How should I train my ears to recognize different 'flavours' of chords ?

I mean especially recognizing what fourth/fifth notes were added to the chord (beyond the minor/major triads) such as 7#9 etc. (I'm not trying to recognize the absolute pitch however).

  • 3
    Have you done any other ear training? I highly recommend interval training as a first step.
    – user28
    Jun 19, 2011 at 17:47
  • Take the book "Jazz Improvisation No. 1" by Mehegan. Play through all the examples on the piano. Repeat until your ear starts to recognize the flavors of the chords. Mar 6, 2015 at 23:47

4 Answers 4


MusicTheory.net has a flash application to practice chord recognition. It doesn't go into more complex chords like 7#9, but it presents 10 chords (typical four-note chords and triads). That's a starting point. There must be applications supporting more "advanced" chords but I'm not aware of them, so I typically end up programming my own.

  • this indeed is useful ! Even though it 'only' has 10 types of chords, I'll first practice to get a reasonable rate of correct answers there. Jun 19, 2011 at 14:19

I once heard from a pianist that the chord you know is what you will hear in a song. This means that if you hear a song and hear a Dominant #5b9 and you were very familiar with dimished chords you will first interpret the chord you heard as a diminshed chord my advise is to learn the different chords. Go to apassion4jazz.net (something like that). You will see a lot of chords there. Start practicing them and get accustomed to their distinct sounds. When you hear any of them in a song you will most likely stand a better chance of picking them. Taking risk is borne out of passion. Passion is almost equal to success. Cheers.

  • As a player of many years I can say that accustomization has not helped me recognize chords. I do know that for some it comes easily, obviously there's a lot you're born with. As for learning, I'm still trying. Dec 3, 2020 at 19:10

Full disclosure: I do have perfect relative pitch, and a kind of perfect pitch for a few notes. So your experience may differ from mine.

My recommendation would be to play with how chords are arranged. If you break apart, for instance, a C major with a minor 7th, you have 4 notes (generally speaking... piano experience here): C, E, G, and Bb. When played one at a time with each sustaining through to the end, you can clearly hear what notes are being added and then afterward hear what the full chord sounds like. So how I learned to recognize chords was to play them broken apart like this and recognize initially the increment from the 1st to the nth, and then just check pitch to tell whether the nth was higher or lower. With practice and repetition, this gets pretty fast, so that now I can hear a chord and am generally spot-on with what it is, and most of the time what key it's in.

As a side note, this makes it easier to tell instantly whether an instrument is out of tune, before any playing actually happens. Once you've trained your brain to listen for these things, just two notes played can give you a good idea of how well-tuned the strings may be.


This site - Tunelark.com has some really nice educational games where you can practice identifying different sets of chords. I found it super helpful. You can also level up and unlock new sets of chords which is cool. You can also go straight to the demo form this link https://www.tunelark.com/demo/chords/basic-triads

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