Hearing the Changes

Knowing what the chords of a song or chord progressions are and when the when the change.

Published: Jan 2, 2005 Updated: Jan 4, 2016

ukulele | Subjects: progressionsintermediateadvancedchordsrepertoire

Hearing The Changes are knowing what the chords of a song or chord progressions are and when the when the change. This lesson gets you on the road to developing this ability.

This involves know the chords of the keys and scales that are used for common progressions and songs. And the ability to recognize the sound of intervals, the distance between intervals.


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Here are the first steps to learning to "Hearing the Changes"

Hearing and figuring out the chords to a song takes the same skills as transcribing a song - its limited to the chords of the songs and you might be doing it in real time as the song is being played.

  • Marking where the chord actually changes. This can be what measure and beat the chord changes happening or if learning using the lyrics as a reference, the word or syllable.
  • Identifying the intervals of the root movement. This is the bass, root movement of ... or low end of the chord. If there is a bass playing on the song that is a good place to start by figuring out the bass line. If it's a simple song there is a good chance that they are fulfilling their primary role as a bass player and playing the actual chord tones of the chords - just as single notes and not strumming each chord like a ukulele or guitar player.
  • Identify the starting key. This can give you a great clue as to the chords. Most pop, folk, rock and country songs don't change keys and all the chords will come from that key or be common substitutes. Jazz and songs popular before the rock'n'roll era typically modulated to different keys and didn't stay on one key or tonal area. They had a more sophisticated chord structure going on.

Without some of the skills mentioned above it's often a hit or miss, hunt and peck method of figuring out what the chord changes are to a song.


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