What's the best technique to identify the guitar chords of a song?

I know the basic chords and also how to get into the rhythm of a song! But I'll always be spending huge amount of time to identify the chords :(

  • 3
    You can try using chordify. It's not always correct, but in many cases it's a pretty good start.
    – Malki
    Aug 26, 2013 at 20:20
  • Just something quick to add to these amazing and helpful suggestions, I'm working on You by -itis. I figured out after a bit of frustration that their guitarist likes Eb standard tuning. Watch out for things like that, too.
    – user20970
    Jun 15, 2015 at 12:25
  • finding chords is not easier for all. It's possible only with a lot of experience and when a guitarist can finalize the chords while listening songs only. There may be used variable chords in a song d sos,d diminished anything. Checking relative chords and practising chord lesson can make a perfect a finding chords of any song.
    – user27213
    Mar 16, 2016 at 1:19

6 Answers 6


At a beginner level, the first step is to identify the root note of the chord - this is often (especially in most pop or rock music) the lowest note of the chord, so you should be able to hear and compare with a plucked note on your guitar.

If you can accompany a song just using the root notes then you will have an idea of the chords and the progression through the song.

Identifying whether it is an A minor, A 7th, A sus 4 etc comes more from practice and experience. You learn to hear what each type of chord sounds like and will be able to play along with a version of the chord.

Once you can do that, you are likely to find that although the chords may be right, you may be playing a different fingering than is used on the track. There are many ways to play each chord, not just because you can play in various places on the fretboard, but also because you don't need to have the notes in order, or even play all the notes in a chord, so to accurately play in the style of a particular artist, you need to learn their techniques - they may go for basic powerchords, or like to stretch across a wide range of frets etc.

  • 1
    Yes, root notes are always a good starting point (although they can sometimes be misleading if you don't listen to all of the notes). Mar 1, 2015 at 14:40
  • 1
    It also helps if you can figure out the key and know basic music theory. If you know that the root of a chord is C and the key of the song is F major, a C7 can be a good starting guess, since the diatonic C chord in F major is a dominant 7th. From there, if C7 sounds right but not quite what you hear, you can start adding tensions and/or voicing it differently. This is really useful, since you can usually tell by ear when a chord is not diatonic.
    – Costagero
    Mar 2, 2015 at 16:20
  • 1
    The root notes are often easier to ascertain by listening for the bass guitar, especially on the first beat of a bar.
    – Tim
    Apr 12, 2017 at 12:34
  • Hearing the root note can be difficult if you haven't learned how. I liked what Tim said: listen for bass guitar; or I say the lowest note you can hear. That's likely the root! I'm a trumpet player and I'm learning that sometimes the root note is not played by piano because it's being played by base. So in some cases, the guitar might not play the root note either which might make things confusing to you until you "hear" it that way.
    – PatS
    Apr 4, 2022 at 14:22

To find the chords for a song (you mention guitar chords, which will be the same chords, but may have different voicings), first you have to establish what key the song is in. This you do by listening carefully to 1. What the first chord is. 2. What the last chord is. 3. A place in the song where it sounds like it could finish, even if it doesn't,or places where the same 'home chord' comes, often.This chord is most likely to be the key chord.

When you have this, call it chord one. The other two main chords in the song will be four and five. E.g. in G, G being one, C is four and D five.

Assuming it's in a major key, there may be minor chords in the song - six, two and three, often in that order of probability. Most pop songs will have less than all 6, in them. Many songs have only 3 or 4, and some (Achy Breaky Heart, Dance the Night Away) manage with only 2, these being one and five.

As Dr Mayhem suggests, to find a chord, listen to its basic note, and move one fret at a time up the bottom (fat) string of your guitar, until you come to the note that matches that chord. This stands a good chance of being the key chord. Put the radio on, and try this with every song that gets played, you'll be surprised how quickly you improve.


I'm gonna resurrect this thread to say that the way I do it is pulling the mp3 into a DAW like ableton or fl and put a spectrum analyzer plugin on the track. Then you can see what notes are in the chord and what octave they're in so you can exactly know what position to play the chord in. This is only useful if you have the file and is definitely not going to work 100% of the time (especially if the song is busy). But it's at least a good starting point.

  • .... I had no idea this technology existed.... The next time I'm sitting trying to work out the exact voicing of some crazy extended piano chord, I may just try this "cheat" way and see if I get an answer
    – Some_Guy
    Jan 22, 2017 at 13:04
  • That's cheating - and the answers still may not be right! Why not just look at the sheet music - it may even be correct!
    – Tim
    Apr 12, 2017 at 12:29

I can say what I did for recognition of chords of a song. A guitar player should have ability to accompany singers in live performances without having practice with them. It is possible and easy too. For that initially I practiced a particular Major scale(G major scale). I played the octave in different positions, also sang the notes. Then my ear could recognize any note of a scale suddenly played. Initially I spent 3 or 4 hours per day and practiced the octaves with different patterns in different orders for making my fingering and note recognition by ear good. Then began to play chords of respective notes of that particular scale together with rhythms . I sang notes and played chords until I could change chords quickly. My ear could recognize chords of different notes. Then I selected particular song to sing and accompanied(chords in rhythm) myself. I selected different songs of major scale that I can sing those songs in that particular scale instead of the original scale. Simultaneously I did the same for all major scales and minor scales. Then I could play chord progressions of almost all songs with singers in live performances in rubies. I must mention that I play minor scales based on related major scale instead of root note scale. That is, I try to recognize a minor scale by first recognizing that notes of which major scale are used. This method is easier for me.

  • That's a nice technique.
    – kevin
    Feb 15, 2018 at 14:50

Find the chords of songs by following steps. its easy -:

  1. first of all recognize the drum or bass guitar whatever sounds loud and make it remember in your mind . recognize every half and full beats where it occurs.if beats are too much complicated then don't worry without changing the very 1st strike of drum or bass guitar of any place of song. follow the timing and make it simple as possible but don't modify it fully .

  2. now recognize the song for the beats not for chords right now. now, the 1st strike of rhythm of drum or 1st pluck of rhythm of bass is the thing. Just focus in that point and recognize just the 1st point of note of word of singer where that strike of drum or of bass guitar occurs. .remember that point and find that note in guitar in which fret of which string it lies. Suppose if you found e note then press e chord.now that is major chord you are pressing.now to know if that line matches with minor or major chord.pluck every string by pressing any(major or minor) of that note which you found. recognize seriously if every strings sound relatively (not odd) with the line. that is the chord .for that line. If drum strikes before line then the 1st note of 1st word of particular line is the chord.


Aaah, yep to all the above but lets make this a bit easier(?). find a song on youtube (frankly, you can put the name of the song on the internet and search for "(name of song) Chord or TABS" and poof ya got all right there...for free)! If you want to figure it out on your own (just for the fun of it)...then attempt to play along with the music and if you can get the melody--the single notes sang or played (often not too hard) then write down those notes and then search the music keys for those notes (typically if you can find the notes you can find the scale and if you can find the scale you have the key and the scale/key will fit only one set of chords). Let's say you pick off the notes while playing along with the radio and you find you are playing no sharps or flats then that is the "Key of C" and the notes are C,D,E,F,G,A,B and C (the octave). The chords that go along with ANY scale of notes go (in this order): Maj, min, min, Maj, Maj, min, Diminished: SO...the chords in the scale of C are Cmaj, Dmin, Emin, FMaj, GMaj, Amin, and Bdimished. Then it is just a matter of matching the notes to the chord with the note in the melody. Music is not a machine though and though it involves mathematics it is not rigid...this rule always applies: if it sounds good then it is good--others will be sure to let you know!!

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