You Can Harmonize Thousands Of Songs With Just A Few Major Chords!
Here is a transcript of the video if you would like to follow along:
Good morning, this is Duane. Today, I’d like to take a look at major chords and what we can do with major chords to harmonize literally thousands of songs. It’s much simpler than most people think, and I’ll just walk you through it.
First of all, let’s take a look at what the major chords are. A major chord is formed out of the first, third and fifth of a major scale. If a scale goes like this, and it does, that’s the C scale. We take the root, the first note, the third note and the fifth note of that scale, that’s the chord for that particular scale. That’s the C major chord.
We can do that to each particular scale. The rules for scale are whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step.
Let’s go up to the key of D, then. The key of D does not go like this. Why? Because the relationship of whole steps and half steps aren’t the same. We have to follow that rule. Whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step.
The key of D has these two black keys in it, called F sharp and C sharp. F sharp there and C sharp there. When we’re in the key of D, we have two sharps, but that’s the D major chord. That’s how you figure a major chord.
Let’s walk through all 12 major chords. They’re very easy to remember. This is kind of a review for you, but then I want to talk about harmonizing using those chords.
The C chord is like that, all white. The F chord is all white also. The G chord is all white. There’s three major chords that are all white. C, F and G. Here they are on
the left hand. C, F and G. I’ll come back to that, but if we just knew those three chords, we could literally play hundreds, and probably thousands, of songs. Those are the three primary chords in the key of C, but they’re also all major chords.
There’s three chords that have a black third, a black middle note. The D chord, which is like that. The E chord, which is like that. The A chord, like so. There’s three that have a black third. D, E and A.
There’s three that are like Oreo cookies. They’re black on the outside, but they’re white on the inside. D flat, E flat and A flat. Now, if you remember D, E and A were white, black, white. The same letter names, but the flat versions, D flat, E flat and A flat, are Oreo cookie chords, but the same name. D, E, A, but D flat, E flat and A flat.
We’ve covered nine of the 12 major chords already. One is all black. That’s G flat. That’s easy to remember. All black. Then B and B flat are different. B is white, black, black, and B flat is black, white, white.
There’s three major chords that are all white. What are they? C, F and G. There’s three major chords that have a black third. D, E and A. There’s three major chords that are Oreo cookies. D flat, E flat and A flat. There’s one major chord that’s all black, G flat. Then there’s B and B flat, B being white, black, black, B flat, black, white, white.
Let’s play that in the left hand. Three major chords that are all white. C, F, G. Three that have a black third. D, E and A. Three that are Oreo cookies. D flat, E flat, A flat. One that’s all black, G flat. Then B and B flat.
Let’s do it with both hands, now. C, F, G, D, E, A. D flat, E flat, A flat, G flat, B, B flat. I presume you know that, but if you don’t know that, that’s your first step, is to learn those major chords.
Once you know major chords, what can you do with them? Well, one thing you can do is turn them upside down. You don’t have to play the C chord like that. You could play it upside down. Take the C off the bottom, move it up an octave, and play the same three notes, but upside down. That’s called a C chord, first inversion.
I apologize for my frog this morning.
We can also turn it up again a second time, and that’s the C chord in second inversion. It’s the same chord, just upside down. It’s like if I stood you on your head, you’d still be you, but you’d just be upside down.
We can turn chords upside down. We can also break them up. We could play one note at a time … like so. We could break chords up. What we can do on the right hand, we could do on the left hand, can’t we? We could make it into patterns if we wanted to.
Listen … That’s called a Alberti bass. It’s a way of breaking up chords. There are lots of ways of breaking up chords. Again, you can play it inverted.
You can also play open voicing on those chords like so. See? Instead of playing of playing C, E,G, I’m playing C, G, and then bringing the E up an octave higher. Then I could use an eighth note pattern, or I can bring my hand over into higher notes of the C chord, as long as I stay on the notes of the C chord … You’ve heard that kind of thing.
You can turn chords upside down. You can break those chords up in a variety of ways. You can also use rhythmic devices like this … or … There’s much more complex ways of doing that, but I’m just making it easy for you.
If you’re playing for yourself, you can do this … I’m playing the C octave in the left hand and breaking up the C chord in the right hand. Very simple stuff.
What we can do to C, we can do to F, can’t we? What we can do to F, we can do to G … we could do to D, into E … and A … and D flat and so on. Once we know the chords, we can turn them upside down or invert them, and we can break them up in a variety of ways.
Another thing we can do is we can add a note to any one of those chords to make it a little more interesting in a pattern. For example, in our left hand we can go … It’s still the C chord, but we’re adding that note, it’s called a sixth, to make a rhythmic pattern … or …. Right? Something like that. In other words, we can slide out the black keys as we get to the white keys. It opens up a whole panorama of things you can do with those chords.
The reason you could harmonize thousands of songs with just those chords that I’ve talked about is because in any key that you play in, there’s three main chords. Three homeboy chords. They’re called primary chords in music theory. In any key, they’re the one chord, the four chord and the five chord. If I’m in the key of C, my primary chords are the C chord, the F chord and the G chord, which, as you know now, are all major chords, right?
If I was in the key of D, the three primary chords would be the one chord, which is D, the four chord, which is F, and five chord, which is A. I could harmonize a song easily just using those three chords. Those three chords are the basis for all blues songs. Every single blues song you’ve heard, rhythm and blues songs. It’s not to say they couldn’t have more chords, but most blues songs that are rhythm and blues are based on just those three chords. I could play a bluesy kind of thing and you might not be able to recognize those three chords because I would put in chords substitutions and fillers and so on. In other words, I could put in connecting chords and so on, and so you might not recognize those. In this basic form, the blues are just those three chords.
Not only that, hymns, gospel songs, simple ones like Amazing Grace. You can play Amazing Grace with just those three. Let me show you … One chord, four chord, one chord, one, five, one. I don’t need to play it that simply. I could go like this … See, I can add things to it to make it sound fuller, but the basis are those three chords. Even beginners can harmonize a song like Amazing Grace and thousands of others just using those primary chords. Then when you add sevenths and sixths and all that good stuff to it, you come up with an amazing possibility.
If you’ll look down below this YouTube video, down where it has information, I will list some of those songs, or URLs, so you can go find those songs you can play with just three chords or four chords. I recommend you do that.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll take up another little piano tip of some sort. If you like this kind of thing, come on over to playpiano.com and sign up for our free chord newsletters. They’re loaded with all kinds of good information about chords.
We’ll see you then. Bye bye for now.
Here is the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBPi7XOLa8c&feature=youtu.be
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