• Here’s a quick way to add even more spice to your songs

Today, we’re going to keep building on what we learned Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

If you haven’t caught up, it might be a good idea to do so now. If not, just keep reading this lesson and if it makes sense, awesome! If not, visit the links above as this lessons builds on prior concepts.

As you know, we’ve been talking about using the number system and how to go from playing “Amazing Grace” with only three chords (aka – the “primary chords”) to adding more interesting chords from other tones of the scale.

On Wednesday, it was pretty simple. We just played a few songs by simply using the 1, 4, and 5 chords of the scale. We learned that those are called primary chords.

Thursday, we added the 2-chord. We also started looking closer at the circle of fifths and how chord progressions work. Like how the 2-chord pulls strongly to the 5-chord. We ended up slipping this chord in Amazing Grace right before the 5-chord and it worked brilliantly!

Then on Friday, we continued to mess with the circle and made a new discovery. That if we can use the 2-chord to progress to its neighbor on the circle (the 5-chord), then we can most certainly use the 6-chord to progress to the 2-chord.

After all, we could easily play Amazing Grace with just the 1, 4, and 5 chord. But the 2-chord made it more interesting by leading to the 5-chord. But we just took it a step further and asked the question: “What if we could pull to the chord that pulls to the 5-chord? How would that sound?” And it worked!

So we added our 6-chord. It led us to our 2-chord.

All of this can be seen on the circle.

Just look for these tones on the circle:

1) First, look for the primary chords of C major: C, F, and G. Notice they are neighbors on the circle. That means they have a very strong connection with each other.

2) Then, look for “D.” Notice that it’s a neighbor to G. That’s how we figured out we could lead to G by using some type of D chord.

3) Why don’t you also look for “A.” That was Friday’s lesson. It opened our eyes to the fact that we could also progress to a tone that progresses to another tone. We also learned another way of looking at the 6-chord (or “A” in this case). It’s commonly used as a tonic substitution, which means it can take the place of a 1-chord when you want to switch things up. And if you pay even more attention to the inner part of the circle, you’ll notice that “A minor” is associated with C major. In fact, they share the same exact slice on the circle at 12 o’clock.

And to be honest, there’s tons more patterns and observations that can be made from the circle. You can learn so much about music just by comparing what you already know about songs to that circle! (Try it when you get some time…)

Now that you’ve gotten my brief executive review of pretty much most of last week, let’s work to make “Amazing Grace” even better.

Here’s how far we got on Friday:

“A-ma-zing grace* how”
C major (1st inversion) ~~~
(E + G + C)

*On “grace,” the melody changes to “E” so you can actually invert your chord from “E+G+C” to “G+C+E” (which is 2nd inversion).

“Sweet the”
F major (root inversion) ~~~
(F + A + C)

“Sound.”
C major (root inversion) ~~~
(C + E + G)

“That”
(In previous lessons, I told you not to play a chord here yet. Today, however, we will!)

“saved a”
A minor 7 ~~~
(E + A + C / A bass)

“wretch like”
(F# + A + E / D bass)

-OR-

D9
(F# + A + C + E / D bass)

“Me”
G major (first inversion) ~~~
(B + D + G)

I want to focus on the word “that.”

I know in previous posts, I said I wouldn’t do anything with that chord.

And that’s correct… if you’re only limited to the primary chords, D minor, D major, or A minor.

But if you extend the circle just a little further, then the word “that” becomes a powerful passing tone.

So if the chord right after “that” is “A minor,” what do you recommend playing on “that?”

(Hint: Work backwards… the G chord is where all this leads to… the D chord leads directly to it… the A chord leads to the D chord… so just look at the circle and figure out what leads to A)…

If you guessed “E,” you’re right on track!

Now, I don’t have much time to explain why “E,” (which is the 3rd tone of C) is minor but you can find prior lessons on this.

But just take my word for it…

The third tone of any scale, just like the 2nd and 6th tone, is most likely to be a minor chord.

And it fits perfectly because the melody on the word “that” is G. (Remember what I said about keeping the melody on top?)

E minor:
E + G + B

Simply invert this chord to make G the highest note:

E minor (inverted):

B + E + G

Now, let’s plug it into our song:

“A-ma-zing grace* how”
C major (1st inversion) ~~~
(E + G + C)

*On “grace,” the melody changes to “E” so you can actually invert your chord from “E+G+C” to “G+C+E” (which is 2nd inversion).

“Sweet the”
F major (root inversion) ~~~
(F + A + C)

“Sound.”
C major (root inversion) ~~~
(C + E + G)

“That”
E minor (2nd inversion)
(B + E + G)

“saved a”
A minor 7 ~~~
(E + A + C / A bass)

“wretch like”
(F# + A + E / D bass)

-OR-

D9
(F# + A + C + E / D bass)

“Me”
G major (first inversion) ~~~
(B + D + G)

Wow, this song is sounding better and better!

I really hope this series of lessons is helping you see the big picture. How to take a song from just three primary chords (which can very well be used to play probably 80% of songs out there but they’ll sound extremely basic) to fully functioning chord progressions.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to make this 3-chord (on “E”) even better! There’s a trick you can actually use on 3-chords.

In fact, the 3-chord is one of my favorites.

Until then,

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Jermaine Griggs

Founder at HearandPlay.com
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!

Latest posts by Jermaine Griggs (see all)

1 bigbeardale

Still following along Jermaine. Love this.

Dale

2 osas

I LOVE THIS. KEEP IT UP. GOD BLESS.

3 Eresmas

This is good man. Yesterday i tried a song that i love that i bet you have never heard because it is a local song here. I figured out the melody in the 1st verse and chorus, worked out the chords then inverted them and blam, i played a song on my own although i took almost 90 minutes! That’s a great achievement for beginner like me who has JG as his only teacher.
Be blessed.

4 Christina

Awesome story eresmas

5 amos

This is awesome it makes it easier now to figure out the ralatioship between the cords ,something that was cumbersome for me sometimes back.keep it up
Be blessed.

6 BRIAN AKA TRUMUSIC1SOUL

WE BE EATING NOW…KEEP UP THE GREAT LESSONS….HUNGRY FOR MORE

7 Eresmas

Thank you Christina.

8 Colin

Would you please analyze Cyrus Chestnuts version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot?
Been trying to get that arrangement for years. Enjoying your tips in Hawaii
Thankyou so much

9 Robert

Even though I’m new to piano playing, I enjoy the way you explain the lessons and theories. Keep the goodwork. G.B.