Thursday, September 24, 2015

Music Tip - Fun Chord Progressions

I've been giving my piano students chord progressions.  I love them, and my students seem to like them too-- anyway when they come back to lessons I can tell they've been practicing them.  You may know about the popular 4 chord progression made popular by Axis of Awesome.  These four chords I V vi IV are used in more than 70 different popular songs.  In the key of C major, this would be: C–G–Am–F.  When you play the chords one right after another, they make a pleasing musical phrase that you can improvise melodies above.

Recently I gave the following chord progression to my students, but I can't remember which website I got it from.  It might have been Tim Topham, a popular Australian pianist/teacher/speaker.  The progression is:
Am/a  G/a  F/a  G/a        
Am/f  G/f  F/f  G/f
Am/d  G/d  F/d  G/d
Dm/b  EM/e  Am/a.

The capital letters represent the chord played with the right hand- four times in a row.
The lower case letter after the slash is the left hand note, played one time.
(So Am/a means right hand plays the notes A,C,E as a block chord four times in a row while the left hand plays an A on the piano with just the first time the chord is played.  Then the right hand plays GBD four times with the left hand again playing an A, etc)
One of my boy students said, "That sounds like the music to Rocky."  He was hooked, of course.

The next week after giving my students this chord progression, I gave them a number of different ways to try playing it at home during their practice time.  Here are some different ways to play it:
* Have the right hand play a broken chord instead of block chords.
* Have the left hand play a rhythm on it's note during the chords instead of just playing the note one time per chord group.
* Play the chord progressions in a different octave on the piano.  Playing it up high sounds like a music box.
* Use different dynamics during the progression.
* Add the pedal - in fact, this is an excellent way to introduce how to play the pedal correctly.
* Improvise a melody above the chord progression.  I would demonstrate by improvising a melody as the student played the chord progression, then I asked the student to improvise a melody.  I told them to use stepping or skipping steps on the notes in the chord I was playing.

Another chord progression my students have enjoyed is from Jon Schmidt's (from The Piano Guys) song he wrote way back when he was in high school.  He based it off a tuna commercial.  The song is called, The Dumb Song, and that really appeals to students. The link will take you to a pdf of the song.

I teach just the left hand of the first page.  Then the next week I add the simple right hand single notes.  Depending on the ability of the student, I eventually have them add block chords for the right hand and/or inversions.  This is a great way to teach students about chord inversions.

Teaching my students to play and have fun with chord progressions has really appealed to my teen and preteen students.  It works so well with older students who are just beginning to take piano, or who don't sight read very well.  It's an attention getter when they play it for friends and family, it sounds like they can play advanced music and it is WAY FUN!

Thanks for reading,


No comments:

Post a Comment



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...