9 Lessons in the “Common Chord Progressions and Remembering Songs” Series
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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 too play - which it is. Then you need to actually remember the songs that you're learning to play them again. And, hopefully not have to read them off a sheet all the time.
Remembering a song is 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 a 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 principles of how chords and chords progressions work. You can start unraveling what's going on in a song. There's a lot more in common between songs than you might think. Each song has it's own direction, signs and landmarks.
Diatonic scales such as the major and minor scales lend themselves particularly well to the construction of common chords because they contain a large number of perfect fifths. Such scales predominate in those regions where harmony is an essential part of music, as, for example, in the common practice period of western classical music.
Three-chord tunes, though, are more common, since a melody may then dwell on any note of the scale. Often the chords may be selected to fit a pre-conceived melody, but just as often it is the progression itself that gives rise to the melody.
In the key of C major this is: C G Am F.
A 2009 recording by the comedy group The Axis of Awesome, their “Four Chord Song”, in E major ( E B C#m A ), is a widely viewed clip on YouTube.
In the key of C major Pachelbel's Canon is: C G Am Em F C F G. This is a I V VI III IV I IV V in harmonic analysis notation. In Nashville Numbering it's 1 5 6 3 4 1 4 5.
It is a full diatonic progression with all the chords coming from it's parent major scale.
A bit of a varaition of the Four Chord Pop progression.
Another common way of extending the I - IV - V sequence is by adding the chord of the sixth scale degree, giving the sequence I - vi - IV - V or I - vi - ii - V, sometimes called the 50s progression.
The Andalusian cadence is a term adopted from flamenco music for a chord progression comprising four chords descending stepwise. It is otherwise known as the minor descending tetrachord. Traceable back to the Renaissance, its effective sonorities made it one of the most popular progressions in classical music.
The twelve bar blues and its many variants use an elongated, three-line form of the I - IV - V progression that has also generated countless hit records, including the most significant output of rock and rollers such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard. In its most elementary form (there are many variants) the chords progress as follows: I - I - I - I - IV - IV - I - I - V - V - I - I
In jazz and jazz harmony, the chord progression from IV7 to bVII7 to I has been nicknamed the backdoor progression or the backdoor II-V. This name derives from an assumption that the normal progression to the tonic, the II-V-I turnaround (II-V7 to I, see also authentic cadence) is, by inference, the front door. It can be considered a minor plagal cadence in traditional theory.
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