• How to Effectively Master Every Key

    in Theory

    If you haven’t recognized already, the concept I’ve been discussing is called “transposition.” You’ve probably heard it said another way … like “transposing” or “take it up!”

    If you have the 300pg course, you can find detailed information on transposing songs in chapter 20 (pgs 295-298). If you don’t have the course yet, just keep reading as I’ll define key terms below.

    Transposing a song is basically moving it from one key to another. For example, if you’re playing a song in the key of C major, to transpose it simply means to take it from C major and play the same exact song, but in terms of a new major key.

    Anything can be transposed … not just songs. You can transpose chords, melodies, scales, and more!

    Let’s get right to work…

    Ok, let’s say you know a basic song (for the purposes of this lesson, let’s play “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers). This song will be easy for anyone to catch on to (whether beginner or advanced). Plus, most people know this classic!

    Here’s a sample recording of the chorus part that I’ll use:

    http://www.hearandplay.com/leanonme.html

    If you’re good at finding the key center of a song (see January 2005 newsletter), you already know that the recording above is played in the key of C major. If you’re not good at finding key centers of songs, refer to my 300pg course and the bonus CD-rom which comes along with it. Piano Player Plus v1.0 helps you to train your ear with various sound exercises and tests, all done on the computer.

    But back to “Lean on Me”…

    Here’s the main chorus:

    Major key of C major

    Left /// Right hand

    C /// E + G + C

    C /// E + G + C

    D /// F + A + D

    E /// G + C + E

    F /// A + C + F

    F /// A + C + F

    E /// G + C + E

    D /// F + A + D

    C /// E + G + C

    Notice how these are just basic triads. As famous as this song is, the chorus is nothing more than basic triads walking up the first four notes of the C major scale and right back down.

    Try playing it now.

    The left hand uses single notes while the right hand simply plays various three-fingered chords.

    … so now that you know a few chords, let’s examine how to transpose this chorus to other major keys.


    Transposing:

    I’ll cover two methods.

    1 ) The first one uses half steps and whole steps.

    In music, the distance between any two notes right next to each other is called a “half step.” So the relationship between C and Db, for example, is a half step. The relationship between E and F is also a half step.

    A “whole step” is the distance between two notes that are separated by a key. So the distance between C and D is a whole step (because Db is in between them). Just remember this poem and you’ll be alright:

    Half steps are from key to key with no keys in between,

    Whole steps always skip a key with one key in between.

    So with that said, let’s take “Lean on Me” and figure out how to move it into another key.

    Major key of C major

    Left /// Right hand

    C /// E + G + C

    C /// E + G + C

    D /// F + A + D

    E /// G + C + E

    F /// A + C + F

    F /// A + C + F

    E /// G + C + E

    D /// F + A + D

    C /// E + G + C

    Since we’re already in the key of C major, we’ll need to figure out what key we want to move the current song to.

    Let’s try D major first.

    There’s just two things you have to do to move this song from C major to D major:

    1. Ask yourself, how many half steps OR whole steps is D major (the new key) from C major (the old key)

    RECAP: Find out the distance between the new key and the old (in either half steps or whole steps, whichever one you prefer).

    2. Move each chord up or down that many steps (whatever the answer to question #1 is).

    This is best explained by demonstrating exactly what I mean:

    Ok, our current major key is C major.

    In step one, we need to know how many whole or half steps are in between C major and the new key we want to transpose to (D major in this case).

    So……

    The distance between C major and D major is 1 whole step.

    (that is, C to Db is 1 half step, Db to D is another half step. 2 half steps = 1 whole step).

    Now all we need to do is move every one of our chords up 1 whole step:

    “Lean on Me” in C major “Lean on Me” in D major

    Left /// Right hand

    C /// E + G + C

    C /// E + G + C

    D /// F + A + D

    E /// G + C + E

    F /// A + C + F

    F /// A + C + F

    E /// G + C + E

    D /// F + A + D

    C /// E + G + C


    Left /// Right hand

    D /// F# + A + D

    D /// F# + A + D

    E /// G + B + E

    F# /// A + D + F#

    G /// B + D + G

    G /// B + D + G

    F# /// A + D + F#

    E /// G + B + E

    D /// F# + A + D

    Notice the differences between the old key and the new key.

    For the first chord, C is the bass in C major but in the new key, D is the bass (or left hand).

    D is one whole step higher than C so that makes perfect sense. For every note, this should be the case.

    C /// E + G + C

    D /// F# + A + D

    D is 1 whole step higher than C

    F# (the first note in the right hand) is one whole step higher than E

    A is one whole step higher than the G from the old chord

    D is one whole step higher than C from the old chord.

    While this method can surely allow you to transpose all the songs you know into new keys, it is very time-consuming.

    2. The second method involves relating the chords and notes of one key to the other. Let me explain:

    The first method we used looked at everything independently. That means no matter what you play, whether a chord, scale, 5-fingered chord, or 2-fingered chord, you move everything up 1 whole step (or how many ever steps it takes you to reach the “new” key).

    This second method looks at the grand scheme of things. That means, we analyze “WHAT” chords or scales are being played and we just apply those same type of chords to the new key.

    In order to master this step, YES, you need to know your scales and chords. I mean, to be an excellent musician, you should know these things anyway, right?

    Let’s take a look at our example once again:

    Left /// Right hand

    C /// E + G + C

    C /// E + G + C

    D /// F + A + D

    E /// G + C + E

    F /// A + C + F

    F /// A + C + F

    E /// G + C + E

    D /// F + A + D

    C /// E + G + C

    In this method, you’d analyze the chords to see “what’s going on” basically.

    Here’s what I see:

    1) The first chord is a C major because C is on the left-hand bass and E + G + C is played in the right hand. Any time the notes C, E, and G are played together, that means you’re probably playing a C major chord or something related to it.

    2) The second chord above is also a C major. It’s identical to the first chord.

    3) The third chord above is a D minor because D is being played on the left-hand bass while F + A + D is being played on the right hand.

    4) The fourth chord is a C major chord with an E bass. Notice that it has the same combination of notes as the first and second chord above ( C E G). It’s simply played in a different order this time (we call that “inversions“)

    5) The fifth chord is an F major chord because F is the bass and A + C + F is played on the right hand. While you’re probably used to seeing F A C as an F major chord, A+C+F is just another way to play it (another inversion).

    Lastly, the next four chords are just the same chords played in reverse order.

    So with this method, you just look at the BIGGER picture.

    You say to yourself:

    “Hmmm Self”

    “The left hand bass is basically the first four notes of the major scale of whatever key I’m in” AND…

    “The chords are basically: 1st chord major, 2nd chord minor, 1st chord major with “3” bass, and 4th chord major … and do the same thing going down.”

    With this type of method, you should be able to go to any major key given that you know the major scale of the new key.

    Let’s look at the C major scale (the key in which this song is played in):

    C D E F G A B C

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

    So we used the 1 major chord (C major)

    Then we used the 2 minor chord (D is the 2nd tone of the scale and we used it’s minor chord)

    Then we used the 1 major chord again (C major) but this time with the 3 bass. What is the 3rd tone of the C major scale? E is the answer so basically we used E as the bass but the same 1 major chord (just played in a different inversion).

    Lastly, we used the 4 major chord (which is F major).

    With this same pattern in mind, just change the major key:

    D major:

    D E F# G A B C# D

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

    What’s the 1 major chord of D major?

    _______________

    Answer: D major chord

    What’s the 2 minor chord of D major?

    _______________

    Answer: E minor chord

    What’s the 1 major chord of D major with the 3 bass?

    _______________

    Answer: D major with F# bass (D major played with F# on top as well: A + D + F#)

    What’s the 4 major chord of D major?

    _______________

    Answer: G major chord

    And… once again, you should end up with “Lean on Me” now in the new major key of D:

    “Lean on Me” in C major “Lean on Me” in D major

    Left /// Right hand

    C /// E + G + C

    C /// E + G + C

    D /// F + A + D

    E /// G + C + E

    F /// A + C + F

    F /// A + C + F

    E /// G + C + E

    D /// F + A + D

    C /// E + G + C


    Left /// Right hand

    D /// F# + A + D

    D /// F# + A + D

    E /// G + B + E

    F# /// A + D + F#

    G /// B + D + G

    G /// B + D + G

    F# /// A + D + F#

    E /// G + B + E

    D /// F# + A + D

    Now one last time…

    Try transposing the song from C major to F major:

    F major:

    F G A Bb C D E F

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

    What’s the 1 major chord of F major?

    _______________

    Answer: F major chord

    What’s the 2 minor chord of F major?

    _______________

    Answer: G minor chord

    What’s the 1 major chord of F major with the 3 bass?

    _______________

    Answer: F major with A bass (F major played with A on top as well: C + F + A)

    What’s the 4 major chord of F major?

    _______________

    Answer: Bb major chord

    “Lean on Me” in C major “Lean on Me” in F major

    Left /// Right hand

    C /// E + G + C

    C /// E + G + C

    D /// F + A + D

    E /// G + C + E

    F /// A + C + F

    F /// A + C + F

    E /// G + C + E

    D /// F + A + D

    C /// E + G + C


    Left /// Right hand

    F /// A + C + F

    F /// A + C + F

    G /// Bb + D + G

    A /// C + F + A

    Bb /// D + F + Bb

    Bb /// D + F + Bb

    A /// C + F + A

    G /// Bb + D + G

    F /// A + C + F

    See how simple that is?

    If you’re really serious about learning all your major scales, chords (like major chords, minor chords, dominant chords, diminished chords, seventh chords, ninth chords, eleventh chords, and more), then I strongly recommend that you check out my 300pg course “The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear.

    Chords to study for this online classroom:

    Well, I hope you enjoyed this newsletter and I’ll be back soon! Practice hard until then!


    This concludes this online classroom lesson.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    If you were intrigued by the online classroom lesson above,

    then you would definitely benefit from my course!

     

     

    *** “The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear” 300-pg Course ***

     

    With 20 chapters and over 300 pages, the home piano course provides several resources, techniques, tips, principles, and theories to playing the piano by ear. Along with hundreds of chords and scales, you’ll also learn how to turn them into gospel, jazz and blues chord progressions and better yet, how to use them to play ABSOLUTELY any song you want … IN VIRTUALLY MINUTES! Again, don’t miss this opportunity. I’ve even added an additional bonus if you purchase the course this week — You can read more about the course at:

    http://www.hearandplay.com/course

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Sandra Woodard

    Hello everyone-
    This is a g-o-o-d lesson. Jermaine has taken the time to go step by step both ways to transpose songs. This is fantastic- I;ve taken lessons for years-and don’t believe the lesson plan is structured like this. This is a real lesson. Keep up the good work

    Jermaine thanks again.

    Reply

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