How to Learn Songs by Ear: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide

 

 
Learn Songs By Ear Orange Square

It was like magic. My guitar teacher gave the song a quick listen and BAM, reproduced it instantly. Like it was nothing. I couldn’t understand how he did it.

Learn Songs By Ear Orange Square

I had some experience with figuring out riffs and other guitar parts by ear and I'd done a bunch of ear training exercises. But I was nowhere near as fast or accurate. The way he instantly knew how to instruct his fingers to play the notes he’d just heard for the first time in his life... It seemed amazing.

But like any magic trick, once you understand what’s going on, it isn’t as special as it once seemed. Playing by ear and learning songs by ear isn't some innate, natural talent that you either have or don’t have. It’s a skill that you can learn with the right kind of practice.

psychic
More great cartoons at xkcd.com

So what’s the right strategy? There are countless ear training sites, apps, and books that have you practice recognising intervals, triads and seventh chords and so on. I did it all. But although it was useful, I don't think it was how my ears got to the level of my teacher. It’s not how it became second nature to hear something and play it immediately.

My ears improved dramatically when I stopped using tabs, and started to use my ears all the time to figure out licks, vocal melodies, bass lines, chord progressions, stuff I heard on tv and entire songs.

Learning songs by ear is not just a great way to never ever have to visit some tab site again, navigating your way through annoying ads and sifting through incorrect tabs. It’s not just a way to avoid the boredom and tediousness that can set in after playing tabs for a while. It’s a great way to become a better musician and gain much more control of your instrument. Plus, there’s something extremely satisfying about having figured out a song yourself. It feels like you totally ‘own’ the music when you learn songs by ear.

So if you're excited about learning this awesome skill, I'll show you exactly how to learn songs by ear in this article. The first section is focused on riffs and melodies. The second section will show you how to learn chords and harmonies by ear. Lastly, I'll tell you a bit about a course I created called Make Your Ears Awesome that will help you learn 51 songs by ear using interactive guitar tab.

SECTION 1

Learning Riffs or Melodies by Ear

Learning a riff or melody by ear consists of two stages. The first is to hear and remember the music. To record it accurately in your brain. Anyone that sings along to a song on the radio possesses this skill. This step might seem simple, but it’s absolutely vital.

Learn-Music-by-Ear
Guitarists often rush through this stage and proceed to their fretboards immediately. But if you can’t hear the music in your head, you will learn the song the way you THINK it is, rather than how it actually is. It’s like building a house without carefully looking at the blueprint. You’ll end up with a house, but it just won’t be the one in the plans. If you can’t sing or hum the music, you can’t play it. You don’t have to be a great singer. You don’t even have to sing in tune. But you need to hear the music in your head.

When I learn a solo or some other longer piece, I like to listen to it for a while first. When I’m on my bike, on the train, or walking to the store... Just to take care of the memorisation. I often sing the part to check where my memory isn’t strong enough yet.

Like these kids:

Coltrane in the afternoon (the tune is called 26-2)

That kid on the right is so unimpressed...

The next step to learning a song by ear is to try to find those notes on the fretboard. To translate the music into movements of your hands and into sound.

Transcribing a riff or melody

Step 1 alt

1. Put your guitar away and listen to the music

Really, don’t touch that thing! Make sure you’ve got the melody in your head. If you’ve never transcribed a song before, it’s probably a good idea to start with whatever you hear. This might be a guitar part, but it can also be a vocal melody or a bass line. Check if you really know the melody by humming along with the recording. Stay away from that guitar until you can hum the melody!

Step 2

2. Find the very first note of the melody

In the beginning, this will be a lot of trial and error. Just think of the note you’re looking for and let your hand float towards the fret that you think will give you the right note. This is an intuitive process, so don’t overthink it! Is it the correct note? Is it higher? Lower? Try to slide up or down the string you’re on, until you find the note you have in mind.

Note: To get better at this, you can turn it into a little game. Sing a note, any note, and find it on guitar. You’ll find that within a matter of days you’ll get better at this. Your subconscious mind will be connecting pitches to strings and frets.

Step 3

3. Write the note down

Found it? Great! Make sure to write it down. I like using tab for this, because it gives you both the note and the position where you’re playing the note.

Step 4

4. Repeat the process until you've found all the notes

Is the second note higher or lower than the first note? Or is it the same note? Try and find the second note. To make things easier, stay on one string. Just slide up or down, until you find the correct note. Once you find it, write it down and repeat the process until you've found the whole riff or melody.

Step 5 new

5. Figure out the easiest way to play it

If you’ve stuck to one string and the melody is hard to play that way, now is the time to look for a way to play some of the notes on other strings too. Hint: When you go one string higher (i.e. higher in pitch and physically closer to the ground), that’s the same as moving up five frets (unless you're moving up the b string, which is four frets). Slide back those four or five frets and you’ve found the exact same note!

Step 1 alt

1. Put your guitar away and listen to the music

Really, don’t touch that thing! Make sure you’ve got the melody in your head. If you’ve never transcribed a song before, it’s probably a good idea to start with whatever you hear. This might be a guitar part, but it can also be a vocal melody or a bass line. Check if you really know the melody by humming along with the recording. Stay away from that guitar until you can hum the melody!

Step 2

2. Find the very first note of the melody

In the beginning, this will be a lot of trial and error. Just think of the note you’re looking for and let your hand float towards the fret that you think will give you the right note. This is an intuitive process, so don’t overthink it! Is it the correct note? Is it higher? Lower? Try to slide up or down the string you’re on, until you find the note you have in mind.

Note: To get better at this, you can turn it into a little game. Sing a note, any note, and find it on guitar. You’ll find that within a matter of days you’ll get better at this. Your subconscious mind will be connecting pitches to strings and frets.

Step 3

3. Write the note down

Found it? Great! Make sure to write it down. I like using tab for this, because it gives you both the note and the position where you’re playing the note.

Step 4

4. Repeat the process until you've found all the notes

Is the second note higher or lower than the first note? Or is it the same note? Try and find the second note. To make things easier, stay on one string. Just slide up or down, until you find the correct note. Once you find it, write it down and repeat the process until you've found the whole riff or melody.

Step 5 new

5. Figure out the easiest way to play it

If you’ve stuck to one string and the melody is hard to play that way, now is the time to look for a way to play some of the notes on other strings too. Hint: When you go one string higher (i.e. higher in pitch and physically closer to the ground), that’s the same as moving up five frets (unless you're moving up the b string, which is four frets). Slide back those four or five frets and you’ve found the exact same note!

Bonus tip: Slow it down

Sometimes, it can be a bit easier to learn songs by ear when you slow down the music a little. I use The Amazing Slow Downer or Transcribe! for this, but you can also use VLC Media Player, Audacity or Tune Transcriber which are all free. But don’t slow it down too much. If you need to slow the tune down to more than 80 percent of the original tempo, it might be a good idea to find a song that’s a bit easier. You want to find songs that are challenging but not overly so. Plus, if the music is too fast for you to hear what’s going on, it might still be a bit too fast for you to play anyway.

How to get started

Those are the basics steps you need to go through. And then it’s just a matter of doing it. A lot. It may seem a little bit overwhelming if you’ve never done this before. But what if you set a really modest goal for yourself? Try to figure out just three or four notes a day. Within just a few weeks your skills will go through the roof.

Here are some suggestions for some (relatively) simple melodies that you can figure out by ear that you can get started with if you want some more practice.

  • The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army (link)
  • Queen - Another One Bites the Dust (link)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Otherside (link)
  • MGMT - Kids (link)
  • James Bond Theme (link)

Start Right Now

No time to waste. Grab your guitar right now and we'll get started by figuring out this next song by ear. I'll take you through it note for note!


Hope that last song went well for you! Now let's try some real music! Check out this Queen song.

Queen - Under Pressure (Official Video)

If you've listened closely, now grab your guitar and try to figure out the very first note. Next, fill out that note in this interactive tab and hit the 'check tab' button to see if you got the first note right. (It will turn green or red depending on if you got it right.)

 
Got that first note right? Keep going and see if can get the entire riff right!

If you enjoy this way of learning songs by ear, check out my brand new ear training course: Make Your Ears Awesome. The course will help you learn 51 riffs and melodies exactly like this. You can also try the first couple of songs for free as part of the sample course. It includes a song by the White Stripes and one by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Developing your ear will take your musicianship to the next level. It’s a great feeling when looking up a tab seems needlessly complicated and time-consuming. By figuring things out yourself, you’ll also gain a much deeper understanding of the song and music in general. You’ll also be able to learn anything without needing a tab, which is great if you’re into more obscure bands, video game music, or want to learn that one b-side that no one seems to like, but you know is pure genius...

In the long-term, your playing will become more natural, because you’re strengthening the connection between your head and your hands. Between your musical imagination and your fretboard. It’ll become easier to play by ear and you'll get better at expressing your ideas.

SECTION 2

Learning Chords and Harmonies by Ear

You might already be able to transcribe melodies, riffs and solos. But for many guitar players, figuring out multiple notes at the same time is much more challenging.

It makes sense. Figuring out a single note is simply easier than hearing and recognising a collection of notes. It can be a bit overwhelming to learn chords by ear, but learning really isn't as 'impossible' as some guitar players feel it is.

Just like figuring out riffs or melodies by ear, learning chords by ear is not some innate ability that you either have or don't have. Recognising chords by ear is a skill you'll learn with practice. All you need to do is stay calm, don’t panic, and go at this one step at a time.

 

This section will give you a step-by-step guide that shows you exactly what to do. I'll also show you how you can use music theory to make the process of learning chords and harmonies by ear easier. Lastly, I'll list some suggestions for different songs you can learn by ear, grouped by difficulty level.

Why you want to learn chords and harmonies by ear

When you learn songs by ear, your relationship to sound changes. You’re not trying to match a bunch of symbols (whether tab or notes) to sound. You’re listening to the sound first, processing it, and figuring out a way to reproduce it. And that skill, reproducing a sound that you hear in your head, forms the core of your musicianship.

Learn-Music-by-Ear

Figuring out a song by ear ingrains the sound in your ‘musical system’ in a way that’s much deeper than when you’re just copying a tab. You'll deepen your understanding of what’s going on in the music. Having more insight into harmony is the key to writing more compelling songs and playing more meaningful solos. Harmony is the emotional tapestry of music that can make or break a song.

What you need to know

To learn a melody by ear, you don’t need any theoretical knowledge. You don’t need to ‘know’ how to play a single note on a guitar. You just need to match a pitch to a single fret. Knowing theory can make playing by ear easier at some point, but you definitely don’t need it to get started.

For transcribing chords and chord progressions, this is a bit different. You need to know how to play the chords that you're trying to figure out. So, obviously, the more chords you can play, the better. But to make this lesson simple and actionable for everyone, I'll provide a list of songs you can get started with in three 'levels':

Level 1: You know all the open chords
Level 2: You also know how to play major and minor chords in all keys
Level 3: You also know how to play various seventh chords in all keys

Side note: if you want to be able to play all the songs in level 2 and level 3, check out my course guitar chord bootcamp. You'll cement the 96 most used chords into your brain, from major and minor chords to dominant, major seven, minor seven, diminished and half-diminished chords.

You're probably also wondering: do I need to know music theory to learn chords by ear? If you know hardly any theory but know your chords, you can still get started using the guide to learning harmonies by ear below. However, theory really does make learning chords by ear much easier, because you'll roughly know what to expect. You'll know which chords are 'normal'. I'll show you which theory is helpful, right after this step-by-step approach to learning chords by ear.

Step-by-step approach to learning chord progressions by ear

What you need to know:

  • Practically no theory
  • How to play all open chords or more (level 1-3)
Step 1 alt

1. Tune into the bass

The lowest note in music determines how all the other notes above it will sound. Harmony always starts with the bass note. So, the first thing you want to do, is listen closely and tune into the bass line. This may take some practice, because we're used to listening to melodies that are easy to hear.

Step 1 alt

Bonus tip: use an equalizer

If you're using a program like iTunes or VLC media player you can try boosting the bass frequencies using the equaliser. This can make it a bit easier to tune into the sound. It really depends on the recording, but generally speaking it should help to boost anywhere from 60 up to 400 hertz. So look around that area until you find a setting that makes the bass easier to hear. Also, keep in mind that earbuds or laptop speakers often don't have the most powerful low end. So trying a different pair of headphones or speakers might also make it easier to tune into the bass.

Step 1 alt

2. Figure out the bass part

Next, figure out what the bass is playing, note for note. It might be a single note that is repeated or it might be a more melodic line. This process is pretty similar to learning riffs and melodies by ear. Most importantly: make sure you've got the bass line in your head and that you can sing or hum it first. Next, figure it out one note at a time, until you've found the first five to ten seconds of the song.

Step 1 alt

3. Figure out the root note

The root note is the 'letter' we use to name a chord. So the root note for a B minor chord is B. Think of it as the foundation of a chord. The next step is to listen to the bass line and figure out which note is the root. The bass line won't usually play the root note all the time, but it will emphasise it. For example, listen to which note the bass plays on 'the 1' (i.e. the start of a new measure). Listen to which note the bass plays the longest. On which note does the bass sound the most 'at rest'? Whenever the harmony seems to change, you'll notice that the bass is emphasising a different note.

Step 1 alt

4. Check if the chord on the root note is major or minor (or neither)

Say you found the first root note is G. Try playing a G major chord and a G minor. Listen to which one sounds correct. Roughly speaking, you can say that major chords sound happy, and minor chords sound sad. In time, you won't have to try both, because you'll hear immediately if a chord is major or minor. But figuring out chords like this is the best way I know to learn to recognise these sounds.

If these 'standard' major and minor chords sound wrong, you might’ve run into a chord that’s constructed a bit differently. If you know how chords are constructed, I highly recommend using the detective approach I've laid out below. You can also check if one these chord types sounds better:
a. half diminished chord
b. diminished chord
c. augmented chord
d. sus chord (sus2, sus4, or both)
e. a slash chord (i.e. a chord where the bass isn't playing the root note, but probably the third or fifth)

Step 1 alt

5. Check if you need to add an extra note to make it into a seventh chord

If you found a major or minor chord in step 4 (i.e. not one of the exceptions), the sound might still be a bit different. This is most likely because the chord has one or more additional notes that give it a richer sound. The first options to check:

a. dominant chord
b. major seven chord
c. minor seven chord
d. major minor seven chord

Step 1 alt

1. Tune into the bass

The lowest note in music determines how all the other notes above it will sound. Harmony always starts with the bass note. So, the first thing you want to do, is listen closely and tune into the bass line. This may take some practice, because we're used to listening to melodies that are easy to hear.

Step 1 alt

Bonus tip: use an equalizer

If you're using a program like iTunes or VLC media player you can try boosting the bass frequencies using the equaliser. This can make it a bit easier to tune into the sound. It really depends on the recording, but generally speaking it should help to boost anywhere from 60 up to 400 hertz. So look around that area until you find a setting that makes the bass easier to hear. Also, keep in mind that earbuds or laptop speakers often don't have the most powerful low end. So trying a different pair of headphones or speakers might also make it easier to tune into the bass.

Step 1 alt

2. Figure out the bass part

Next, figure out what the bass is playing, note for note. It might be a single note that is repeated or it might be a more melodic line. This process is pretty similar to learning riffs and melodies by ear. Most importantly: make sure you've got the bass line in your head and that you can sing or hum it first. Next, figure it out one note at a time, until you've found the first five to ten seconds of the song.

Step 1 alt

3. Figure out the root note

The root note is the 'letter' we use to name a chord. So the root note for a B minor chord is B. Think of it as the foundation of a chord. The next step is to listen to the bass line and figure out which note is the root. The bass line won't usually play the root note all the time, but it will emphasise it. For example, listen to which note the bass plays on 'the 1' (i.e. the start of a new measure). Listen to which note the bass plays the longest. On which note does the bass sound the most 'at rest'? Whenever the harmony seems to change, you'll notice that the bass is emphasising a different note.

Step 1 alt

4. Check if the chord on the root note is major or minor (or neither)

Say you found the first root note is G. Try playing a G major chord and a G minor. Listen to which one sounds correct. Roughly speaking, you can say that major chords sound happy, and minor chords sound sad. In time, you won't have to try both, because you'll hear immediately if a chord is major or minor. But figuring out chords like this is the best way I know to learn to recognise these sounds.

If these 'standard' major and minor chords sound wrong, you might’ve run into a chord that’s constructed a bit differently. If you know how chords are constructed, I highly recommend using the detective approach I've laid out below. You can also check if one these chord types sounds better:
a. half diminished chord
b. diminished chord
c. augmented chord
d. sus chord (sus2, sus4, or both)
e. a slash chord (i.e. a chord where the bass isn't playing the root note, but probably the third or fifth)

Step 1 alt

5. Check if you need to add an extra note to make it into a seventh chord

If you found a major or minor chord in step 4 (i.e. not one of the exceptions), the sound might still be a bit different. This is most likely because the chord has one or more additional notes that give it a richer sound. The first options to check:

a. dominant chord
b. major seven chord
c. minor seven chord
d. major minor seven chord

Keep repeating these five steps and you’ll be able to figure out the most common chord progressions. You’re basically ‘trying out’ the most common possibilities. Of course, after a while you’ll come to know these sounds better and better, making your ‘guesses’ more and more educated. You'll start to recognise common progressions.

The detective approach

Detective2

What you need to know:

  • How chords are constructed
  • How to play as many chords as possible (see levels)

Think of yourself as a detective. You pick up on the smallest details that might help solve the case. Every single note you find is clue bringing you closer to the right answer. After finding the root note, listen for another note. Any note that you hear... Whether it’s played by the guitar, piano, violin or in the vocals. They’re all creating the harmony and give you valuable information on which chord is being played. To give an example:

The bass guitar is playing an E. And you hear a violin playing a B, sliding down to a G. This tells you the root note will probably be an E. The violin is first playing a B, i.e. the fifth. Then it slides down to a G, which is the minor third. That tells you that this chord will be some sort of E minor chord. Next, let’s say you then notice the piano alternating between an F# and a D. Those notes are the minor seventh and the ninth. Putting all this knowledge together, tells you that you're hearing an E minor seven nine chord.

This approach is especially effective when you just can't seem to find a chord that sounds 'right'. That often means you're not dealing with a 'standard' major or minor chord, but one of the exceptions mentioned in step 4 above.

The Architect Approach

BluePrint

What you need to know:

  • The major scale and natural minor scale
  • How to play at major and minor chords in all keys (level 2)
  • Preferably also how to play seventh chords in all keys (level 3)

Some chords sound better together than others. There's a logic to it that you can use to 'predict' which chords are most likely to be used. The general rule: chords sound good together when they're constructed out of notes from the same scale. It makes them sound like they belong together. To keep this lesson focused, I won't explain the inner workings of this, but I’ll show you how to use it.

1. Find the key of the song
You can find the key of the song, by looking for the chord where the song sounds 'at rest'. Which chord doesn't sound like it needs to 'go somewhere else' to resolve? The first things to check: what's the first chord and what's the last chord of the song?

2. Write down the scale of the song's key
If the song is in major, write down the major scale. If it’s in minor, write down the (natural) minor scale (i.e. aeolian).

3. Build a chord on each note of the scale and write the name down.
There’s a set formula for which chord to construct on every 'scale degree' (i.e. each note of the scale). Here it is:

C Scale Chords MajMin 2
Using this chart, write down the chord for every note in the scale.

Firstly, this tells you which notes you can 'expect' the bass to play. This list also gives you the chords you're most likely to run into. For example, when you're in the key of C and the bass plays a D, you can guess it will probably be a D minor.

Be sure to play around with these chords a bit and listen to them. Hear how all the chords seem to 'belong' together? That sound is called 'diatonic'. It means that the chords are all built from the same scale. But you'll also run into chord progressions that break these rules. So, listen to what happens when you use chords that are ‘wrong’ in the sense that they don’t fit within this theory. For example, try playing an F minor chord or an A flat chord when you’re in C major. Or when playing in C minor, play an F chord or a Db chord. The chords are called non-diatonic because they don't 'fit' within the key (which is why they sound more dramatic and awesome).

How to start learning chords and chord progressions by ear

Here are some suggestions for songs you can get started with, depending on your chord knowledge. Songs with clear bass lines that are (relatively) easy to hear.

Level 1: I know how to play all open chords

  • Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe
  • Outkast - Hey Ya!
  • REM - Everybody Hurts (except the bridge)

Level 2: I know how to play major and minor chords in all keys

  • Bob Marley - Jammin’
  • Radiohead - Creep
  • Arctic Monkeys - Cornerstone

Level 3: I know how to play major, minor and seventh chords in all keys

  • Otis Redding - Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay
  • Queen - Don’t Stop Me Now
  • Jack Johnson - Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

 
These are just a few suggestions. I'm also working on a crazy long list of good songs to learn (this takes a lot research...), which I can email to you. I'm up to 35 at the moment. 51 songs is the current count! Updated the list to 61 songs!

SECTION 3

Make Your Ears Awesome

Learning to play by ear is one of the most rewarding things you can learn as a musician. It’s no accident that a large part of this site is focused on developing your ears. But what’s always bugged me is that I had a bunch of advice, but nothing concrete to actually practice and develop your ears. That’s exactly what I’ve been working on for the past few months: a course called Make Your Ears Awesome. It’ll help you learn 51 songs by ear using interactive tab:


The idea is simple. Listen to the song, figure out the right notes and check and re-check your answer as often as you like. If you need some help, just hit the ‘show first note’ button or the ‘show answers’ button.This should help you to put in a lot of focussed practice in very short amount of time.

I’ve never seen anything like this, so I’m very excited to share this with you. Want to check it out? You can try the first couple of songs for free by enrolling in the sample course.

CONCLUSION

Get started!

Just one more thing to do now, get started! Learning songs by ear is incredibly rewarding, so trust me when I say it's worth the initial learning curve. What's more, it's the first step to playing what you hear in your head. If there’s one thing I’d recommend to most guitar students (myself included), it would be to train their ears every day. It might seem like a huge project to tackle. But if you just spend 20 minutes every day figuring out some riff or melody, you’ll see that your skills improve dramatically within a few weeks.

If you're interested, don't forget to check out my course Make Your Ears Awesome that helps you learn songs by ear using interactive tab.

If you need any help learning songs by ear or if this article can be clearer or better in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know! Just leave a comment or email me: just(at)stringkick.com!

 

  • Duuk says:

    Hey Man thanks for the lesson.
    I have a question:
    I am trying to eartraining another one bites the dust from queen.
    To me it seems to be 111 11416 and you got **0 ****5.
    Did you maybe tune your low E a step down when transcribbing that?
    I'm currently in e standard with the lowest string in E ofcourse.

    Best regards

    Duuk

  • Just says:

    Hey Duuk,

    Sure thing! I just checked this out and here's the thing. They sped up the tape on the studio recording just the slightest bit, making the pitch somewhere between E and F...

    Here's a live version that's in E, should make things much easier!

    Let me know if that makes sense, and feel free to check in if you have any questions!

    Cheers, Just

  • Tom says:

    Just read your other post on practicing songs backwards, and I was just going to suggest that it might also helpful or more efficient to transcribe backwards. Just start the recording near the end instead of the beginning, and work backwards! What do you think?

  • Just says:

    Hi Tom! It'd definitely be an interesting approach! When I transcribe something, I always listen to it a bunch of times first to memorise, often when I'm on the go (so no rewinding etc then). But I've used this backwards approach when I wanted to check if I could (roughly) sing or hum the piece. For the actual transcribing, I just start at the beginning, probably because it would be more convenient with writing. Does that make sense?

  • Jon Cook says:

    That's really useful, thanks!
    Could I recommend another product for slowing down music (and videos) and practice in general?
    http://www.musicianspracticeedge.com

    Main Features:
    – video and audio slowdown / pitch shift
    – video zoom
    – tempo and key training
    – all settings recalled per track
    – integrates with TrueFire courses

  • David says:

    Hi I am david, how do you know the chord by ear if there is no bass instrument in the song?(you cant find the root note) like a song played only with a piano.
    Another question, lets say that I know the root note by listening to the bass, but its not any of the mentioned chords (minor, major, etc.). For example, I hear the bass playing a F#, but the chord used is D. Based on what I know, that would be a D/F#. By reading what you wrote( say that i dont know that the right chord to play is D/F#) , I would try F#major, F#minor etc.. and in the end I dont end up getting the right chord. How do you know that, since some chords played are 1/3, 4/5 etc.

    I hoped you understand my questions, also I loved what you wrote, I learned tons.

  • Dave Krusell says:

    Revolutionary and very clear for an old guy who’s been fooling around for over half a century and never took a lesson . Thanks

  • Just says:

    Hi Dave, that's awesome to hear! Glad it helped you.

  • Just says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the kind words!

    As to your questions, the lowest note doesn’t have to be played by a bass instrument. So if a song only has a piano, the piano will be playing the lowest note, so that's where you want to be looking for root notes.

    To your other question and example, if you try F#major and F#minor and it doesn’t sound right, you have two options. The first is to try the chord types I’ve listed at the end of step 4 . What you’re talking about, D/F#, is called a slash chord, the last one, listed under ‘e’. The other option is to use the ‘detective approach’, where you figure out what you hear note by note.

    Hope that makes sense! Let me know if you have any other questions!

    Cheers, Just

  • Verna Warren says:

    Do you have a Piano Course ?

  • Just says:

    Hi Verna, not at the moment. I'm a guitar player myself, so that's what I'm mostly focused on. Maybe at some point in the future!

  • Petr says:

    Hi Just, I enjoyed your article very much. Thank you for your work. But I think in the minor scale structure is little mistake.The fifth degree should be Gm And not the G7. Let me know if I am wrong.

  • Just says:

    Hi Petr, good to hear you enjoyed it! To your question, a G minor chord would be the most logical chord from a purely theoretical point of view, because it would only use notes from the natural minor scale (a.k.a. it would be diatonic). However, in practice G7 is much more common, because it creates more tension and resolves nicely back to C. It sounds smoother. Play it a few times to hear the difference in effect. Let me know if this makes sense!