Question posted to firstname.lastname@example.org by Deborah Teel:
Thank you Jermaine. Of course if you can answer the question, and I’m sure you can, please feel free. The question is “how do I identify the chord progression in any song?” I learned how to play “the organ” very differently, but hearandplay has helped me tremendously. The number system has just opened a whole new world of playing for me. However, I still struggle sometimes in identifying the chord progressions especially with all the other instruments layered on top of the progression. Once I view the sessions in GMTC or watch one of the DVDs it becomes so simple, but trying to do it on my own sometimes is challenging. Any assistance you can provide is appreciated.
By the way, I had no clue there was so much footage in the GMTC. There’s sooooo much material there. I’m proud to be a gold member and these will not only me, but everyone for a lifetime. Thank you.
That is a very good question.
And off the top of my head, here are a number of things you can do to get good at finding the chord progressions at work in any song.
1) Change your approach from following the piano to following the bass.
You would think the piano player is what you’re listening for (and once you get good at doing this, you can), but it’s far more easier to figure out what the bass player is doing.
2) Find the Key
I know I put “follow the bass” as #1 but I did that because it’s probably the most important thing you can know about determining chord progressions (many people follow the piano when most of the time, you can hardly hear the piano).
I would start by determining the key to the song. If you’re not good at this yet, I recommend watchin this 30-minute video I did on the topic: http://www.hearandplay.com/main/video-how-to-find-the-key-of-any-song
You see, once you find the key, it narrows down your options and makes following the bass much easier.
So instead of trying to “randmomly” pick out bass notes with no systematic process, now you’re focusing on a particular key.
3) Know what tones are more important.
Let’s face it…
Not all tones are created equal in a particular key.
(Unlike society, every tone gets their time to shine, though, depending on what key you’re in.)
For example, here’s the C major scale:
C D E F G A B C
Of course, I like to number it right away. Thinking of scales as “numbers” is probably one of the most important skills you can learn when it comes to picking out chord progressions.
Now, in this key, 3 of these tones are going to be super special. Everything will move “towards” them usually.
They are the 1st tone, the 4th tone, and the 5th tone.
If you’ve heard the words “primary chords,” well, they are built off these tones.
Which makes everything else “secondary chords” or tones.
So if you’re:
1) Following the bass note (lowest note)
2) Know the key you’re in
3) Know what tones of that key are “primary” and what tones are “secondary” (…meaning they serve as a way to get you to primary chords)
…you’re almost there.
4) Start remembering and recognizing patterns.
Just like “success” leaves traces, songs do too.
As you learn more and more songs, pay attention to the patterns that are reoccurring. THEY WILL OCCUR AGAIN IN ANOTHER SONG.
All songs follow recognizable patterns.
And since you’re a gold member of the Gospel Music Training Center, you have front row access to the patterns. All you have to do is “zoom out” and stop seeing these songs as separate entities, but rather all connected to the same patterns.
Like the California goldrush (which I know little about because I didn’t pay that much attention in history class… sadly), everyone rushed here to get them a piece of it and returned to their separate homes. Songs pull from the same “goldrush” and fool you by making you think they are special. All the patterns are the same (GospelKeys 202 reveals many of the common gospel patterns. Check out the free digital version of it in the bonus area).
I hope this talk helps!
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