Hearing and Naming Chords with Chord Recognition

Chord recognition is the ability to name a chord by simply hearing it being played. This is a difficult skill to learn but if you practice correctly you can do it.

Why would I want to be able to this???

If you can learn to recognize chords as they are played then you will better your ear and better your piano playing.

Most people who play the piano play by ear or by chords. They use this skill and simple chord progressions to tell what chords they should play in a song.

If you take the time you will be able to tell the difference between chords which will increase your playing skills.

Chord Recognition Practice

When first starting to learn how to recognize chords you need to know how the chords sound. You need to what each note of the chord sounds like and what notes make up that chord.

Take a major chord. Play each note of that chord by itself. Listen to each note very carefully and see how they go together.

Now take a different major chord and do the same thing. Listen to each note carefully.

Do this a few times with a different major chord.

Next play the chord harmonically or all three notes together. But this time hum each note that your hear. Make sure that you hum all three notes and hear every note that is being played. Do this with multiple major chords.

Do this type of exercise with all of the different types of chords. Major, minor, seventh, and so on. You want to make sure that your brain is recognizing how each chord sounds and the notes that make up that chord.

Major Vs. Minor

Major and minor chords sound very different wen played next to each other. A Major chord sounds pretty. It sounds like a chord should.

A minor chord is dissonant. It sounds mysterious.

The difference in a major and minor chord can be found in the tone of the chord. If the chord sounds plain and natural then it is a major chord. If the chord sounds odd or off then it is a minor chord.

Use the same principles as explained above to listen to the difference in the major and minor chord.

Play a major chord, then a minor chord. Can you hear the difference?

Use this as a way to help you identify major and minor chords.

Chord Inversions

Hearing chord inversions is harder than identifying the root chord. Most chords that you hear are not the root chord. Most musicians use inverted chords to make their music sound open ad different.

Use the same process as before of playing each note individually and then all at once to hear the notes that are being sounded. Then move up to the next inversions and do the same thing.

You don't necessarily need to know what inversion is being play unless you are wanting play a song exactly as the person you are listening to. In this case you will need to recognize the inversion that they are playing.


Chord recognition is not the easiest thing to do in ear training. But with mastery of this skill you will be able to play in jam sessions with your friends because you can hear the chords that are being played.

Make sure when you are learning each chord that you switch between chords. For example, switch between a major and minor chord. Or switch between a major seven chord and seven chord. This will help you tell the difference in chords that are similar.

Need more help learning chords? Learn almost every chord you'll ever need with our Piano Chord Encyclopedia.

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