Well you’re certainly not alone!

You might be surprised how many seemingly very capable musicians still struggle with this kind of aural skill.

One approach is to work on your sense of absolute pitch (“perfect pitch”) but most musicians will find it far more rewarding and musically effective to work on their sense of relative pitch.

For chords and intervals you might find our Pitch & Harmony series a good place to start.

Figuring out which chords are being played is a combination of:

  1. Identifying the type of chord (e.g. major, minor, etc.)
  2. Identifying the chord degree (e.g. tonic, IV chord, V chord, etc.)

For #1 we have a downloadable ear training practice pack which will help you recognise the basic chord types.

For #2 you can go a long way just by getting the hang of “3 chord songs” and “4 chord songs”.

When it comes to single notes and working out tunes by ear, the main thing is to just dive in and practice!

This kind of “melodic dictation” can be scary – but it doesn’t have to be!

Similar questions answered on this page:

  • Why can’t I identify intervals by ear?
  • Why can’t I identify chords by ear?
  • I want to recognise intervals
  • How do you learn to hear chords?
  • How do you learn to hear intervals in music?
  • Why can some musicians just hear what the notes are?

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