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Harmonic Patterns

Definition:

The chords / harmonies in songs move or progress in a very predictable pattern.

Importance:

When we know the most common and predictable patterns of chord movement we are able to memorize large sections of music with relative ease.

Remember music is like a language.  All languages have a certain syntax.  In the English language we tend to describe the noun before we state the noun.  For example, “ The Green House”.  Where as other languages might say “ The House Green”.  There is a certain order in the way the words are organized that we come to expect.  Well the same concept applies in Western Civilization Music.  Certain types of chords precede other types of chords.  It’s just the way music is organized.

Knowing the “ syntax”, if you will, of chords in music, is key to unlocking the arduous task of memorizing music.  I know this “ chord order” like my name.  It allows me to memorize a new piece of music in minutes.  Unlike my childhood days when it would take me hours of “ muscle memory” to play a piece without the music.  Then , because it was muscle memory or rote memory, I would forget it within weeks of “ mastering it”.

Jazz Pianists know these harmonic patterns.  It is this knowledge which enables me to play hours of memorized repertoire, both now and for years to come.  I invite you to learn the “ syntax “ of music!

Learn About…

Chords

Harmonic Patterns

5 + Note Chords

Definition:

When playing a chord with 5 or more notes in it, like in the case of C maj 9, the span of the chord will prohibit some students from reaching the 9th of the chord.  So the remedy for this is called “ Open Position”.

Open Position simply means the notes of the chord are spread beyond the span of an octave.  In other words the right hand will play some notes of the chord, particularly notes that are beyond the octave i.e. 9ths, 11ths and 13ths.

For example the  “ C” major chord in close position would be played  ( C,E,G ) in the left hand .  “ C” major chord in open position could be played  ( C then G and then the E up an octave ).

Open position is very practical when playing solo piano because it allows chords to be played lower on the piano without sounding too muddy.  This is done primarily by “ transferring’ the third of the chord from the left hand up an octave into the right hand.

Some pianists will play 5 – note chords with 4 notes in the right hand and the root in the left hand.  This is particularly well suited if you are playing an “ active” bass line on the piano.  Examples would be a walking bass line, or a latin tune with an active bass line.  In the previous 2 styles of playing I would suggest playing 3 notes in the right hand including the melody, perhaps up to 4 total notes in the right hand.  More than 4 notes in the right hand is very difficult to play simultaneously especially if the tempo of the song is fast.

Learn About…

Chords

Harmonic Patterns

I vi ii V7 I – Chord Progression

The chord progression  I  vi  ii  V7  I    is the 2nd most common chord progression in music.

This progression is in hundreds of songs.

For example:

Blue Moon
Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man
Savin’ All My Love
Try To Remember

And the list goes on

Remember the lower case roman numerals designate a minor chord while the upper case roman numerals denote a major chord.  The upper case roman numeral with a superscript Arabic 7 denotes a dominant chord.

It goes without saying, that when a student understands and can recall quickly the  I  vi ii V7  I chords in all 12 keys, then he or she will memorize and be able to transpose songs exponentially faster.  Perhaps more importantly you will retain your memorized repertoire for a lifetime because you learned a concept that is in every song.  If you look for this chord progression , you will find it in over 90% of popular songs.

Learn About…

Chords

Harmonic Patterns