Working out chords for songs

Have you ever tried using your ears to work out the chords for your favourite songs? I often do and I myself often have difficulties. Most of the resources on line tend to be guitar tabs which do not always seem to be accurate. Also the common tabs tend not to cater for the R&B Neo Soul music.

Chordify is pretty impressive for standard chords, however it starts to fall apart with complex jazzy / soulful chords.

So how to we work out chords?

The method I would start off with is listening to the bass line. In 80% of the case this would be the root of the chord. Once you locate the bassline or the lowest note of the chord, you have two main options. Let’s use C as on example.

Option 1: Construct a Major chord, e.g. C, E, G – C major

If Option 1 does not sound right then Option 2 would be to construct a minor instead e.g. C, Eb, G .

The above should work in most cases, however if the chord still does not sound right, then you may need to the other chords. The next most common would be a Dominant or Seventh chord e.g. C7 – C, E, G, Bb. Also try the Half diminished seventh chord (or Minor 7th flatted 5th) – C, Eb, Gb, Bb.

Another reason for the chords not sounding right could be due to fact that they are played on an inversion. For example G, B,C, E is a C major 7 however the root is at G, not C. This may be difficult to identify when using your ears.

However, with practice, your ears will gradually be able to break down and identify the individual notes in each chord.

6 thoughts on “Working out chords for songs”

    1. mm

      I’m not sure of the name but there is software that should be able to recognize chords. However those chord would need to be isolated from the rest of the music. Otherwise it would be difficult for the program to identify the sound

  1. corazongeometrico

    Just fot comment, there is a easy way to extract the chords of any song in Ableton live 10 just put the audio in a channel, then click right in the name of the audio and select conrvert to midi.

    1. mm

      Very interesting I didn’t actually know that – thanks. I just tested it out and it seems to work, not perfectly – it doesn’t always pick up the full notes but its a great tool, especially if you don’t have ear to distinguish the notes from the chords.

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