If you want to play along to music you hear and/or determine the key a song is in, you are going to have to develop your ear. This means improving your ability to identify the chords you are hearing. Unless you are one of those rare gifted individuals, you will find this difficult when you begin. As with everything worth achieving, you must stick with it and persevere.
The method for learning how to identify the chords you hear couldn’t be simpler:
Step one – listen to some music
Step two – guess the chord
Step three – verify that your guess is right. That means play the chord on your guitar and compare what you play with what you hear.
Step four – keep guessing until you get it right.
You will find that the time it takes to do the step 3 – step 4 cycle will eventually reduce. In the end, you will be able to hear a chord and just know what it is. But you have to put the hard work in first.
The better you get, the more adept you will become at identifying the little nuances, too. Minor chords, dominant 7 chords; they will all be fair game for your musical ear.
If you get stuck, and as a last resort, you can always check (cheat) by visiting a guitar tab site. Be warned though: not everyone will have the same accuracy that you will achieve when it comes to identifying chords. A great many guitar tabs are just plain wrong. Even if you look for a second opinion on a tab, that could be wrong too.
To help you get the practice you need in identifying chords, we’ve put together a sequence on Youtube. Each chord will be played twice on an electric guitar with no effects, and in the pause that follows, you should try and locate the chord on your own guitar. Pause the video while you find it and then resume the video to find out whether you got it right. The chord name will be given after its second playing. There are 20 chords in this sequence so it’s probably long enough for you to not memorise the pattern. The chords are all major chords and there are no sharps or flats.