Harmonic Ear Training: Recognizing Chord Progressions


Authored by Roberta Radley


Course Code: OEART-320

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Whether you're playing your instrument, composing, arranging, improvising, or transcribing, the ability to quickly and effectively recognize chord progressions is a necessity for the serious musician. Harmonic Ear Training: Recognizing Chord Progressions details a step-by-step "vertical" (from the root up) and "horizontal" (using the song's key as a reference point) approach to hearing chord changes and progressions. By engaging in a variety of solfege ear training exercises and voice-leading demonstrations, as well as weekly assignments that involve transcribing contemporary music examples, students will learn to internalize the music and identify chords and progressions with ease and confidence. Put your theory background into practice, and learn the practical techniques and ear training exercises that will work for you in your musical life every day.

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What Is the Course Like?

Each week, you'll complete interactive online lessons, animated demos, and engage in ear training exercises that will improve your listening skills and enhance your ability to recognize chord progressions. Your instructor will give you direct feedback on each assignment, and because all assignments are posted, you will also have the opportunity to review your classmates' work and learn from them. You can contribute to ongoing threads on the discussion board, which connect you to your classmates and instructor on a daily basis. If you need help with anything, you can chat with your instructor during office hours each week.

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Use a step-by-step approach to identify all types of chords and progressions quickly and easily.
  • Gain a solid foundation in ear training to enhance all your musical pursuits.
  • Apply practical techniques and exercises to improve your performing, composing, arranging, transcribing or improvising skills.
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Lesson 1: Bass Lines and the Major Sound

  • Hearing the Bass Line
  • Assignment: Transcribe the Bass Line
  • Hearing the Major Triad Sound
  • Hearing the I, IV, and V Triads
  • Transposing
  • Assignment: Transpose the Bass Lines and Chord Progressions

Lesson 2: More Bass Lines and the Minor Sound

  • More Bass Line Identification
  • Assignment: Hearing the Bass Line
  • Hearing the Minor Triad Sound
  • Introducing II-, III- , and VI- In Progression
  • Assignment: Sing Along with the Chord Progression
  • Memorization

Lesson 3: Introducing Voice Leading and New Triads

  • Voice Leading
  • Assignment: Real-World Song Selection Practice
  • Diminished Triad Sound
  • The VII° Triad Sound
  • Assignment: Progression Dictation

Lesson 4: Introducing Seventh Chords and Guide Tones

  • Major and Dominant Seventh Chords
  • Assignment: Singing Diatonic Triad Arpeggios
  • Taking the Horizontal Approach: Guide Tones
  • Assignment: Progression Dictation

Lesson 5: More Seventh Chords with Guide Tones

  • Introducing the Minor 7 and Minor 7b5 Chords
  • Introducing the Dominant 7sus4 Chord
  • More on Guide Tones with Diatonic Seventh Chords
  • Assignment: Creating Guide Tone Lines
  • Diatonic Progressions/Dictation
  • Assignment: Dictation

Lesson 6: Diatonic Inversions and the Passing 7th

  • Inversions of the I Triad
  • Inversions of the IV Triad
  • Inversions of the V Triad
  • Assignment: Inversions Dictation
  • The Passing 7th
  • Progression Dictation
  • Assignment: Dictation

Lesson 7: Introducing the Chromatic Scale and Melody/Harmony Relationships

  • Introducing the Chromatic Scale
  • Identifying Non-Diatonic Chords Using the Chromatic Scale
  • Assignment: Identifying Non-Diatonic Chords
  • Melody/Harmony Relationship
  • Assignment: Real-World Song Selection Practice

Lesson 8: Introducing Secondary Dominants and More on Melody/Harmony Relationships

  • Secondary Dominants
  • Addressing the Guide Tones of the Secondary Dominant
  • Addressing the Guide Tone of the Secondary Dominant, Continued
  • Assignment: Identify the Secondary Dominant via Guide Tone
  • Assignment: Real-World Song Selection Practice

Lesson 9: More on Secondary Dominants and the Melody/Harmony Relationship

  • More Work with Secondary Dominants
  • Assignment: Real-World Song Selection Practice
  • More on the Melody/Harmony Relationship
  • Assignment: Dictation

Lesson 10: Introducing the II V Pattern and More on Guide-Tone Lines

  • The II V Pattern
  • Connecting II V Patterns
  • Assignment: Real-World Song Selection Transcription
  • Assignment 10.2: Dictation

Lesson 11: Arranging, Reharmonizing, and Creating Chord Progressions

  • Arranging the Harmony
  • Reharmonization
  • Project: Create Your Own Chord Progression

Lesson 12: Review and Wrap-Up

  • Project Discussion
  • Course Wrap-Up


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Basic Ear Training or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.


Media and Subscriptions


  • Students are required to record themselves and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software such as GarageBand (Mac), Audacity (PC), or any DAW.


Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Roberta Radley

Author & Instructor

Roberta Radley is assistant chair in the Ear Training Department at Berklee College of Music. A Berklee graduate with a degree in composition, she joined the faculty in 1976. Since then, Radley has taught a wide range of ear training classes, using innovative methods to help students hear music more analytically, and earning recognition for outstanding achievement in music education from Berklee.

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Coauthor of the department core curriculum Ear Training 1–4 books, as well as author of the Harmonic Ear Training DVD, Radley has traveled widely on behalf of Berklee, holding scholarship auditions, working with affiliated schools, and presenting seminars across the US and internationally. Additionally, Radley is an active performer as a pianist and vocalist, and is an experienced private piano and voice instructor. Read Less


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

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