Play Chords By Ear Mini-Course
Lesson 5: Real I-IV-Vs Practice

This lesson is based on the Progression Practice: I-IV-V module from Musical U.
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By now you should have a good understanding of the I, IV and V chords and how to recognise them in simple examples.

These chords each have a characteristic sound.

Once you can recognise them in simple examples like the training exercises you’ve been using from Days 3 and 4, it’s important to extend your skills to a wider variety of musical styles.

This is because although a I-IV-V chord progression is in a sense the same whatever instrument you play it on or what musical genre you play in, it will sound a bit different too. To be able to reliably and flexibly play songs by ear you must practice with I-IV-V progressions in a variety of situations. This lets you learn to hear the characteristic sound even when it’s played in some very different ways.

To help with this the full Progression Practice module of Musical U has 6 different progressions in 2 keys and 5 styles. It also provides Testing tracks and a quiz to check your skills

For now we’re going to get started with just the training tracks for 2 progressions in one key (A Major) and 3 styles.

These will be useful for the songs we’re going to play by ear tomorrow!


Here are some tracks you can use to practice listening for particular I-IV-V progressions.

These tracks announce each chord of the progression at the beginning (so that you know what you’ll be listening to) and at the end (to remind you what you have been listening to).

Use them to familiarise yourself with how the progression sounds in the musical style.

Progression 1: I, V, IV, I

Progression 2: I, IV, I, V


Learning to recognise chords by ear isn’t only useful for playing a song by ear.

You can also use your knowledge of the chords to improvise your own accompaniment or solo part.

Try using the training tracks provided above as “jam tracks”. Put them on loop and play along with your instrument.

The tracks are all in the key of A Major so you can use the chords A Major (= I), D Major (= IV) and E Major (= V).

You can try:

  • Play along with the chords on your instrument. Try to imitate the style of the track with the way you play the chords.
  • Announce each chord (“one”, “four”, “five”) as you play them to reinforce your recognition skills.
  • Try improvising a simple solo using the notes of the chord. Begin by just playing different notes from the chord one by one, and then explore adding other notes too.

The next lesson is the one you’ve been waiting for… We’re going to use the skills you’ve been developing to play three songs entirely by ear!

“Chords By Ear”
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Musical-U-LogoThis free lesson is based on the Progression Practice: I-IV-V module of Musical U.

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Module Preview - Progression Practice I-IV-V

“I’ve been working through the Progression Practice I IV V module, and am getting better. I’ve taken to listening to some classic rock online radio, hearing lots of examples of I IV Vs now!”

— Graeme J.
Member, Musical U

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Musical U membership includes full personal support and guidance on your training.

Although we can’t provide the same level of in-depth coaching as part of this free course, please post any questions you have in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help!