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Practice With Me -1

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

I'm passionate about teaching the chord basics. Who wants to look up chords all the time? We all want to look at a lead sheet and play!

Today's practice starts with a music basic, the I-IV-V chord progression. Learning I-IV-V chord progressions can be overwhelming but they are the FouNDaTioN of music. Music always moves in some form of I-IV-V progression (from Bach to Coldplay) so knowing how to do it easily, in every key, is a BASIC. A basic that anyone can learn. Don't think about it, do it! You won't regret it :-)

Over the next three weeks I’ll post a Practice With Me blog. We’ll cover the I-IV-V progression, voiced, in all 12 keys with a gentle approach. This works with students of all ages (that can reach a chord). It takes 3-5 mins. of a lesson to teach and there is a video students can play with at home. We’ll do a little at a time over the next three weeks to become comfortable with this valuable musical tool. Lead sheets, memorization, and ear training all become much easier because the I-IV-V progression is in your fingers, your ears and your grey matter.

Week 1 - Top-Two-UP

This week focuses on voicing the I-IV progression. To warm up, review all 12 major triads or watch this short video LEARN ALL THE MAJOR CHORDS.

Let’s voice a G major (I) and C major (IV) chord first. That means we’ll move from chord to chord smoothly without leaps. It will sound great and it’s the way chords most often move so they don’t get in the way of the melody.

To get the most benefit from this two things need to happen:

  1. Play the chords without looking at music. Notice the shape and how each note moves... Top-Two-Up.

  2. Play the chords ONLY WHEN you have all the right notes under your fingers so your ear hears a correct voicing. If you play a chord 2 – 3 times incorrectly before you get it right, your ear hears chaos and you’re probably playing too fast. No learning happens. Sigh…

Ready? Here we go…

1. G Major (I) - C major (IV)

  • Play a G major triad in root position (with your LH)

  • Move the top 2 notes of the chord up to the Root and 3rd of C major (C and E)

  • Now move the top 2 notes back down to G major (back to B and D)

That’s I – IV – I in G Major. Easy!

2. A major (I) - D major (IV)

  • Play an A major triad in root position

  • Move the top 2 notes up to the Root and 3rd of D major (D and F#)

  • Move them back down to A major (back to C# and E)

That’s I – IV – I in A Major!

3. Play 1. and 2. a few times and when this is comfy try it in all 12 keys.

ALL 12 KEYS!?! How do you play the I-IV progression in all 12 keys?

Take 3 keys a day and play along with this VIDEO on I-IV. (Jump to 2:35 on the video to get past the preamble). You can also place the Circle of Fifths on your music rack and voice I-IV chords in all keys using Top-Two-Up. The IV chord is always beside the I chord on the circle!

Day 1 – I-IV in the ALL WHITE chord keys C F and G (starts at 2:37 on the VIDEO)

Day 2 – MOUNTAIN chord keys A D and E (chords shaped like a mountain - 4:25 on the VIDEO)

Day 3 - VALLEY chord keys Ab (A flat) Db and Eb (chords shaped like a valley - 5:50 on the VIDEO)

Day 4 – ODD BALL chord keys B Bb and F# (chords that have a unique shape - 7:09 on the VIDEO)


Day 5 – 6 keys in the Circle of Fifths from G – Ab

Day 6 – 6 keys in the Circle of Fifths from Gb – G

Day 7 – Day of Rest (or if you’re addicted try the whole circle!)

Groove on them with the opening to these songs. Play the melody by ear...

Opening to Something by the Beatles

(I) Something in the way she (I) moves, (I) Attracts me like no other (IV) lover.

Opening to Away in A Manger

(I) Away in a (I) manger, no (I) crib for a (IV) bed,

Opening to Santa Claus is Comin To Town

You (I) better watch out You (IV) better not cry (I) Better not pout (IV) I'm telling you why

Next week Bottom-Two-DOWN

...the periodic table of music
Circle of 5ths and 4ths

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