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In the opening of this song, I hear an Ab to to Eb/G but then in the verses I hear a Gm after the Ab for the most part. I know the difference between the chords in theory and that they both can function as a passing chord or some sort of a false resolution to the Cm, but I want to learn how to hear the difference between the two and if I'm even correct in the first place that the opening is an Ab to Eb/G. This might not be the right place to ask this, but I was hoping to get some advice on how to practice hearing the difference between these chords and if I heard it correctly in this example.

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  • We don't transcribe music normally here. Note that intro and verse may use different chords, and there's nothing wrong with it. Also, the song uses upper structures a lot, which results in some ambiguity about interpretation of harmony, and that's perhaps intended. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 15:59

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In both cases the telltale sign is to listen for the tonic note, the Eb in the second chord in either the harmony or the melody. If there is an Eb (or the tonic note in another key) it is a I6. The tonic, Eb, is also the only common tone between IV and I6 (IV and iii have none). In the intro it is super clear because the basic melody is G Bb F Eb. If you hear a D but no Eb in the chord (in this key) it is a iii, not the case here.

However in both the intro and the verse there is also a D in the chords which makes a case for the iii chord but this is overridden by the presence of the Eb above the D, which gives you an Ebmaj7/G.

It takes practice, time and patience to be able to hear and recognize chords and harmonic progressions but it is an invaluable skill. No matter what instrument you play always spend time on an instrument that can play chords. Try and recognize and identify the way the inner voices move through the chords. It is well worth the effort!

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  • Thank you for the tips but I have yet another question I suppose. How am I to decipher which melody note could be considered a part of the chord and which would just act as some sort of embellishment? If the melody included a D on an accented beat but still had an Eb, would the Eb be considered a passing tone for chordal purposes?
    – Vanilla
    Commented Aug 11, 2022 at 23:41
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    It is possible to have a D on a strong beat over an Eb/G. You must examine the individual context and make a decision based on your knowledge and experience. If the melody doesn’t have a clear interpretation it is best to listen to the notes in the harmony regardless of the melody. That is always a better choice as it is more stable than a melodic line. Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 6:38

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