Chord piano is an easy, common-sense approach to popular music piano study which is based on a knowledge of chords and their inter-relationship, known as chord progressions.
In conservatories, it is a first year course called Keyboard Harmony.
Chords, in their simplest permutation, are three piano keys stacked one upon the other, vertically. Think of them as groups of three piano keys, played simultaneously, similar to the three books you see stacked below: bottom, middle, and top.
The validity of this approach is universal and applies to all styles at the piano.
Chords are the elemental organizing force of music. If you know six or seven basic chords and their permutations, you can navigate most popular music.
If a six year old can do it, anyone can do it.
A method based on chords is likely a useful approach, for one can hardly go wrong imitating the chord progressions of the greats. Every great song can be reduced to its essence, a sequence of chords, which is easily imitated. But before you can string groups of chords together into a “song,” you’ll need as much knowledge as you can about the individual chords.
Chords are very easy to distinguish visually at the piano, for the piano is essentially an analogue: there is one key for every one of eighty-eight pitches or tones, unlike the guitar where one must fashion thousands of chords out of just six strings. It is for this reason that composers are almost always pianists.
Chords are arranged in sequential groups, to form “chord progressions,” much like the building blocks of a sentence: subject, verb, and object. In the example below, the “chords” are the letters, C F G etc.
Chord progressions, in popular music at least, are usually very limited. In other words, many songs use only three or four, and six or seven is a maximum. You can see it wouldn’t be hard to handle three or four groups of keys, especially when they fit your hand and fingers rather well once you get used to them.
London Bridge, for example, contains only two chords. Even standard songs from every era require usually no more than 4 or 5 chords, many requiring even less. Look at the above example, Twinkle, Twinkle, and you will see it has only three chords, C, F and G.
Another plus of the chord approach is that melodies are almost always fashioned from the very notes of the chords which support them, making them easy to remember in groups of notes rather than as an endless stream of single notes.
The ultimate reward of chord study is that the secrets of musical construction are laid bare before you.
There is a satisfying logical, intellectual and emotional engagement to chords, which is hard to describe until you play one.
Put two or three chords together and you’re hooked.
Copyright 2011 Walden Pond Press
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