Archive for September, 2013


Musical Transposition – Easier Than You Might Think!

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
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Musical Transposition

Remember modulation? If not, click here: http://www.playpiano.com/wordpress/Learnpianoplaying/modulation

Modulation is when part of the music is moved up or down, or even turned from happy to sad (by the way, this happens when a piece goes from a major key to a minor key) for all or a portion of the time. Modulation sometimes has a utilitarian purpose while other times it provides a way for the composer to freshen up the music.

Today, we’re going to look at musical transposition. Transposition is a closely related cousin to modulation but is used in a different way.

Have you ever played in a band, a stage show, or at a church and noticed that some people can play a piece of music in a key that can suit any voice? Some people just have a knack for transposition. This is a skill that allows a person to play a piece of music in any key. Some people can do it naturally (“by ear”) where others learn to do it using music theory. With practice, you can learn to do it too!

Let’s say that we have a piece of music that is written in the key of C Major (see our article on key signatures) http://www.playpiano.com/wordpress/key-signatures/what-everyone-needs-to-know-about-key-signatures and that key is simply too low for our vocalist to sing. She isn’t happy that she doesn’t sound good in that key and asks us to play the song in D Major. How do we do that?

If you’re a synthesizer player, you could simply press the transpose key until you get to D Major but most of us don’t have that option. Here’s what you do: If your music is written in C Major and you need to take it up to D Major, that’s one whole step (two half steps) above C.

First, change your key signature. If you know your key signatures, you know that D Major has two sharps: F# and C#. Next, write every note in the piece a whole step higher. If your first note is a C, the new note is a D. If your second note is an E, one whole step above E is F#. If you’re a fast thinker, you can do this without writing a new piece of music. If not, go ahead and write it. You’ll get used to it.

What if our piece of music is in the key of C but we have to put it in the key of E? That’s a little tougher but you simply take it up 2 whole steps rather than one.

There you have it! Be patient. Learning to transpose is not something that will happen overnight but with a little practice, you’ll be transposing like the pros in no time.

Here is a Wikipedia article on transposition:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposition_(music)

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The most-used 4-chord progression of all time: The I, vi, ii, V progression

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
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The most-used 4-chord progression of all time: The I, vi, ii, V progression

One of the most familiar of all chord progressions is the I, vi, ii, V progression. I played it when I was a kid, and you probably did too. It is used in literally hundreds of different songs in a variety of ways. Watch this short video about it:

If you would like to follow along, here is a transcript of the video:

Good morning this is Duane and today I would like to start talking about chord progressions. We’ve covered all the major minor diminished augmented six, seventh major seventh, ninth, eleventh, thirteenth chords. We learnt a little bit about music form and so on. I think we are ready to start talking about chord progressions. Chord progression is simply the way chords typically move, here is a chord progression. Does that sound typical? No you don’t hear that sound very often. It could happen, any composer can do anything they want but it’s not a very typical chord progression.

Here is another one. Again not very typical how about this? Wow that sounds familiar. The reason it sounds familiar is because that far and away is the most used chord progression of all time. Because it’s based on the first degree of the scale [Duane playing]. In other words the 1 chord and the 4 chord and the 5 chord [Duane playing]. They are the only major chords in a diatonic scale any other chord are [Duane playing] minor, diminished, okay. They are the only major chords in the key of C. In the key of C the only major chord is [Duane playing] C, F and G so naturally they are the ones that would occur the most.

Do they have to? Of course not. Like I said any composer can do anything he wants. If you put all of the songs ever written in a computer, in a blender and figure out what the most common chord progression is you would find that far and far away. There is literally thousands you can play with just those three chords in that chord progression from [Duane playing] 1 to 4 to 5. Because every note of the C scale [Duane playing] fits in one or more of those chords doesn’t it. In other words C [Duane playing] fits in the C chord but it also fits in F chord [Duane playing].

D fits in [Duane playing] the G chord. E [Duane playing] fits in the C chord. F [Duane playing] fits in the F chord. G [Duane playing] fits in both the G chord and the C chord. A [Duane playing] fits in the F chord. B [Duane playing] fits in the G chord and C fits in the C chord and the F chord. Every note of the scale fits in to one of those three chords. Naturally the most used chord progression of all time is simply 1, 4, 5. Now I may go 1, 5, 1 [Duane playing] sometimes or 1, 4, 1 [Duane playing] sometimes but you are going to see those three chords used repeatedly.

If that’s true in the key of C, it’s also true in every other key. Let me just play a simple … Like I said there is thousands of songs you can play in the key of C with those three chords. In other words that chord progression. Here is just one [Duane playing]. Just those three chords, lets do it in the key of D flat [Duane playing]. The scale of D flat goes like that [Duane playing]. If 1 chord is D flat [Duane playing], if 4 chord is G flat [Duane playing] and 5 chord is A flat. In the key of D, the 1 chord is D [Duane playing], the 4 chord is G [Duane playing] and the 5 chord is A [Duane playing]. If you are playing in the key of D [Duane playing] the three most likely chords are D, G and A [Duane playing].

The chord progression that’s going to be used the most are those three. In the key of E flat, that’s E flat scale [Duane playing], the 1 chord is E flat [Duane playing], the 4 chord is A flat [Duane playing], the 5 chord is B flat [Duane playing]. If you are playing in the key B flat [Duane playing]. If you are in the key of E the 1 chord is E [Duane playing], the 4 chord is A [Duane playing] and the five chord is B [Duane playing]. If you are in the key of F its 1, 4, 5 [Duane playing] If you are in the key of G its 1, 4, 5 [Duane playing]. I’m doing this rapidly because of the length of the time I have but you’ll have to take it slowly and work out each key.

In the key of A flat its 1, 4, 5 [Duane playing]. In the key of A 1, 4, 5 [Duane playing]. In the key of B flat 1, 4, 5. Lots of blues are in [Duane playing] the key of B flat. The blues of course is built just around the 1, 4, 5 progression. It’s the [inaudible 0:05:13] chord progression the most logical chord progression of all. Finally the key B, the 1 chord is B most logical chord progression the 4 chord is A most logical chord progression and the 5 chord is F sharp most logical chord progression. The most likely chord progression of all time is 1, 4 and 5. If you want to master one chord progression master that one because that’s the one that’s going to occur in the most possible songs.

There is many other chord progressions and we are going to cover a few of them in the lessons to come. You ought to for sure memorize this chord progression and preferably do it in all keys. At least the keys you want to play in. Okay that’s it for today and we’ll see you again tomorrow with another piano tip. Bye, bye for now.

And here is the same video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKUnSC7WuBE

Here is a Wikipedia article on chord progressions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chord_progressions

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Minor Keys: Made up of all minor chords?

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
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Minor Keys: Made up of all minor chords?

Good morning. This is Duane and today I’d like to cover the three most likely chords in any minor key. In the next five minutes you could learn the three most likely chords in any minor key and I mean there’s twelve different minor keys so you’ll know those forever if you can just remember this. The one chord is minor, the four chord is minor and the five chord is major. I just played Chopin’s prelude in C minor, the first three chords. That sums up the case for those three most likely chords in any minor key. What’s true in the key is C minor is true in any other minor key.

Let me take it back to a major key for just a second. You probably know that the three most likely chords in any major key are the one chord, the four chord and the five chord. One, based on the first [read 00:01:04] scale. Four, based on the fourth [redo 00:01:05] scale and five, the chord based on the fifth [read 00:01:09] scales. One, four and five. Those are far and away the most likely chords to occur in a major key because they are the major chords in that key, they’re intrinsic or organic to that key.

The same thing is true in minor keys, all you need to remember that the one chord is minor in minor keys. The four chord is also minor when you’re in minor keys, but the five chord remains major. That’s what people forget, they think the five chord maybe minor. The five chord is major that’s because it’s based on the harmonic minor scale which I won’t get into right now. Just remember, the one chord is minor, the four chord is minor and the five chord is major. That’s really all you need to know about minor keys, the most likely chords in any minor key.

Let’s do it in another key, let’s take it to A minor for example. If we’re playing … it’ll tune like Summer Time. The three primary chords there are the one chord based on the first [read 00:02:28] scale. The four chord based on the fourth note of the scale and the five chord based on the fifth note of the scale which is major. One is minor, four is minor and five is major. Let me slowdown that song and you’ll see it. Here’s a one chord, five chord, one, five, one, five, one. All we’ve had is one and five so far, right? There’s a four chord. One, four and five in the key of A minor.

Let’s do another key, one more, let’s say D minor. That’s a key that people like to play, a D minor. The one chord is obviously D minor. The four chord, one, two, three four would be G minor and the five chord would be what? A major. You got it? The one chord is always minor, the four chord is always minor but the five chord is major in any minor key. You can just do the same thing, all twelve minor keys and you got it, henceforth and forever.

That’s it for today. If you enjoyed these tips, come on over to play piano and sign up for a free newsletter because are loaded with this thing and you got a new tip most every day. Come on over and sign up. That’s it for today. Thank you. Bye-bye.

Here is the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2w0k77lepA

Wikipedia on minor keys:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_written_in_all_24_major_and_minor_keys
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The Gospel Blues Piano Sound – Learn To “Walk” Between Chords

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
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The Gospel Blues Piano Sound – Learn To “Walk” Between Chords

Here is a transcript of the video if you would like to follow along:

Good morning, this is your headless piano teacher again, with a free lesson on “Walk On Up”.  This is called the “Walk On Up” technique, and it’s very simple. It uses the gospel-blues piano sound.

In chord progressions, as you know chords have a tendency to want to move up a fourth constantly.  In other words, the C chord, particularly if you put a seventh with it, it wants to move up a fourth to F.  The F chord, wants to move up to B flat.  Really, we’re talking about the “Circle of Fours” here, or the  “Circle of Keys”, but that happens all the time in music.

What usually follows D seventh?  Almost always G.  What follows G seventh?  Almost always C.  We can take advantage of that by walking up between chords.  For example, if I’m walking up from the C chords, say to the F chord, I can walk up in tenths, and it gives a real nice secure sound, like that.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

Now, some people’s hands are big enough to play that, and if your hands are, then do it.  I can’t do that, so I have to cheat.  I have to use two hands.  I have to use … see my right hand is playing the tenth above it.  Okay, so that’s all there is to a walk up, you just walk up, like so.  If we’re in the key of F, it would be …

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

See that?  Now we’re going to throw a little curve ball here.  We’re going to use what we learned last week, that is the “Four Of The Four” technique.  Let’s walk up the four, but before we play the F chord, let’s play the B flat chord.  That immediately gives it a little bluesy sound.

Let’s do it in F.  Now, if you put sevenths in there, you can get a bluesier sound.  Let me put this in context by doing it in an actual song.  Let’s say you’re playing “Amazing Grace”.  Okay?

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

You can do this on any song of course, but let’s say … let me just play it.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

That’s F to B flat, back to F, and so on.  Okay?  Now, watch this.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

See that?  I’m walking up to B flat, and my right hand has to help.  Okay, but before we play B flat, what are we going to do?  Play the “Four Of The Four”.  Now, I can context.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

See?  There at the end I put on the “Four Of The Four” to the four to the one.  Let me do that again a little slower.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

“Amazing grace,” now I’m going to walk up.  “How sweet”, now before I play B flat, I’m going to go E flat, B flat.  Now, I’m going to play F, one, four, one.  Okay?  I could go up to the “Four Of The Four”, if I have time.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

Now, the chord here is C, so instead of going to C, I went to the “Four Of The Four”.  What’s the “Four Of The Four”?  It’s B flat, so I play the B flat chord and then just came down.

Duane is demonstrating on the piano.

Now, on this walk up, I tripletize it.  I went triple up, triple up, triple up.  See that?  My left hand is just walking up in octaves, but my right hand … you can’t see my bottom finger, but that’s okay.  It’s an octave lower.  On the right hand, I’m tripletizing it, triple up, triple up, triple up, triple up, triple up, triple up. Four, four, one, four, one, four, four one.  See that?  You can do that with all kinds of voicing.  You don’t need to do it just like I did it.  Voicing is not the subject here, we’re talking about chord progression.

That’s it for this time.  Practice hard.  See you next time, and if you want more tips like this, and if you’re not already signed up for our newsletter, come on over to playpiano.com.  I’ll send you a newsletter like this every three days or so.  Thanks for being with me.  See you later.  Bye bye for now.

Here is the video on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Yeiw6mGPnw
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You Can Harmonize Thousands Of Songs With Just A Few Major Chords!

Monday, September 9th, 2013
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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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonization

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-chord_song

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Axis_of_Awesome
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