One of the main skills we teach at Musical U is the ability to recognise chords by ear in music. This is a really cool skill to have, whether you play chords yourself, like on guitar or piano, or you want to improvise over them, like on sax or trumpet, or you’re a songwriter or composer, or even just music fan who wants to better understand the harmonies in the music you love.

The approach we teach is based on taking advantage of the fact that there are certain theory concepts and rules which mean that certain chords go together, and certain sequences of chords are more common than others in the music we hear each day. That, coupled with the fact that the ear doesn’t much care what key it’s hearing music in, allows you to very rapidly learn to recognise the chords in a large number of songs by ear, without needing to master each and every possible chord and combination.

So it’s no surprise that this idea, of the “one, four, five and six” chords and how powerful they can be, has come up several times on the show before – and we’ve even dedicated a whole episode to it, we’ll put a link to that in the shownotes.

Today we’re joined by Austin Brentley, the man behind a fantastic new website which, among other things, allows you to immediately find out what songs use certain chords. There are a bunch of cool applications of this idea, including:

  • Taking the set of chords you know already, and finding a bunch more songs you’ll be able to play right away
  • Figuring out what one chord you should learn next to open up even more songs for you, and
  • Providing an easy middle step to learning to recognise chord progressions by ear, using songs you know and love.

It was really cool to get to talk with Austin and learn where this project came from and how people are using it and aside from those ideas we just mentioned, we’re sure you’re going to come away inspired with some ways it could be useful in your own musical life.

Listen to the episode:

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Musical U interviews Chord Genome Project creator Austin Brentley on the power of chords and how learning just four will unlock a world of playable music.