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: Jun 4, 2019 • Visitors: 81 • Page Views: 1

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.

Shown is what you might get when listening to a basic 12 bar blues such as Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry.

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.

Learning a bit or a lot of the principles of music can go a long way in understand how chords and chord progressions move and interact together. There is actually a lot in common between songs.

Here are some tips for figuring out the chords:

After finding where the chord changes. Locate the bass or root of the first chord.

Root Voicings

If the song is simple then start with checking to see of it is a maj, minor, 7th or power 5 chord. Maybe a sus4, sus2 or add 2, add 9 chord.

If it a more sophisticated rich harmony, a.k.a. chords. Then try maj7, m7, 7, dim7, aug7, etc...

With each success - on to the next chord.

Note: Sometimes it is easier to figure this out on piano that the ukulele or guitar. And, you don't really need piano technique - just know how to make simple chords and know the names of the piano keys. Pretty easy.

Bass Voicings

If not quite right but seems like the right chord based on the root. It might be a Bass Voicing or slash chord. I C is the bass try C/D, C/E, Cm/F, C/G, Cm/G, C/Bb, C/B. If this fails and it could be any bass chord with C as the bass note.

CLiche, Common Progressions with Distinct Bass Lines

Here are some examples of this type of progressions.

  • Cm Cm/maj7 Cm7 Cm6 ( Cm Cm/B Cm/Bb Cm/A)

    This progression is commonly notated wrong. You'll hear it after you become more familiar witht he correct notation.

  • C Cm7+5 Cm6 Cm7aug5

    I call this the Secret Agent sound. Typically supports the melody. Witchcraft is a jazz standard that has the movement.

  • Cmaj7 Caug C6 Cmaj7 or C Caug C6 Caug C

Check out Jim D'Ville's Play Ukulele by Ear • Three Chord Club for lots of examples of simple songs we already know.


Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Hearing the Changes at this time.

Basic `Ukulele Chord Fingering

The art and science of chord fingering.

Key Signatures - Introduction

A key signature is a summary of the sharps or flats in a Major or its relative Natural Minor scale.

Understanding Chromatic Intervals

An interval is the distance between two notes.

Understanding Diatonic Intervals

An interval is the distance between two notes.

Understanding Interval Inversion

Inverting intervals using the Rule of Nine.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

Related Assets for Hearing the Changes at this time.

A to Z Blues Progressions for Ukulele - Example C

Solo ukulele recording of the example C blues progression.

Related Lesson Books

Related Books for Hearing the Changes at this time.

Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution

Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords.

Modular Phonetic Rhythm, The Foundation and Workbook 1

Modular Phonetic Rhythm represents a significant advance in the teaching and application of rhythm.

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Hearing the Changes at this time.

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The BOGUS Lesson Series for tEstInG is just what it is for - testing.

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From A to Z - These are the 26 blues chord progressions, extracted from my book Blues Chord Progressions for Ukulele from A to Z for use with on-line and private students.

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As rhythm are in-separately linked with strums these lessons are suitable for any stringed instrument like guitar, banjo and mandolin capable of playing chords.

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Not so much a series - but the basic chords ALL ukulele players should know.

Basic Ukulele Chords Charts - As much as I preach the need to not have to rely on chords charts. When you're first learning the ukulele and chords these charts are a real help - just not long a term alternative to actually knowng your chords, where they come from and how to create them when needed.

Common Chord Progressions and Remembering Songs

Learning the similarities between chord progressions and songs helps you remember a lot of songs. There's a lot more in common between songs than one might think.

This series of lessons explores common chord progressions.

Remembering songs is lot like remembering the directions for a road trip. There are the turn-by-turn directions, road maps, signs and landmarks. Turn here, turn there, remember this and remember that landmark. With a songs it's the chords, the harmonic cells and form of the song.

With a few music tools and an understanding of the principles of how chords and chords progressions work. You can start unraveling what's going on in a song. There's a lot more in common between songs than you might think. Each song has it's own direction, signs and landmarks.

Basic Lessons for Getting Started with Ukulele

These are the ukulele lessons that every ukulele player just starting out a bit seasoned should take a look at.

Even seasoned player should take a look at this series of lessons. You'll probally pick up a few things you didn't know or remember that would be very helpful when teaching beginners just get started.

Related Songs

Related Songs for Hearing the Changes at this time.

A Child is Born

A jazz ballad. It was written in 1969 by the jazz trumpeter Thad Jones and Alec Wilder and has since become a jazz standard.

Beer Barrel Polka

Also known as Roll Out the Barrel, is a song which became popular worldwide during World War II.

Autumn Leaves

Originally it was a 1945 French song "Les Feuilles mortes" (literally "The Dead Leaves").

All My Loving

Written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and from the 1963 album With The Beatles.

Related Videos

Related Videos for Hearing the Changes.

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