Ear Training - Learn to Hear Chord Tones

As a teenager trying to learn how to improvise on guitar, I was constantly stuck inside the scale patterns I was learning. Every solo sounded pretty much the same. It wasn't until I started focusing on triads and chord tones that my playing started to sound like I had a clue.

I know that my story is not unique, so for those of you stuck in that same scalar rut I offer this ear training exercise.

This exercise will help you train your ear in recognizing chord tones for all the triads within a key.

Before we get started, here's a quick review of the triads contained in each major key, in order - major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished. Each of these triads is built off of a scale degree. Using the key of C major as an example, we would get C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, B diminished.

The Exercise

  • 1 - The first step is to learn at least one fingering for major, minor and diminished triads on the guitar. I suggest learning these shapes on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings.
  • 2 - Now that you are familiar with these triad shapes, play the root of each triad and sing the 3rd and 5th. Play through all the diatonic triads this way.
  • 3 - After that, sing the root and play the 3rd and 5th, again taking it through all the diatonic triads.
  • 4 - Now try playing the root, then singing the 5th and the 3rd.
  • 5 - Now reverse it. Sing the root and play the 5th and the 3rd.
  • 6 - After practicing these variations up and down all the diatonic triads in order, start applying them to some common chord progressions. Start with 2- 5 1, 1 4 5, 1 5 6- 4, 3- 6- 2- 5, as these progressions show up everywhere.

    As always, I sincerely hope this helps. If you have any questions or comments leave them in the comment box below.

    Want more ear training help? Here is another Tuesday Tip you may enjoy!


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