

Makes learning fun.

→ Read more about Easy Ear Training

We chose 5 popular musical genres and the most frequently used progressions. Then we composed all-new songs specially crafted to demonstrate these progressions in the kinds of ways they’re really used.

These tracks are going to sound familiar.

Normally with music, that would be a bad thing! But these weren’t written to be ground-breaking, earth-shattering works of art. They were written to help you train your ears.

Take a listen:

  1. Summer School Rock: 1950s Rock’n’Roll
  2. Pleasant Morning: Traditional Waltz
  3. Baby Blues: Classic 12-Bar Blues
  4. Beautiful World: New Age
  5. Home Grits: American Country Rock

They were written to be as similar as possible to the real songs you hear every day.

Why? Because it means that you can immediately start applying the listening skills you’ll learn to real music.

  • → You will immediately start hearing more detail
    and understanding the progressions in the songs you hear on the radio.
  • → You will start dissecting the songs you play
    on your instrument by ear, as your brain begins to comprehend and recognise the underlying chord progressions.
  • → You will find music actually starts to feel as simple as it sounds
    because you’ll understand why it sounds simple and exactly what that means in terms of chords.
  • → You will be able to improvise powerful solos over new songs
    because you know by ear which notes will work well with their progressions.
  • → You will master playing songs in different keys
    as it’s no longer intimidating – it’s just a matter of starting the progression you already recognise by ear with a different chord.
  • → You will enjoy listening to these tracks often
    and reinforcing your play-by-ear skills every time.
  • → You will be able to play hundreds (if not thousands!) of 3-chord songs by ear easily
    just hearing how they relate to the tracks from Popular Progressions.

I started using the album on my Mac, but wanted to be portable to go near my piano to experiment, so I switched to reading the notes on my Kindle and listening on my iPod.

The tracks are STELLAR for the intended learning purpose. Enough complexity to have you listening for this or that (without it being like the reading equivalent of Dick and Jane) but simple enough to be accessible and to feel the sense of accomplishment, of “getting it.” Enough musical interest that repetitive loop listening was enjoyable. Nice work!

— Karla, USA

This album bridges the gap between the theory of chord progressions – and the real songs you know and love.

Good for musicians

If you play chords on your instrument

… this album will help you play songs by ear.

You won’t need to look up the chord chart for every song you want to play.

You can create a new arrangement of a song on-the-fly, just by remembering how it sounds, and knowing the progressions it’s most likely to use.

Good for musicians

If you improvise on your instrument

… this album will help you do it better.

You’ll understand why chord tones are so important for making a solo really musically effective.

You won’t need to rely on the printed score or lead sheet. You’ll be able to find those notes by ear, because your brain will be following the underlying harmonic progression.

Good for musicians

If you’ve studied music

… this has probably been the missing piece for you.

Your teacher may have skipped “playing by ear” or told you it was for later.

But in fact, it’s something you can learn easily from day one – with suitable training material like the Popular Progressions album.

Good for musicians

If you’re self-taught

… you might just need a helping hand.

You probably instinctively know that this should be easy.

But you haven’t yet found the right explanation, or useful training materials. Popular Progressions can help.

Whatever kind of musician you are Popular Progressions can help you play songs by ear.

Actually, not quite every musician!

There are two exceptions:

Bad for musicians

If you can effortlessly play chords by ear already

… kudos! You do not need this album.

Bad for musicians

If you don’t know what a chord progression is

Special Offer

… you might want to read our “3-Chord Songs” book first.

You can also buy it together with Popular Progressions and get a special bundle discount!

Popular Progressions is a professional-quality ear training product created by experts and thoroughly tested by musicians and music educators. We’re proud to offer it as part of our range of premium ear training products.

But because we’ve heard that so many of our students are struggling with playing chords by ear and we want to make the album available to as many of them as possible, we’re pricing it at below the cost of a single music lesson: just $15.

→ Click Add To Cart and check out with our secure online order system using your credit card or PayPal and you’ll get instant access to download the album.

The Popular Progressions album is:


We’ve kept the album totally free of restrictions (DRM), meaning you can put these MP3s on any device you own.

Start out listening on your computer, then burn a CD for the car or put the tracks on your iPod to bring to the gym.

After that, put the music tracks on your mobile phone along with your other music, and listen as part of a regular playlist to keep reminding you of what you’ve learned.


The tracks are designed to each work independently so you can train with them in short amounts of time

Practice whenever and wherever it’s convenient for you.

Tested and Guaranteed

The album has been tested by musicians and music educators to ensure it truly delivers results.

And in case it turns out that it’s not right for you: we offer a full 60-day Money Back Guarantee.



We’re confident that Popular Progressions will help you get great results quickly.

That’s why we’re happy to offer a 100% 60-day money back guarantee.

If you have technical problems, struggle at all with the material in the book, or don’t find it helps you play chords by ear, just contact us and we’ll do our very best to help you.

If you’re still not 100% happy just let us know and we’ll give you a full refund.


You can be confident about purchasing through our online store.

Secure payment

All our payments are processed securely by world-leading payment providers Stripe and PayPal.

Secure Payments With Stripe
Payments securely processed by PayPal


All Easy Ear Training purchases are covered by our 60-day Money Back Guarantee, so if you encounter a problem with your digital product you can contact us for a full refund.


→ Don’t waste any more time memorising the chords to song after song.

→ Don’t tolerate risky and restrictive reliance on written music.

→ Don’t spend another day frustrated by feeling lost in the music you know is simple and sounds so familiar.

Buy Popular Progressions today
and start playing thousands of songs by ear.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This