Learning The Musical Form Of a Song & Its Chord Progressions Speeds Up Progress
Good morning. This is Duane. Today we’re going to take a look at “Over the Rainbow.” Not so much for the purpose of learning the song but for the purpose of musical form and progressions. I want you to see. This was written by Harold Arlen, by the way, in 1941. As you know is sung by Judy Garland in the movie “Over the Rainbow.” I want you to know the musical form of the song because it teaches you a lesson about all music. All buildings of course have form of some sort. No builder starts building without any plans at all. He plans rooms here, rooms there, rooms there and so on. It’s organized and that’s true of any kind of construction project.
The same thing is true of songs or music. They typically follow an order that can be described as Section A, Section B, Section C or so on. “Over the Rainbow” written in a form called AABA. In other words, there’s two Sections of A followed by a Section of B followed by another Section of A, so AABA. The first Section eight measures long. Let me play it for you. Now, when people learn a song they often dread learning the whole thing but what they don’t know is once you learn one Section you’ve often learned other Sections.
In other words, I just played eight measures. By learning those eight measures you’ve also learned the next eight measures and the last eight measures. In other words, you’ve learned three quarters of the song. Haven’t you?
All that remains is the bridge or the B Section and then back to the A Section. That was eight bars long too, eight measures long. We have eight measures of A, eight measures of A, eight measures of B and eight measures of A. Once you’ve learned Section A you’ve learned three quarters of the song. It really simplifies the song a lot. Doesn’t it?
Then once you know the form of the song then learn the chord progressions. That’s the next step. Let’s take a look at the chord progressions. First chord is C if you’re playing the key of C that is. The first chord is C. The next chord is A-minor. The next chord is E-minor. The next chord is C7th. The next chord is F. Some people stay on F. I like to move to G7th and then E-minor 7th, A-minor 7th and then F, F-minor, C, A, D, G, C. That’s all there is to Section A.
You’ve got one chord, two chords, three chords, four chords, five chords, six chords, seven chords, eight chords. Those are repeats. Nine chords, ten I guess, eleven. I don’t know. Ten or twelve chords in Section A. That’s all you have to learn. All right? Then to Section B. How many chords do we have?
One, two, one. That’s the first chord. That’s the second chord. So we just have two so far. That’s the same first chord, now that’s different. So, that’s chord three, chord four, five, six, seven, eight. No, we’ve already had that. So, we have seven different chords there. Okay? Whatever number of chords there was in the first Section, whatever number of chords there were in the second Section, that’s all. Right?
Then all that’s left after that … I’m not saying you do that in a day or so but I mean over a course of weeks or months you can master that really well. Can’t you? Then the next step is to learn how to stretch out those chords in way that are appealing to what you want to do. Those are arpeggios – breaking up the chords there. The right hand I’m playing thirds. There I’m using a passing tone off G7th. Broken chords in E-minor, echo on A-minor, then F.
Now for F-minor. I put a B-flat on the left hand over an F-minor chord and that makes it B-flat 9th chord which is an a substitute (if you like it) for F minor. Either way is fine. Some people prefer that, F-minor and that’s fine. Then C, then A-minor.
Now let me play it all the way through and just watch how I arrange it. That may give you some ideas about what you can do. Okay? That’s Section A now, another Section A. Section B. That’s the other Section A. I might end it with taking a little Section out of B. Something like that. Okay? The first step is to learn the form of a song. The next step is to learn the progressions of a song. Then learn how to break up chords and so on in the way you want to do it to make it have the kind of feel to the song that you want.
That’s a little exposure to “Over the Rainbow” but it applies to any song, anywhere. Thanks for being with me and if you enjoy these little tips come on over to playpiano.com and sign for our free series of tips because they’re free. Thanks. Bye-bye for now.
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Here’s a great little book on chords and chord progressions on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Chords-Chord-Progressions-Exciting-ebook/dp/B0076OUGDE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404158669&sr=1-1&keywords=piano+chords+duane+shinn
Here is the video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIbe979tv6E&feature=youtu.be