A journey in Listening - eight bar forms

So we've learned to listen to single notes rising and falling in pitch and we've learned about three important chords, the I the IV and the V. We've found them on our guitars, listened to them move around in cadences and heard them in action in a twelve bar blues. Now it's time to hear them at work in other songs and learn to recognise them for yourself.

A blues progression doesn't need to be twelve bars. Eight bar chord progressions that use our three main chords, the I, the IV and the V have been common from very early on. Bill Broonzy's Key to the Highway is a case in point.


Grab your guitar and play this progression, remember the I is open, the IV is on the 5th fret and the V is on the 7th fret.

This time we again start on the tonic chord but the first change is up to the V. Remember in the twelve bar progression the first chord change was to the IV chord, your ear may be used to hearing this and a little surprised to hear that extra tension in the V. That's great, it means you're on track. Focus in on what that V sounds like and how it's different from the movement to the IV chord. Play them both, the I- V and then I - IV to really nail the difference between the two.

From there it goes to the IV chord which offers some resolution to the first line but still keeps it hanging enough to strongly resolve to the I in the last line. From there the final four bars alternate between the I and the stronger tension in the V chord. Listen closely again to the difference in function of these three chords.

Here's another one, You Gotta Move


Again it centres around the tonic but hear the difference between the IV and the V, the V is a little higher in pitch but more importantly the tension in the V is stronger.

And aonther, Midnight Special


 This time you start on the IV chord and resolve back to the I (Plagel Cadence) and then up to the V and back to the I (Perfect Cadence). Listen again you should be starting to hear them clearly by now.

And not a traditional song but it sure sounds like one, Bring It On Home by Sam Cooke

IVI           IVI            V

 To really nail this skill you'll now need to transcribe some songs yourself, have a listen to these and other three chord songs and see if you can pick out the I, the IV and the V chords


Bad Moon Rising

All Shook Up

Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Ring of Fire

This Train is Bound for Glory

You Shook Me all Night Long