LESSONSeries : Common Chord Progressions and Remembering Songs
Listening to songs and wanting to play the same songs on ukulele – that's what draws most people to the ukulele. That and it looks like a load of fun and easy to play – which it is. Then you need to actually remember the songs that you're learning, so you can play them again. And, hopefully, not have to read them off a sheet all the time.
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Remembering a song is a lot like remembering the directions for a road trip . There are the turn-by-turn directions, road maps, signs, and landmarks that will get you to where you are going. Turn here, turn there, remember this and remember that landmark. With songs, it's the chords, the melody, style, the harmonic cells, the form, etc that are part of the song that you want to remember.
With a few music tools and an understanding of the basic principles of how chords and chord progressions – the songs work. You can start unraveling what's going on in any song.
There's a lot more in common between songs than you might think. Each song has its own direction, signs and landmarks that can be used over and over again to actually remember songs.
It's ALL About the Learning & Playing Songs!
Where to Start
ALL music — melodies, chords, progressions, licks, leads, riff, etc … comes from some scale and there's no better scale to start with than the major scale. From the major scale is the most common scale used. From the solid foundation of the major scale, you can learn and derive the other essential scales. The major scale can be used as a basis for creating and deriving chords. The major scale is your go-to / fall back scale for all your primary music information.
Memorize the Major Scales
The Major Scale is one of your most common and important scales to learn and MEMORIZE in ALL 15 keys. The majority of popular and traditional songs are in major keys.
All 15 major scales need to be memorized for creating chords, melodies, and improvising. However, as far as the keys that songs are created in they're a few common keys for every style that is performed.
Go to the Major Scales lesson …
Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords. It's the process used to analyze the harmonic structure of a progression, song or composition. This analysis is then used to make scale selections for improvisation, analyzing and creating melodies and chord substitution.
Go to Harmonic Analysis Lesson Series … , based on my book Harmonic Analysis for Chords Substitution and Scale Selection.
Learn the Nashville Number System
This numbering system — based on the principles of music allows for writing a song in NO key to be played in ANY key. It can also be used for comparing songs an identifying the commonality between songs. There is a lot more in common between songs than not.
The Nashville Number System is an informal method of transcribing music by denoting the scale degree of chords within a progression, tonality, or song. It was developed by Neal Matthews, Jr. in the late '50s as a simplified system for The Jordanaires to use in the studio, and further developed by Charlie McCoy. It resembles the Roman numeral and figured bass systems traditionally used to transcribe a chord progression. By writing chords as numbers, transposition to other keys is possible with verbal communication or without rewriting a chart. As a simple system of transcription, it can be used with only a rudimentary background in music theory. Harmonic sequences, chord progressions can be explained using numbers, and chord changes can be communicated mid-song by holding up the corresponding number of fingers. The system is flexible and can be embellished to include more information (such as chord color or to denote a bass note in an inverted chord).
Learn the Melody
Melodies, licks, riffs – typically are single notes and can be sung and these you can learn. The famous jazz guitarist Jo Pass said, "Learn melodies – No one goes around whistling chord progressions. On a ukulele, you can learn a melody in one key with a set fingering that can always be the same, as a melody will not change. The rhythm might change, but the melody typically does not. Happy Birthday's melody is always the same, regardless how bad it typically is sung.
Identify the key intervals of a melody for future recall. Based on the major scale Happy Birthday starts with the 5th below the root, and in the key of F major it is: C C D C F E C C D C G F … 5 5 6 5 1, 5 5 6 5 1 2, ...
Learn the Chords
For learning the chords of a song or chord progression – unlike the melody that you can sing, hum or whistle – the chords can be understood intellectually and referenced to other songs you learn and know. This can be accomplished using the resources above.
Know the Song Intellectually
Know the Song Away From the Instrument. You've probably heard this if you have ever been to a ukulele jam session or play-along. It's where someone is yelling out what the next chord or chords is — while they're playing. They don't have to wait to see what someone else is playing — that is too late. They know what is coming up and can prepare.
They know the song.
As soon as you play the first chord of a song, you should be thinking ahead to what the next chord or chords are.
Write Out a Chart
This goes hand-in-hand with the Know the Song Intellectually. If you can write out, you know it.
A Few Writing Tips
- Write charts out long hand. No repeats, no D.S,.D.C, Coda, etc. Remember this is for YOU, not to be published which would have different requirements such as the number of pages (page count).
- Name the sections, verse, chorus or use Rehearsal Marks: A B C D etc..
- Write some lyric cues if creating an instrumental chart.
- Checkout a Brown Eyed Girl handwritten chart.
End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!
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