Learn a Song’s
Chords by Ear

Your Goal

To identify chords in a song by
1) Hearing bass notes
2) Understanding chord families.

Now practice using one of the songs below.

Don’t peek at the chart!


Listen to the song and…

1. Identify key by finding the chord that makes the song sound “done”.
2. Use cheat sheet to find six chords in chord family.
3. Now listen to beginning of song and identify bass notes played at chord changes. They’ll probably be root notes of one of the chords in the chord family.

Then look at the chart and…

Check your work.

Brown Eyed Girl

Van Morrison

How nice of Van and his band to start the song with just the bass line. Thanks, man! If you’re having trouble hearing the bass in these other examples, start here.

On the flip side, the bass player doesn’t dilly-dally on his root notes. You’ll need a quick reflexes to pause the song at the right time, and keen ears to hear the note for a split-second before it changes.

Listen Chart

Love Story

Taylor Swift

If the bass notes in “Brown Eyed Girl” changed too quickly for you, you’ll like this one. The bass player ONLY plays root notes for the entire song, and the chords change slowly.

The bass enters at 0:32.

Listen Chart

Island in the Sun


This is a great example of a song that would be hard to decode without the two superpowers you now possess. Why? The main guitar riff uses chord voicings played higher up the neck than standard open chords, and they lack bass notes. But those high voicings actually make it EASIER to hear the bass notes, which is what you’re supposed to be listening to anyway, right?

The bass line kicks in halfway through the intro.

Listen Chart

How’d it go? Anything frustrate you?
PLEASE let me know.

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