Many methods have been created for developing your ability to hear chords.
Here are a few solid ear training practices and habits that will get you on your way to hearing every note sounded in a chord!
Listen to Chords 15 minutes a Day
The first step toward opening up your ear to hear each note being sounded in a chord, is to listen to chords on a daily basis for at least 15 minutes.
Anything less than that may still help, but your ear is just getting warmed up! Once your ear is warmed up, the learning can really begin.
Practice Listening to Chords the Best Way
There are many ways to get the job done. However, there will always be one way that will yield a disproportionate amount of success. Here is that way…
Start out by listening to a double-stop (2 notes played at the same time. A chord is 3 notes or more played at the same time).
Play the double-stop on a piano, guitar, or any other harmonic instrument.
Sing a melody that will go along with the double-stop that you are hearing. This enforces the sound, emotion, and the feeling of that double-stop.
The melody only needs to be a simple one. What’s important is that you hear a melody.
Once the sound, emotion, and feeling of the double-stop is established, listen to the double-stop again, and this time focus on hearing the lowest note.
Sing the lowest note.
Now, play the lowest note in the double-stop to reinforce the correct sound.
Shift your focus to the highest note and sing that note.
Now, play the highest note in the double-stop to reinforce the correct sound.
Here is a basic breakdown of what you just accomplished:
- You established an emotional connection with the sound (this increases your chances of you remembering what you just heard).
- You focused on each note being sounded and sounded it out (this is equivalent to sounding out a complicated word).
After a couple weeks you will find that you will become very proficient at hearing each note in a double-stop. When you reached this level of proficiency, begin listening to chords every day for 15 minutes using the same practice method.
Start out listening to 3 note chords, such as your basic triads. Explore every possible chord inversion with each triad. Don’t move on to other chords until this has been mastered.
When you are ready to move on, shift your focus on 4 note chords, but here is a little subtlety to you practice that will really teach your ear to understand what it’s hearing: your 4 note chord should still use a basic triad as its basic foundation.
For example: A C dominant 7 b13 chord that you would listen to would be a voiced as C augmented triad (C, E, G#) and Bb.
What this accomplishes is that you are teaching your ear to hear smaller chord blocks within larger chords!
Keep this basic cycle and practice going until you are listening to chords up to 10 notes or more!
Do It All Over Again!
When you’ve mastered this practice, do it all over again listening to a different timbre or instrument.
Repeating this entire process again, listening to chords in a different timbre, will open up your ears even more to hearing each note being sounded in a chord.