Transcribing chord progressions

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Transcribing chord progressions is one of the most valuable aural skills for practical musicians.
You are listening for where chords change, where the root note moves to and the quality (major, minor, 7th etc) of each chord.
If you are transcribing without an instrument for pitch reference, relating the progression to chord function is a reliable tool.

The chord function system makes the key chord of a progression chord I, the chord built on the 2nd step chord II and so on.
Here's an example.

 

chord seq


Look also at scale spellings.


As you listen to a progression, focus on the root notes, rather like the digital-pitch method of melodic transcription.

Here's a progression of 3 chords. The 1st chord is chord I; what are the other 2?

 

The root note (bass note) of the 2nd chord is a tone higher than the key note, so the 2nd chord is chord II.

The root note of the 3rd chord is a 5th higher than the key note, so this is chord V.

The progression is I - II - V

 

Now try these examples - in each case the bass note is the root note. Focus on the movement of the bass note, not the higher notes.
Select your answers from the drop down boxes .

Use this web piano to help!


Major keys:
Question 1 The 1st chord is I, the 2nd chord is , the 3rd chord is

 

Question 2 The 1st chord is I, the 2nd chord is , the 3rd chord is

 

Question 3 The 1st chord is I, the 2nd chord is , the 3rd chord is

 

Question 4 The 1st chord is I, the 2nd chord is , the 3rd chord is

 

Minor keys: Chord function numbers (or scale spellings) in minor keys strictly reflect their relationship to the major scale.
The spelling of a minor scale, therefore, is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8 and the chord function numbers are I II bIII IV V bVI bVII VIII.
For these exercises minor key chord function numbers omit the 'b' before chords III, VI & VII.


Question 5 The 1st chord is I, the 2nd chord is , the 3rd chord is

 

Question 6 The 1st chord is I, the 2nd chord is , the 3rd chord is

When you have attempted all the questions, click submit. If you have made any errors a pop-up message will tell you which questions to try again.