Insight 3: Harmony and Chord Progressions

Today let’s dig a little deeper into the second important element of music, HARMONY.  We can define harmony as being more than one note being played simultaneously.  On the ukulele we are usually talking about four notes right?  One on each string to form a chord.  I like to use the metaphor of music as a language where we combine each of the pitches into a chord like letters making up a word.  We can extend this metaphor to start to view groups of chords the same way we view sentences as a combination of words to form a statement.

I have a little bit of a love hate relationship with the song sheets that I’ve been creating for our songbook.  I think that song sheets are a great tool to be able to learn a song quickly, but all too often they can become a crutch where people begin to need and rely on them to be able to play a song.  We need to be able to memorize a song as quickly as possible and learning the musical sentences, or progressions, in a song is a lot more realistic then memorizing every single chord change in a song.  Many people don’t notice that songs are usually comprised of a couple of 3 or 4 chord progressions that repeat a number of times throughout the song.  Lets take the song Brown Eyed Girl from our song book, and try to find our musical sentences or progressions.  If we look closely we see that there is a repeating set of chords that make up that first verse:  C  F  C  G.  Now we want to look further down to the 5th line to find where our progression changes to:  F  G  C  am  F  G  G  C.  We can simplify this into two of the SAME four measure progressions with a C replacing the am on the second line.  If we examine it some more we see that the chorus is the same as the verse.  The only other thing we need to know is G for 3 measure before each chorus.  So now memorizing this song becomes a little more simple if we can focus on each of these progressions:

Verse:    C F C G

Bridge:  F G C am (C 2nd ending)

Chorus: same as verse preceded by G for 3 measures.

Easy right?  Give it a try and see if you can condense a song sheet you have into a few different progressions and see if you can commit it to memory.

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