The Christmas Song: Thinking Through The Chord Progressions

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The Christmas Song: Thinking Through The Chord Progressions

Good morning. This is Duane, and Merry Christmas to you. Today I want to look at “The Christmas Song: Thinking Through The Chord Progressions”. In my opinion, this is one of the most perfectly written songs ever written. It was written by Mel Tormé, the great, great singer.

I think it was originally written in the key of E flat, but I’m going to make it a little easier for you by moving it to the key of C. Maybe we’ll look at E flat later. I just want to walk through the chord progressions because they’re so outstanding. The way he did it, you hardly … in fact, I don’t think I used any chord substitutions. There’s very few songs that I don’t use a chord substitution to make it more interesting, but Mel did such a fantastic job of writing that song that you hardly need any chord substitutions. In fact, you can play the melody with your little finger, or with a single finger if you want, and it still sounds good.

Let me just play a little bit, and I’ll show you what I mean.
(music 00:00:51)

See, I’m just playing a single finger melody, and it didn’t sound bad. It probably might sound better if you did that. Let me play a few chords with it.
(music 00:01:12)

That time, I was playing octaves and thirds. Those are thirds. Anytime you want, you can take a chord … anytime you come into a phrase, and just take the chord that you’re playing, whatever it is, and run it up a couple of octaves up the keyboard.
(music 00:02:03)

I’m going to walk you through the chord progressions now. It’s simply the C chord … I’m playing a ninth with it. See, my thumb is laying over the third and the ninth there. Or, you can call it the second if you want. Just makes the chord a little thicker. The chord here is G, G seventh … oops … back to C, back to G … I’m using a G sus … in other words, the fourth’s taking over the place of the third, but then I resolve it to a third … back to C … this time, you can use the C seventh suspension if you want … C seventh, F … again, I’m putting a second in the F chord … and then it could move to B flat seventh … A minor, F minor sixth, C.

That’s the first complex chord, that right there. That’s a F sharp diminished. F sharp half-diminished seventh chord with the melody on top, and then it goes to B seventh. That’s E major with a major seventh in it. F minor seventh, B flat seventh, and suddenly we’re in E flat. Then we go back to G seventh to C.

The way he wrote it is just genius because he does a semi-modulation. You think you’re in the key of E for a second, and then you go up a half-step to F minor seventh. Then you’re in E flat, and you think you’ve changed keys, but then you come right back to C. Those are parallel sixths. That’s B flat seventh again, A minor again, F minor sixth again, C. That’s that F sharp diminished chord. B, E minor, A seventh, D minor seventh, G seventh, C.
See, the chord progression goes right around the circle. Let me show you again. We’re going from B … now, the circle of fifths, if you’re familiar with it, goes to E, goes to A, goes to D, goes to G, goes to C. The circle of fifths, if your call [phonetic 00:05:02] has twelve points on its compass, and we’re going five twelfths of the way around that, all in one quick progression. B, E, A, D, G, C.

Now, the bridge. G minor seventh, and it comes right back to C major, G minor seventh, C seventh, F … sorry, that was sloppy … F major ninth, F minor seventh, B flat seventh, E flat, E minor … well, you can use an F minor sixth there. It might complicate your chord a little bit, but you don’t have to do that. What I’m using is A flat on the left hand octave, and my right hand is playing F, G flat, B flat, and D. Then G seventh with suspension, and then resolve it to G seventh with a flat ninth.

Now, back to the theme.
(music 00:06:25)

Same thing. A minor, F minor seventh, C … there’s that F sharp chord again. Then, he changes to F, F seventh I think, C, A minor, G seventh, and then he turns back a couple times and does it again.
(music 00:07:06)

G seventh, and then the final chord’s C, except, as I recall, he does something like this.
(music 00:07:20)

Something like that. Anyway, it’s a beautiful, luscious song, and I just thought I’d walk you through it quickly with some ideas. But you can take it up in your own … By the way, I think you can originally play it in E flat. You have the same chord progression of course, but you have to transpose it to that key. Have fun with it, and we’ll see you tomorrow as we continue our series on piano tips. Bye bye for now.

Here is the video on YouTube:

Here is an article on Wikipedia about the composer, Mel Torme:


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The Christmas Song: Thinking Through The Chord Progressions
Today I want to look at "The Christmas Song: Thinking Through The Chord Progressions". In my opinion, this is one of the most perfectly written songs ever written.
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