Help! Struggling to recognize I-V chord change

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Cougar, Dec 8, 2014.

  1. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014
    Hey Guys,

    So I am working to improv my ears. So far, in songs, I can clearly hear/tell when chords move from I to IV or to minor chords. However, I am struggling to tell when chords move from I to V. I can tell when chords go from I to IV to V, but I struggle with I to V - they almost some alike and imperceptible at times. Do you guys have any tips that will help me out? Are there example songs that I can use as a reference? I hear I to IV changes like the sound/feel you get when shifting up gears in vehicle - is there an analogy that I can use for I to V changes?

  2. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    Funny. That one I have no problem with. The V strongly wants to resolve to the I chord. So the I sounds stable and the V sounds unstable to me.

    Maybe playing with the arpeggios will help you?

    The root of the V wants to resolve to the root of the I
    The third of V wants to resolve up a half step to the root

    If you can feel these strong pulls when played separately maybe the entire chord will be easier to feel?
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2014
  3. MontzterMash

    MontzterMash Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2010
    I and V sound similar to me to at times too, so you're not alone.

    An app that really helped was Ch!Ear.
  4. As with any ear training it will take a lot of listing. Here is where a keyboard or 6 string guitar will come in handy.

    In a jamming session I rely upon some assuming, most of the time I get buy, some of the time I miss it. Here is what I am betting on:

    • The most used chord in the song is going to be the I chord. I hear it as a return to rest, home, tonal center.
    • Next used will be the IV which you have no problem with. If I'm on the I and the song goes up scale the IV is a safe bet.
    • The V is the climax chord, used once or twice in a four line verse. Listen to the lyrics; the V will come at the climax of the story. That V-I resolution has a specific sound, try that instead of I-V.
    • The minor chords are color and flavor and I do miss the iii a lot, however, it's not used as much as the ii or vi. The vi is up scale and the ii is usually down scale. In all my music there is a vocalists and I listen for this up scale - down scale to point me.

    Coming over from rhythm guitar and hours of strumming chord progressions helped me with my assumptions, I still am never 100%....

    Good luck
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2014
  5. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014
    This is all very helpful. I find it interesting that I can hear/tell V-I movement without a problem, but the other way around gets me.

    When do you guys mean when you say that V is the climax. Could this not just as well be the vi since it his a higher pitch than V? Also, what exactly does it mean when you say that V wants to resolve to I? Aren't there times when other chords move to I also. Am I thinking about this wrong? I apologize for these basic questions - still in learning phase!

  6. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    Play a major scale in the key in question. Play it until the key is clearly established in your ear. Now play the I chord. Note how it sounds stable.

    Now play the 7th degree of the scale. Note how it is not stable. Your ear wants to hear it resolve up the the root note of the scale. A similar effect occurs with the 5th scale degree to a slightly lesser extent.

    The V chord contains these two scale degrees and so your ear wants it to resolve the tension by going to the I chord.

    I know I'm not explaining it very well. Sorry.
  7. Lets first get this out of the way. In a major progression the I, IV & V chords are the structure chords the ii, iii & vi are the minor chords and they add color and or flavor. The vii is the diminished chord and it has several functions. In a minor progression the minor chords are your structure chords and the major chords are you color or flavor chords. That's kinda important.

    The V or V7 being the climax chord is my name for it. The V is the dominant chord and the dominant chord wants to move to the tonic I chord. When you add the b7 and make the dominant chord a V7 that increases the tension of the chord and it wants to resolve to the I tonic chord RIGHT NOW. If you went somewhere else that would sound anti-climatic - thus I call it the climax chord. You have reached the climax of the progression so it is time to end by resolving to the tonic I chord.

    Verse structure; The first two lines normally bring up a subject. The 3rd and 4th line react to what was said in the first two lines - a four line verse brings up a subject then the last two lines react to what was said in the first two lines, thus each two line segment stands on it's own, therefore each has a complete V-I progression. Normally. In art and music there is always exceptions.

    Here is something that may help. Each chord has a function it likes to preform.

    • The I chord is the tonic tonal center of the progression. The I chord can move anywhere it wants to in the progression, however, when you move to the I chord you lose any tension you have built up and you are now back at rest. If you want to go further you have to start building tension over again.
    • The ii chord is a minor sub-dominant (some say pre-dominant) chord which likes to move to a dominant chord.
    • The iii chord is a minor mediant chord, i.e. middle chord, it likes to move somewhere. In this move it likes to drag the vi chord along with it.
    • The IV is a major sub-dominant chord which likes to move to a dominant chord. Notice the ii and IV both like to move to a dominant chord. Because they both like to move to the same chord they can sub for each other.
    • The V is the dominant chord which likes to move to the tonic I chord. Adding the b7 for a V7 chord increases the tension and the V7 chord wants to resolve (move back) to the I chord as soon as possible.
    • The vi is a minor (relative minor) chord and it likes to move to a sub-dominant chord.
    • The vii is the diminished chord. It is also a dominant chord like the V, however, it is in no hurry to resolve to the I chord and is often used as the beginning of a turn-a-round. For example vii-iii-vi-ii-V7-I. So if you want to resolve to the tonic I chord use the V or V7. If you want to move somewhere else use the vii. The vii is known as the leading tone diminished chord, i.e. it can be used to lead somewhere else.
    • This all comes from Lessons/common chord progressions. Go to the site they have a step by step graph of how a common chord progression moves. Worth your time.

    Now that is what chords like to do. All chords in a key will sound OK with every other chord in that same key, so yes other chords can move to the I chord. You can make them move as you see fit. If we let them move as they like, good things normally happen.

    Chords do two things. 1) provide movement within the verse and 2) harmonize the melody line by sharing like notes, i.e. the treble clef and bass clef share some notes. How many? One per measure gets harmony. Two is better, is three necessary? It's like gravy, if you like gravy spoon it on. So it's a balancing act. Chords are placed so they provide movement and harmony. Normally I leave this task to the songwriter and play the chord he chose to use, i.e. I find a chord chart and play from that. But, it does help to understand what is going on.

    For this to sink in I'd suggest you call up some chord charts on your songs and study the progressions. Ask yourself why are they moving as they are? A basic dirt simple movement would be Rest, Tension, Climax and then resolution and return to Rest. Think of it this way; the song writer has the verse start off at rest, that's boring so he/she adds some tension and then works toward a climax. Once you have reached climax it's time to end this verse so verse number two can bring up another thought. I think you will find that most four line verses will have one V-I progressions in the first two lines and then repeat this V-I cadence in the 3rd and 4th line. Verse two starts the process over again.

    I hope that answered your question, if I confused, that was not my intent. Ask again...
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2014
  8. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014
    No confusion - very clear and good advice. Thanks!


  9. The 1 and the V are the same notes as a fog horn. The old Beee Oooo. (Bee being the V and O being the 1. Always worked for me.
    repoman likes this.
  10. If you want to hear why chord V has the feeling of tension leading back to chord I just play up through a major scale from root to the 7th degree and listen to how it wants to resolve back to the root. Chord V contains that 7th degree of the scale and contributes to the tension. Listen to as many songs as possible and listen out for that feeling of returning back to the tonic. Once you get a feel for it you'll spot it easily.
    smeet likes this.
  11. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014
    Sharkbait130 - thanks for your response but I wonder if you could explain/elaborate on what you are talking about. I don't understand any of it. Thanks
    sharkbait130 likes this.
  12. If you can find a recording of a fog horn used to warn ships in times of low visability you will hear two notes.Some only have one note so this is not the one you are looking for. If you find the recording of a fog horn that has two notes , the two notes will be the 1 - V. It was also used back in the day as a joke type warning of someone having B.O. hence the B.O. connotation. Look up Fog Horn Sound Effect by SoundFXNow on you tube
  13. Coolhandjjl


    Oct 13, 2010
    My ss rounds have so many harmonics and grind going on, it's hard to hear the diff. With flats, the diff is more apparent.
  14. Lizardskyball

    Lizardskyball Guest

    Mar 17, 2013
    Columbus, OH
    Think Star Wars theme song...the first two notes are I V
  15. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014
    Hey Guys,

    Still struggling with distinguishing the I to IV from the I to V. Lots go the time I can hardly hear the chords clearly because of the vocals, drums, etc. I sometimes try to listen to the vocals to hear what some of you describe as the climax but gets confused. Do you mean when the pitch is highest, but could the singer not sing the lower note in the V chord compared to the I chord (e.g. in the key of C, could the singer not sing the B in the V chord which would be lower than the E in the I chord). Similarly, if it is the IV chord, could the singer not sing one of the notes in the IV chord (say F) that is higher than the B note in the V chord, so the IV would be the climax chord. Hope this makes sense. Still struggling to get this worked out in my head.Help!!!

    Can you refer to a particular song or less that would illustrate the I-IV and I-V difference clearly.

  16. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    the good news is that if you can figure out the IV chord, you can figure out the V.
    the V should be easier to pick out due to the unrest in its make-up.
    the unrest comes from the tritone (3rd and 7th degrees) in its creation.

    if it is G chord (based on C major and built to the 7th degree), the degrees will be G-B-D-F; the B-F create the tritone which means they are 6 semitones or 3 whole tones apart. this is the tension of the chord that wants to go to I.
  17. Hahaha


    Sep 26, 2003
    Olympia, WA USA
    Here's a simplified way to train your ear to hear a I to V movement: Play G and B together on the 10th and 9th frets (A & D strings). That's your 1 chord (G). Now play D and F# together on your 12th and 11th frets (D & G strings). That's your 5 chord (D). Play that movement over and over and over and over and over and over and over until you can't get the sound of it out of your head. Then try the same movement in different keys. In a short amount of time you'll recognize the 1 going to the 5. You should invert the movement also by playing the V an octave lower. You are simply memorizing the sound of that chord movement. If that doesn't work, then disregard my suggestion and write me off as a simpleton.
  18. Cougar


    Feb 15, 2014
    Can anyone point me to a song, exercise or lesson that clearly demonstrate the sound of I to V chord movement. Would be most appreciated. Thanks.
  19. zenman


    Jan 30, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    Listen to some blues. That should solidify the sound of the I, IV and V for you.
  20. chungweishan

    chungweishan Guest

    Feb 24, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    "Mary Had a Little Lamb" ||: C - - - | C - - - | G - - - | C - - - :||

    Sometimes the simple songs work best to learn chord progressions.