I understand music theory thoroughly and I understand the different elements that makes up songs and music. However, I have a problem hearing chord changes and progressions in songs. I can hear the different things that's taking place in a song so I can very well be hearing the chord progression and chord changes and just not know that's what I'm hearing. I find it a little difficult to hear the chord changes clearly with all the other music being played on top of them. I was taught to workout the bass line using relative pitch and then figure out the chord qualities. Is the an effective method??

Do they occur only in certain parts of a song?

Can you use different chord progressions for different sections of a song or do they just stay the same all the way throughout the song?

Are there any rules of thumb? Please bless me with some information!

Anyone able to workout the sections of these 2 songs? If so, do they have chord progressions, where do I listen for them, and what are the chords?



2 Answers 2


I would start with a basic 12 bar blues to hear how chords work. Then you will hear those types of changes in other songs. The 12 bar contains the Root (I), Sub Dominant (IV) and Dominant (V) chords in a pattern that is repeated.

Typically the bass holds down the root of the chord, so following a bassist will give you an idea of the changes.

Chords can change in different parts of songs (verse, chorus, bridge, etc) but there are songs where the progressions never changes.

The first rule of thumb is V to I. Your dominant chord resolving to the tonic (root) chord. It is used in all styles of music and the most common resolution.

Get tabs or sheet music and follow with a familiar songs and then you will have a good understanding of what you are hearing.


You already have a big head start with your knowledge of theory. Sometimes you just have to grow your aural understanding of a piece of music one note at a time. Yes, take a hint from the bass note and then start stacking up the notes you can hear in a given part. Eventually your brain will start 'cutting to the chase' and recognising the flavour of chords and their extensions and alterations, but sometimes you just have to rewind and listen again 47 times: 46 isn't enough. Headphones and a low volume level will help you isolate notes. Nowadays I don't bother panning to one ear. I work instrument-in/at-hand,but good scoring software like Sibelius is a wonderful help also. Input the notes as you detect them, then play the 'score' back to see if it's starting to sound like the original. Transcription involves a big investment of time, but you learn something every time you try it.

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