How can I know where to go after grasping chord 1

  • Years of training and practice. Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 12:02
  • 1
    If you can grasp the first chord, then do the same for the second chord? Repeat for every chord. Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 12:25
  • Welcome! Please read about the kinds of questions that work well here, as well as how to avoid subjective answers. This is a very broad question, maybe too broad to get a good answer, since the answer is basically "Well, study some basic theory of harmony and then practice a regimen of aural skill training for a while." Can you edit it to ask something more specific? Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 17:08

4 Answers 4


Here‘s a simple algorithm:

  1. Get the melody, try replaying it
  2. Review the melody, i.e. find out its scale
  3. Try chord progressions which remains in the melodies scale


  • assume, the melody turns out to be in C major
  • a standard progression uses degrees I, IV and V
  • Which translates into C, F and G
  • Try these root notes as bass
  • Try power chords, which omit the 3rd, i.e CG, FC and GD
  • Work from there
  • Learn about other chord progressions.
  • Try FC for the F power chord? But there's no need to omit the 3rd, as I, IV and V will 99% be major.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 15:32
  • Right. However, sometimes the scale is just a first guess, which needs modification. Then the 3rd may stand in the way. Thanks for correcting my typo.
    – MS-SPO
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 16:42

After grasping chord I (not necessarily chord 1), there's the diatonic options of IV and V majors, and ii, iii and vi minors.

As Todd comments, it won't come easily, and at least months of practice with simple numbers will be a good grounding. Relying on what others think those chords are often produces red herrings, so get started with nursery songs, simple three chord songs, and get used to actually establishing what the I chord really is, in any song.

Listening to what the bassist plays is often an excellent clue.


I'd say leave off the secondary chords entirely. Work on identifying I, IV, and V chords first. Nursery rhymes and simple children's songs are a great starting point, as others have mentioned. There are tons of songs that use only these three chords. Also, even though there are variations and sevenths, listening to lots of music that uses a 12-bar blues progression helps because these chords are so predictable. Think early rock-and-roll music, blues, etc. George Thorogood seems to only know these 3 chords so you could start there (for as long as you can tolerate it)!

Once you are able to find I, IV, and V, then you can add in an occasional minor chord.


There isn't one all inclusive method, but you can do more that grope about with no sense of how chords tend to be used.

You need a combination of...

  • understanding common chord changes and sense of chords within a key or tonal center
  • you need lots of practice playing and listening to those common changes in all keys
  • you need lots of practice applying the first two points to figuring out lots of actual songs

Any chord can lead to any other chord. There are no rules. You may have heard things like that before. While those statements are true, they also are not very practical when trying to get familiar with common chord patterns.

I agree with @nuggethead that in the beginning just working with three chord songs and chords I IV V is the way to start out. Keep reading for my take on how to go beyond that.

There are many ways to present common chord patterns and harmony concepts, I like two chord pairs (I call them harmony "bigrams"), because they are the simplest, meaningful harmonic movement, and you can combine them to get longer progressions"

  • I V a strong opening (or incomplete end of a section)
  • I IV another opening
  • I vi tonic and relative minor, moderate momentum
  • IV V subdominant to dominant, builds momentum
  • ii V another subdominant to dominant, builds momentum
  • V I a strong closing
  • IV I another closing
  • V vi "deceptive" progression, incomplete feel
  • V IV a "retrogression", a sort of denouement or slackening

There are many chromatic progression, but a few to highlight are:

  • ♭VII I a "modal" or "mixolydian" progression
  • iv I the minor subdominant
  • ♭III I a chromatic mediant pair, there are more types of pair, this is only one to present the concept

Some progressions really need to be show as three chords:

  • I #idim7 ii a passing diminished seventh chord
  • ii V I common in jazz and many other styles
  • ii7 ♭II7 I a jazz tritone substitution, has many other forms
  • IV V7/V V a secondary dominant to the dominant
  • I I7 IV a secondary dominant to the subdominant

There are lots of four chord progressions common enough to get nicknames, some of those include:

  • I vi IV V the "doo-wop" progression
  • i ♭VII ♭VI V the Andalusian progression
  • I V vi IV (lookup Axis of Awesome "Four Chords")

Finally, learning a few full song forms is a good way to put these small pieces together and get a sense of sections and phrasing in connection with chord progressions. Three that will take you a long way are:

  • 12 bar blues, a basic structure with many variations
  • Passamezzo antico (people don't usually reference this directly, but modification of this are found in lots of music)
  • Rhythm Changes, combines two basic patterns I vi7 ii7 V7 and ♭III7 ♭VI7 ♭II7 V7, a diatonic descending fifths progression and a chromatic descending fifths progression, which jazz modifies in many, many ways

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