4-Chord Progressions and Singing in Octaves: Resource Pack Preview

A chord progression serves as the backbone of a song – the harmonic skeleton that supports the melodies, vocals, and embellishments layered overtop. The sequence in which chords are strung together sets the tone of the song – in fact, just three chords are enough to tell a story.

In our last three Resource Packs, our Resident Pros have offered their unique insights on playing by ear on their instruments of expertise – covering first melodies and basslines, then the chords that provide context to the music and help hold a song together.

For Part 4 in the Play By Ear series, our Resident Pros tackle the topic of chord progressions, sharing their knowledge on recognizing, playing, and writing your own progressions – each with instrument-specific insights and exercises, as well as MP3 practice tracks to help you connect the concepts to actual sounds.

As for you singers, our resident pro has something special for you to add to your toolkit – a skill that will let you match pitch and learn to sing any song – regardless of vocal range – by learning to recognize and sing octaves.


Each human voice occupies a unique vocal range, allowing for voices to blend together to create beautiful polyphonic textures.

However, in order to sing with others, or sing a song by a vocalist with a different range than you, you’ll need to match pitch in a different octave – and differences in vocal ranges can make this a tricky exercise.

This month, Clare Wheeler teaches the concept of singing in octaves – a tool that will help you sing any song you wish in a register that is comfortable and natural for you:


  • How to recognize octaves and sing the interval
  • Matching pitch between two voices in different octaves
  • How to sing along with something in a different octave
  • MP3 tracks to sing along to in different octaves


Basslines are commonly the root notes of the chord progressions they support, and are therefore the perfect starting point for recognizing chord progressions themselves.

In this instrument pack, Steve Lawson connects the bassline of a song to its harmony, exploring the concept of hearing progressions in basslines, and how you can use your audiation skills to aid this process:


  • How to recognize pairs of chords within a key
  • Understanding chord voicings with the help of voice leading
  • Chord shapes that enable you to hear progressions on other instruments
  • Scores and tabs to help you visualize chords, progressions, and voicings
  • MP3 practice tracks for hearing chord voicings and recognize pairs of chords in a key

This Instrument Pack is geared towards helping you use the root notes and basslines of progressions to hear them in any context – a must-have for the versatile musician.


We can often predict the next chord in a progression – our ears intuitively just know what should come next. However, sometimes you hear a chord in a song that just… throws you off.

Thankfully, there are numerous ways you can figure out the mystery chord. In this month’s instrument pack, Dylan Welsh shares his intuitive, ear-based approach:


  • A description of various chord qualities you’ll come across besides major and minor
  • How to use the bassline to hear the root of a chord
  • How to use emotional qualifiers to determine the quality of a chord
  • MP3 tracks with modified chord progressions so you can hear the differences in chord quality

By listening for the moods or emotional qualifiers of chords, you can easily and intuitively determine what kind of chord you’re hearing – and contextualize it in the progression you hear it in.


You can think of a chord progression as a mini-story, with each chord telling a different part.

In this month’s Piano Instrument Pack, resident pro Ruth Power explores how chords in sequence create a narrative, how rearranging the order of the chords changes the mood of a progression, and the rule of thumb for deciphering a chord progression – and as our other resident pros have pointed out, the trick lies in the bassline:


  • The most common chord progression and how to build it
  • Functions of different chords in a progression
  • Altering a chord progression’s mood by adding just one chord
  • A handy chord symbol overview to help you recognize notation
  • Exercises for chord matching, chord progression recognition, and hearing bass notes
  • Video tutorials to illustrate concepts

Coming up next month…

Next month, we’ll continue our play-by-ear journey with a focus on an under-explored aspect of playing an instrument: getting in rhythm. As for you singers, our next Instrument Pack will focus on transposition, a skill which will enable you to sing a piece of music in a key that is optimally suited to your voice.

An Instrument Pack membership gives you access to training specifically-tailored to your instrument from our Resident Pros. Choose the instrument pack option during checkout when you join Musical U, or upgrade your existing membership to get instant access.

The post 4-Chord Progressions and Singing in Octaves: Resource Pack Preview appeared first on Musical U.

The piano has some pretty big limitations. A piano is a…

The piano has some pretty big limitations.

A piano is a wonderfully expressive instrument that can create a variety of sounds and convey a wide range of moods. It’s in incredible learning tool for understanding and exploring musical ideas.

But the size and cost makes it impractical for many to consider.

The keyboard can be a wonderful solution.

Check out this article and learn the pros and cons of the piano and keyboard – and some things to consider before buying a keyboard.

Intimidating – or Inspiring? You Choose

New musicality video:

When you see an incredible musician – are you inspired? Or are you intimidated? Believe it or not, this reaction is not something that happens to you – it’s something entirely within your control, and flipping from one to the other can have a massive positive effect on your musical life. musicalitypodcast.com/197

Links and Resources

The Truth About Talent, with Professor Anders Ericsson – http://musicalitypodcast.com/62

Do You Have An “Inner Natural Musician”? Here’s How To Know – http://musicalitypodcast.com/182

If you enjoy the show please rate and review it! http://musicalitypodcast.com/review

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Let us know what you think! Email: hello@musicalitypodcast.com


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Intimidating – or Inspiring? You Choose

Intimidating – or Inspiring? You Choose

When you see an incredible musician – are you inspired? Or are you intimidated?

Believe it or not, this reaction is not something that happens to you – it’s something entirely within your control, and flipping from one to the other can have a massive positive effect on your musical life.

Watch the episode:

Enjoying the show? Please consider rating and reviewing it!

Links and Resources

Enjoying The Musicality Podcast? Please support the show by rating and reviewing it!

Rate and Review!


Hi, my name’s Christopher, I’m the founder of Musical U, and welcome to Musicality Now.

Recently I had an email from a podcast listener named Maria in Sweden, who said:

“I really appreciate your attitude of trying to make everyone feel like they are musical. I think it should be a human right to have time and means to express oneself musically! 

However I feel that you tend to interview people that I label as over-achievers. Maybe it’s inspirational for some but for me it’s kind of exhausting and I can’t really relate.”

I totally understand. I hear that and I think it would be awesome to feature more non-expert interviews. We’ve shared some case studies from our Foundations course in the past, but we can definitely try to share more stories from musicians that all of you in the audience can relate more directly to.

But there’s a bigger point here, and that’s what made me want to pick up on it in this episode.

This isn’t just about podcast interviews. I don’t want to speak for Maria, but I know that for me, this feeling of being exhausted by apparent over-achievers was something that happened throughout my musical life.

For a long time in music when I saw someone amazing perform or I talked with a musician who was way ahead of me in terms of skills I felt totally intimidated.

Or, to put it another way, I felt really inferior. It suddenly made me highly conscious of everything I couldn’t do, and I’d come away impressed – but also disheartened.

What I gradually figured out and what I wanted to share with you today is that in that moment when you feel intimidated by an amazing musician, there’s a choice available to you.

We tend to see intimidation as something external which happens to us:

  •  “That person makes me feel intimidated”
  •  “That person has an intimidatingly impressive level of skill”
  •  “When I see what they do it makes me feel like I could never do that”.

But the actual facts of the situation can be interpreted in an entirely different way, if you choose to. It may be a fact that they can do things you can’t, like improvising or playing by ear, or performing with total confidence and a moving level of musical expression. But that’s the only fact. Everything that happens inside you after that is up to you.

Because the alternative interpretation is “Wow, they can do that. That thing is possible. It could be possible for me too.”

In other words: inspiration, rather than intimidation.

Now I appreciate that this may not seem easy! We have an automatic mental and emotional reaction of intimidation, it happens without us consciously choosing it. But from right now on, you have an opportunity to change that. Because all it takes is becoming aware of that reaction and remembering “I have a choice here”. Once you do that, you can immediately shake off any thoughts of unworthiness or what you might be lacking, and instead reframe it as something inspiring you might choose to aspire to in future.

Why is it that so many of us fall into this trap, of automatically interpreting impressive musicians as intimidating rather than inspiring? I think there are a few reasons.

Firstly, it’s a byproduct of our cultural ideas about musical “talent”. We’ve covered that a lot on this show before and I’ll put links in the shownotes if you’re in any doubt – but suffice to say: we’ve been fooled into thinking that some people are gifted in music and others are not. And most of us put ourselves in that second camp and go through our musical lives continually feeling inferior to those we perceive as gifted.

Clearly that’s a recipe for exactly this reaction of being intimidated rather than inspired – because those people seem like the gifted aliens that we could never hope to be like.

If you get 100% clear on the talent myth and its implications for your musical life you’ll find it much easier when those moments arise to choose inspiration rather than intimidation.

The second reason we get into feeling intimidated is, funnily enough, almost the opposite – but somehow the two coexist in our minds. It’s that we see that that person is a human like us, and we compare ourselves to them and some part of us feels like we should be able to do whatever they can, so we feel disappointed and frustrated that we can’t.

We’re essentially treating those amazing musicians as our peers and then judging ourselves against their example. If we can’t do what they can do we feel we judge ourselves to be lacking.

The key here is to surround yourself with the right peer group. That’s why we place such a big emphasis on community at Musical U – not so we can sit around chit-chatting on social media all day, but because when you see people who are genuinely like you and at a similar stage or just a step or two ahead, it’s dramatically easier to feel inspired by their success rather than getting into intimidation.

It’s why you’ll never find any hero-worship here at Musical U, why we don’t issue certificates or take any kind of elitist attitude. As Maria said, we’re all about inclusivity. And it’s because when passionate adult musicians are surrounded by others who like them are working on their musicality, amazing things come of it. One thing I particularly love is when a member will comment on how they signed up really not expecting to get anything out of the community side of membership – but they’ve realised just how big an impact it can have on their motivation and their results.

It really does matter who you surround yourself with, and when you get this right, you’ll find that you have such a solid base of inspiration around you, the cases where a stand-out musician would otherwise have intimidated you – you’ll find that those too just become really inspiring and exciting.

The final reason we tend to get into feeling intimidated when we see an impressive musician is that when it comes to learning and assessing our progress most of us default to looking ahead to the goal and judging ourselves by how far off it is. But again, the actual facts at play allow for a completely different interpretation: we can always choose to instead measure ourselves by how far we’ve come and the progress we have made. The impressive musician and our own personal goal can still be something to think of and aim for – but we only judge ourselves based on our own progress forwards.

This mental judo-flip lets you instantly turn intimidation into inspiration by separating “that person is great” from the “therefore I am not great” – and instead letting “that person is great” co-exist with “I’ve really been improving” and even “one day I’ll be great”.

Like I said, this was something I discovered gradually and I had to practice a bit. And the more I understood that apparent “talent” was all coming from learnable skills, the more I surrounded myself by my true peers and saw what was possible at my level and just a few steps above, and the more I remembered to measure myself by my progress from the start instead of my distance from the goal – the easier it was to stay out of intimidation and benefit from all the amazing inspiration available to us in the world of music.

So take this away into your musical life: next time you see or hear something amazing and you feel any twinge of intimidation, pause a moment. Remember you have a choice of how to respond. Remind yourself that whatever they can do is learnable for you too, remind yourself of your true peers, remind yourself of all your progress you’ve made so far. And enjoy the experience as a fresh moment of inspiration to propel you even further forwards.

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The post Intimidating – or Inspiring? You Choose appeared first on Musical U.

Singing: Singing in Octaves Resource Pack Preview

New musicality video:

Learn more about Musical U Resident Pro Clare Wheeler: https://www.facebook.com/clarewheelermusic/

→ Learn more about Instrument Packs with Resident Pros


Learn more about Musical U!


Tone Deaf Test:

Musicality Checklist:




Subscribe for more videos from Musical U!

Singing: Singing in Octaves Resource Pack Preview

Want to learn a powerful tool for improving your musical …

Want to learn a powerful tool for improving your musical ear quickly?

To improve vocal control, your ear, and music reading skills all at the same time –

Look no further than sight-singing with solfa!

In this article we share a set of exercises to begin practicing today!

Wouldn’t it be awesome to be one of those guitarists who …

Wouldn’t it be awesome to be one of those guitarists who just shows up and jams?

To be able to freely play seemingly any song in instant.

Read on to discover why your ears are the key to true freedom on the fretboard and the essential areas to study if you want that seemingly-magical ability to play any song on guitar.