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.

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