Learn Gospel Chords on the Piano By Ear

Ear Training Walkthrough
How to Identify Chords by Ear and Learn Any Song you Hear

It is frustrating to try and play a chord that you can’t hear. Even skilled musicians sometimes have a difficult time recognizing and finding various chords. For this reason Ear Training should be at the HEART of Music Development. This skill, like any skill, can be learned. Having perfect pitch is no guarantee that a musician can play by ear or that they can even hear the intervallic components of a chord. In fact, perfect pitch should not be associated with the skill level of an Ear Musician AT ALL


"Having perfect pitch is no guarantee that a musician can play by ear or that they can hear Intervals...

A typical process for learning to play by ear if you are self-taught

  • First is Observation: you see other musicians and have the desire to copy them
  • Then Experimentation: you pick out notes and chords on the piano so that you can sound like them
  • Next is Learning: someone shows you (could be a person, youtube, etc...) haw to play a song or how to play an easy pattern on the piano
  • Now, You arrived... *until you're asked to learn a more difficult song or asked to change it up

When you learn this way you feel insecure. And here is why...

The Problem with Learning this Way

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    The Biggest Problem: you lack a proper foundation. In your hurry to play an actual song you neglected proper ear training, chordal development, and music theory  
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    Ear problems: you can only HEAR the chords you know but you have no way of learning NEW chords on your own since you do not understand how to properly identify the intervallic components of a chord
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    Creativity problems: Your playing sounds very basic because you hit a ceiling on how much you can learn on your own without a proper musical structure
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    Improvisation problems: you may have learn a few improvisation tricks, but after a while all your playing sounds the same 

You need to learn to play by EAR the CORRECT Way. This page is your resource to get you started...

I started my musical journey online by doing ONE thing and doing it well: playing what I hear. Eventually musicians wanted me to explain what I was doing, thus my youtube channel and eventually this site was born. If you would like to see some advanced videos of how I find the chords to difficult songs see here, here, and here. This current page teaches you the process of how I build and learn chords and songs by ear. *It represents my own process thus it may run contrary to other programs, musical theories, or beliefs/systems. 

To be a Master Ear Musician you must learn to how use proper finger and scale development, how to build vocabulary and add new chords, how to hear intervallic components, and how to improvise. This page primarily discusses how to hear Intervallic components.

 Musical U also has a comprehensive guide for learning to build your ear by using Intervals and the importance of using Intervals as a foundation for proper Ear development. 

The focus of this post is to teach you HOW to hear various intervals using the Intervallic Components of a chord. What are Intervallic Components? An Intervallic Component refers to the distance between the notes within a single chord. Hearing the intervallic components of the chord means to hear ALL of the intervals contained within a chord. Although this is an old concept, I have applied it in a way that represents my own view of how I hear chords by ear. Therefore, the term “Intervallic Components” as it relates to playing by ear is my own definition.


Intervallic Components refers to the distance between the notes within a single chord. Hearing the intervallic components of the chord means to hear ALL of the intervals contained within a chord

Step 1: Learn to Recognize Basic Intervals by Ear

Learning to recognize basic intervals should be at the heart of any Play By Ear program. The reason for this is because you cannot develop your Ear and Relative Pitch unless you can identify Intervals.

Start with the 3 IMPORTANT intervals when learning to recognize intervals by Ear. If you want a proper foundation to playing and hearing gospel chords by ear learn these 3 Intervals first

  • Recognize the Tri-Tone Interval
  • Recognize the Perfect Fourth
  • Recognize the Perfect Fifth

Ear Training 101

101 - Learn to Recognize Basic Intervals by Ear: Tri-Tones, Perfect Fourths, and Perfect Fifths

Learn to Hear the Tri-Tone Interval by Ear

The Tri-Tone - The sound of the tri-tone should be recognizable to every gospel musician. It is used more frequently then any other interval in gospel music. It forms the basis of left-handed shout patterns. It allows those with smaller hands to quickly play left-handed voicings. It can be used to represent ANY dominant chord. It can be used as a passing movement. And much, much more, 

Below is how the Tri-Tone Interval Sounds

Learn to Hear the Perfect Fourth Interval by Ear

It is important to hear the Perfect Fourth because many great progressions have a 4th interval in the root of the progression. In addition, for me hearing the Fourth interval WITHIN a chord helps me to make a distinction that a chord is a Suspended Chord rather than a Dominant chord, which would be indicated by a Major 3 instead

Learn to Hear the Perfect Fifth Interval by Ear

The perfect fifth is the most stable interval and one that should be recognized immediately. Many songs cadences are built on this interval. It has a sound of completeness and strength.

Next we will move on to Intervals that are contained within the Dominant Chord and also within a Minor Triad. Since the dominant chord and its various extensions are at the heart of improvisation learning to recognize the intervals within the dominant chord should be the priority. The Minor Third is all included so that your ear can learn to distinguish between Minor and Major chords early in the process

  • Recognize the Minor 7th Interval
  • Recognize the Major 3rd Interval
  • Recognize the Minor 3rd Interval

Ear Training 102

102 - Learn to Recognize the Minor 7 (or flat 7) , the Major 3rd, and the Minor 3rd

Ear Training 103

103 - Learn to Recognize the Major 6 and Major 7 Intervals

Next we will move on to the Major 2nd, Minor 2nd, and Minor 6th Intervals. These Intervals are rarely used in normal songs but are heavily found in a lot of jazz or gospel chords. Mastering these intervals are critical for learning how to play difficult songs by ear

  • Recognize the Minor 2th Interval
  • Recognize the Major 2nd Interval
  • Recognize the Minor 6th Interval

Ear Training 104

104 - Learn to Recognize the Minor 2nd, Major 2nd, and Minor 6 Intervals

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Members... Have a question about Ear Training? Having trouble breaking down a chord? Let me know in the forum... 

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Step 2: Learn to Recognize Major and Minor Triads by Ear

Coming Soon...

  • Prince says:

    Love this, please when is the step 2 coming out

  • Veronica R Pearson says:

    I am interested in this course for a better understanding in piano playing.

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