I've been using EarMaster to practice hearing progressions. For most of them, I can pick out a certain interval and slowly improve my accuracy.

  • Major against Minor triads — I try to pick out the 3rd
  • VIIdim7 - I against V7 - I — I try to pick out the root movement
  • VIIdim7 - Im against Vm-Im — I'm having a hard time figuring out what exactly to listen for to tell the difference.

Right now, it feels like I'm stabbing in the dark with this. What should I be trying to pay attention to here?

4 Answers 4


The vii(dim 7) will have a more dissonant sound that the v, also there will be four different pitches in the seventh chord than in the basic triad. Finally, vii(dim 7) has no tones in common with i, whereas v has one pitch in common with i. Finally, vii contains the leading tone, while v does not (i.e., in vii-i, ^7 moves to ^1 by half step, but in v-i, ^7 moves to ^1 by whole step).

So four things you could listen for:

  • relative level of dissonance
  • four distinct pitches vs. three
  • common tone with the following chord
  • half-step versus whole-step motion to the tonic

In scale-degree terms:

viio7: #7 2 4 b6
        \     /
i    :   1 3 5
        /    |
Vm   : b7 2  5   (shown in first inversion
                  to emphasize common-tone)

And visualized in A minor:

vii(dim7) moving to i and v(minor) moving to i

  • I didn't even realize I was dealing with 4 note vs 3 note chords. That helps a lot. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 22:40

I may be a bit prejudiced because I’m a bass player by trade but I think one of the most important things to develop in harmonic ear training is picking out the bass motion. Once you can establish the bass motion it makes it easier to figure out what is going on above it. For that reason you’re taking a good approach to your bullet point #2

As for bullet point #3, by VIIdim7 I am going to assume you are talking about a diminished chord a half step below the tonic, so say Bdim7-Cm in the key of Cm. This should be pretty easy to pick out by two methods, one is the bass movement of a 5th down (or a 4th up) should be pretty easy to distinguish from the bass moving up a half step. The other distinguishing factor is Vm-Im is not a cadence and there is no dissonance of b5 intervals in the Vm chord so that is another thing you can listen for.

  • Yes, I was referring to Vm - Im. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 22:54
  • OK, I edited my answer based on your comment. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 23:04
  • Have a look at a previous question - 'Can we have a perfect cadence in a minor key' - I wasn't sure that v>i was, but now think it is.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 7:20
  • @Tim it doesn’t fit the definition but I hear resolution in it. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 8:10

Surprised that no-one has yet mentioned that VIIdim7 is a rootless (roll eyes) V7b9 chord. Many jazz players would consider that functionally there is no difference between V7 - I and VIIdim7 - I – if you have a functional cadence then any and all alterations are on the cards, to taste. Picking out whether the root is actually present or not seems like a somewhat unnecessary endeavour to my mind (perhaps I could be convinced otherwise) as musically I would say V7 - I and VIIdim7 - I are the same.

(eta: of course, one has the b9 alteration and the other doesn't, so it's that that I would focus on picking out. It should be quite clear as a jarring/jazzy/clashing/'cool' note)

That however provides an easy resolution to your third query, since in VIIdim7 - Imin, which I'm claiming is V7 - Im, the five chord is a dominant7, so has a major third (indeed this is the VII) whereas in Vm - Im the five chord has a minor third. As covered in other answers, if it sounds just like two minor chords one after the other, it's the Vm - Im. If it sounds like "dramatic tension! resolution to a minor chord" it's the VIIdim7 - Im.


I don't know EarMaster, but I'll try to answer anyway.

  • Yes, major and minor triads differ by the third, and this gives them a different color. It should become quite natural for you after a while
  • Listening to root is a good idea. I'm not sure what do you mean by VIIdim7. Is it a diminished chord (e.g. Bo7 B-D-F-Ab in the key of C) or half diminished (Bm7b5 B-D-F-A). In the first case the Ab note is very distinguishable. In the latter you have A note, which is missing in V7 (G7 G-B-D-F), so half-dimished has more rich sound. It is actually more difficult to distinguish Bo7 vs G7b9 and Bm7b5 vs G9, but it is possible with practice.
  • Again, not sure what do you mean by VIIdim7, but either diminished or half-diminished chord sound quite different (more dissonant) from a minor one, so you should be able to distinguish it just by listening to the sound of first chord.
  • I'd be referring to a diminished chord. Bdim7 = B D F Ab Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 22:37
  • Alright, then it should be quite clear difference. Diminished chord is much more dissonant. It has two tritones, as opposed to one in a dominant seventh chord, and none in a minor triad. I'd advice you to focus on distinguishing the sound of these chords. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 23:16

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