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
How to do Progressions Ear Training
For details on how to plan your ear training to recognise chord progressions, read the full article "Chord Ear Training How-To: Chord Progressions" which explains the step-by-step process to develop your ear to recognise the most commonly-used chord progressions in music.
Chord Progression Ear Training Resources
Thousands upon thousands of songs use the same 3 or 4 chords - knowing about this makes learning to play them by ear much easier!
"3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick" is your all-in-one guide to these essential chord progressions.
Interactive chord progression ear 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.
Questions about Chord Progressions Ear Training
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