Recognizing Chords by Sound Alone

I’m wondering if it’s normal to be able to recognize chords just by sound. I realize when I play, it’s more mental than anything else. Is not being able to know which chord is which by sound alone typical for a relative beginner?


It is, developing your ear is part of learning

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Really good point Colleen and something I’ve thought about recently as my journey continues.

I wanted to run a poll but doesn’t look like you can do it on here, basically along the same lines.

I was interested to see how many here can name chords by ear and secondly how many can correctly identify chord progressions by ear.

Definitely interesting (to me anyway) to see the levels of those that can achieve one or both of the above. :thinking:

Hi Colleen,
Yes, that is very normal and almost impossible for beginners and even the intermediate group will have difficulty recognizing most chords… what you would probably be able to hear quickly is, for example, the difference between an A major or an A minor… and with some practice an A7 chord should also be doable… just try it, that’s a good start… and out of nowhere you can immediately hear whether an A major or a G major is being played. only available to a few people…

With Justin you will automatically come across the ear training, don’t worry too much about it now, play songs and follow the course and play some more songs



I wouldn’t call it normal, but certainly desirable. I’m not there yet myself --and I’m not completely convinced that unless you have perfect pitch that the effort would be worth it. I have picked up some songs in the key of C major, but little else. I have come to listen to tracks and then play some scale fragments to ascertain the key and progression. I can get there pretty quickly for the most part, so that’s how I roll. :slight_smile:

A bit of a coincidence or not this is just come up on Justin’s Instagram page.

Hi Colleen,
Recognising chords is a vey important part of learning to transcribe songs - or in layman’s terms, working out what’s going on in a song.

However, rather than being able to spot a G or an A minor by pitch , it is far, far more important to begin to recognise that you are hearing the I chord - aka the home chord, or the chord of the key that the song is in. Next up you’ll spot the IV cord and the V chord and now you’ve got the backbone of many songs nailed already.
It’s a powerful learning experience to do this because it helps you orientate yourself regarding the structure of the song


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Thank you all for your input! I thought I was at a disadvantage if the only way I ‘knew’ chords was putting my fingers on the correct strings without any ability to name the chord by sound. I would really like to be able to identify chords by sound–it seems like a bedrock of musicianship. There’s so much to learn!