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Thread: Chords by ear help!

  1. #1
    Registered User extra-solar's Avatar
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    Chords by ear help!

    I can play by ear to most any song, but only one note at a time. I know a lot of chord theory, I know how to shape most any and every chord and its inversions I know all the interval theory (although i do not know all the interval chord and inversion sounds by ear yet)

    How do I get to where I can play arpeggios intervals and chords and inversions to songs?

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    .....How do I get to where I can play arpeggios intervals and chords and inversions to songs?
    Well, first you have to identify or decide on the chords used in the song. Then help yourself to any arpeggio or inversions you like. How do you identify or decide which chords to use?

    It's not all that hard really, as any chord within the key will sound OK with any other chord within the key. So there is not a lot of bad you can do -- if you stay in key. For example:

    A I IV V I progression or a ii V I progression will normally work, i.e. its a good starting place. The I IV V I for regular tunes the ii V I for a jazz piece. ii and IV can sub for each other as both are sub-dominant so really either will work.

    That leaves us with the vi, iii, and Viidim chords. Lets take viidim first. viidim and V are dominant chords and can sub for each other. About the only time I see a viidim is in a delay or turn-a-round. Classic turn-a-round is viidim, iii, vi, then to a sub dominant ii or IV to dominant to tonic to end the phrase.

    Notice iii will usually drag vi with it. That makes iii a great turn-a-round chord.

    vi can be used to start the progression and then it moves to a sub-dominant to work it's way back to tonic, i.e. vi, ii, V, I or vi, IV, V, I.

    Autumn Leaves (a jazz piece) gives a good example of how all 7 chords can work together.
    Autumn Leaves in G -- Am7 - D7 - Gmaj7 - Cmaj7, F#dim - B7 - Em7
    ...............................ii........V......I. ........IV........viidim...iii..... vi...loop back to that sub-dominant ii that vi likes to go to.

    Starts with the classic ii V I
    Then moves to (I) IV viidim iii vi and loops back to start over with ii V I.

    This may help with how the melody notes and chords fit together:
    http://www.jazzguitar.be/autumn_leaves.html

    A I IV V chord progression will utilize every note in the scale -- lot of melody notes to be found in that basic I IV V progression. That's another reason you can jamm a I IV V and hold your own with the big boys.

    Back to my original point. The bass line is for harmony and rhythm, and does not have to be exact. Just follow some basic "like to move to" rules and you will not be too far astray. The B7 in Autumn Leaves should be a Bm7 but B7 sounded right to the songwriter. And no one says you have to include all the chord notes in your bassline. If it sounds good it is good.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 02-18-2008 at 01:38 AM.

  3. #3
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    Here's what I would do -- if you can play by ear one note at a time, start out by doing that. If you know your fretboard notes (which you most definitely should), you should start to notice a pattern among the notes you're playing. That's obviously the key that you are playing in. Once you know the key, you can use all that chord theory you talked about to put together some chords for the song.

  4. #4
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    Simple answer, You listen carefully.

    Can you give examples of tunes you might want to learn the chords for?

    Chord inversions although sometimes used exclusively are often used as a fragment of another chord or substitution. If you actually know these chords on your guitar and can play them. You should already have a good idea of how certain inverted voicing's sound in relation to more common chords.

    I wont list examples because there are far too many. Simply put though. Listen to the bass lines of the tune, work out the root progression. Listen for major/minor/dim/aug tonalities. From there listen for the lead voicing (highest note in the chord). Once you have done these things, if you do indeed know all your chords you should have little trouble working it out.

    If not, learn all your chords.

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