Note-by-note melodies serve their purpose – they identify a song, establish a vocal line, and connect the song to the listener’s human voice.

The past two Resource Packs have seen us exploring the invaluable musicality skill of playing by ear – first by looking at melodies, then at basslines.

But to add feeling, richness, and depth, we need more. To save us all from the one-dimensional nature of only hearing one note played at once, Western music has given us the gift of chords – multiple pitches played at once, which give context to the melody, colour the music, and elevate our favourite tunes from a string of notes to a complex, harmonious masterpiece.

This month, for Part Three in The Play By ear process series, our Resident Pros sink their teeth into the topic of chords – how to contextualize them in music, use them to understand harmony, and pick them out by ear.

Singers – we have something very special for you, too. It’s likely you’ve heard the term “tone deaf” get thrown around a lot, particularly by discouraged singers who are convinced that they can’t sing – not knowing that the only thing standing between them and singing in tune is learning to match pitch. This month’s resource pack focuses on the foundational skill of recalling pitch and copying a note we hear.


Did you know that we are capable of two types of hearing?

That’s right – external hearing describes hearing a sound out loud, while internal hearing describes what we hear in our own head – our auditory imagination, so to speak.

Singing resident pro Clare Wheeler makes connections between these two types of hearing to teach an indispensable skill for any musician looking to sing consistently, comfortably, and in-tune – matching pitch.


  • the three concrete skills involved in matching pitch
  • exercises for practicing both external and internal hearing
  • the close relationship between external and internal hearing, and how you can leverage this to accurately find notes
  • a trick for hearing when the note is “right”
  • MP3 tracks to practice pitch matching with

This resource pack is a powerful tool for vocal learning and will go a long way in helping you sing and accurately evaluate the pitches you produce.


If you think bass playing is restricted to a one-note-at-a-time mentality, Steve Lawson is here to shatter that myth. In his Instrument Pack, Steve explores the relationship between root notes and chords on the bass, and teaches you how to hear harmony more clearly through chords.


  • how to hear root notes and chords
  • how the bassline can change the feel of the chords and vice versa
  • scores and guitar tabs to visualize arpeggiated chords
  • how to change the timbre of chords by employing different right-hand techniques
  • how building chord shapes on the fretboard will help you hear chords better
  • MP3 tracks to tune your ears in to the relationship between arpeggios and block chords
  • MP3s to train your ears to hear the next chord from the bassline

Steve’s lesson is geared towards really helping you hear the notes in chords, opening your ears up to harmony, and giving you a broader context of the notes you play on your instrument.


Chords and their harmonic functions are what makes a piece of music more than just a string of notes. Piano resident pro Ruth Power digs deeper into this concept, offering an ear-based way of understanding how chords connect with the moods and emotions of music – because after all, our emotional reaction to music is why we enjoy it in the first place!


  • identifying the emotions (and thus, functions) of different chords
  • going beyond major and minor chords to explore more nuanced chord types
  • the ins-and-outs of playing these different types of chords on your instrument
  • hearing the various “emotional flavours” of chords within a progression
  • Ear training tracks embedded in the video, as well as exercises and MP3s for you to calibrate your “emotional chord-o-meter”.

With this intuitive approach to picking out chords by ear, you can let your heart be your chord guide. Enjoy!

Coming up next month…

Next month, singers can look forward to an instrument pack that focuses on learning to sing in different octaves. As for you bassists, guitarists, and pianists, in Part 4 of The Play by Ear Process, our resident pros will be tackling the topic of chord progressions, and bringing you tips, exercises, and tricks for hearing them and playing them by ear.

Interested in getting access to these resources and much more with an Instrument Pack membership? Just choose that option during checkout when you join Musical U, or upgrade your existing membership to get instant access!