Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 2 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

SEARCH
the Forums & Piano World

This custom search works much better than the built in one and allows searching older posts.
(ad 125) Sweetwater - Digital Keyboards & Other Gear
Digital Pianos at Sweetwater
(ad) Pearl River
Pearl River Pianos
(ad) Pianoteq
(ad) P B Guide
Acoustic & Digital Piano Guide
PianoSupplies.com (150)
Piano Accessories Music Related Gifts Piano Tuning Equipment Piano Moving Equipment
We now offer Gift Certificates in our online store!
(ad) Estonia Piano
Estonia Piano
Quick Links to Useful Stuff
Our Classified Ads
Find Piano Professionals-

*Piano Dealers - Piano Stores
*Piano Tuners
*Piano Teachers
*Piano Movers
*Piano Restorations
*Piano Manufacturers
*Organs

Quick Links:
*Advertise On Piano World
*Free Piano Newsletter
*Online Piano Recitals
*Piano Recitals Index
*Piano Accessories
* Buying a Piano
*Buying A Acoustic Piano
*Buying a Digital Piano
*Pianos for Sale
*Sell Your Piano
*How Old is My Piano?
*Piano Books
*Piano Art, Pictures, & Posters
*Directory/Site Map
*Contest
*Links
*Virtual Piano
*Music Word Search
*Piano Screen Saver
*Piano Videos
*Virtual Piano Chords
Topic Options
#2306469 - 07/24/14 01:45 PM What is the purpose of learning a song's chords?
Alex1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/20/14
Posts: 7
Loc: New York
I know beginners often start with learning a song's chords. Is this because the chords are a song's basic structure? I thought melody is a song's structure, but melody consists of top notes, not the chords. Or are chords the rhythm or something else entirely?


Edited by Alex1 (07/24/14 01:47 PM)
_________________________
This is the song I'm currently learning: http://www.johnbarry.org.uk/sheetmusic/somewhere-in-time.pdf

Top
(ads P/S)

Petrof Pianos

#2306482 - 07/24/14 02:01 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
MALDI_ToF Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/25/14
Posts: 64
Loc: Vancouver
I like learning the chord progressions (just the general outline, usually not bar by bar) as I see it as the foundation that the melody will sit upon and it helps me play the piece. It helps in my reading the music as I will read the chord and not each note (or at least I try to). Much like when I read a word I don't need to look at every single letter on its own, but the word as a whole. I also find it good for memory and recovering during a performance. If you forget the exact notes but know that the chord is C+, then just play CEG and it will sound somewhat similar.

Top
#2306484 - 07/24/14 02:09 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
fizikisto Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 557
Loc: Hernando, MS
If I can make a lame analogy (and I'm pretty sure that I can *grin*), think about building a house. In order to build a good house you must first lay a strong foundation. That's what the chords are. They are the foundation of the song. They are the harmony that support the melody. They make the song sound more full and lush, and pleasing to the ear.

Rhythm on the other hand is about timing. The rhythm of the song is showing you how long you hold each note, it's duration.

Melody, Harmony, Rhythm. Those are the key ingredients. You need them all.

Also, you'll find later that chords occur in patterns, sequences that occur over and over in many different songs. When you understand the chord structure of one song, and learn another song with a similar chord structure, it can help you learn the new song much better/faster if you understand that structure. Instead of just memorizing a bunch of apparently random notes, you learn to see the structure and it makes much more clear to you.

Anyway, hope that makes sense.
_________________________
Nord Stage 2 HA88
Roland RD800

Top
#2306490 - 07/24/14 02:23 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 408
Personally I learned my chords outside the context of music first, by my teachers instruction. I feel like my teacher taught me a bunch of basic things that are all snowballing into each other recently. I felt like I was just learning things to learn them... Realistically they were very useful I just wasn't putting them to practical use till a bit later. But whats happening now that I know my basic chords is that I see actual chords in the left hand (they generally have to be pretty basic for a quick identification). This frees up my head to not think about note for note... higher level of abstraction while reading. Lets me focus on dynamics whereas not to long ago I could pay just enough attention to the notes while going really slow during a sightread or a trial run. I'm not sure what "chord structure" means, but I do know the chords and can read them a lot faster knowing the chord vs reading each individual note.
_________________________
"Doesn't practicing on the piano suck?!?!"
"The joy is in the practicing. It's like relationships. Yeah, orgasms are awesome, but you can't make love to someone who you have no relationship with!"

Top
#2306498 - 07/24/14 02:30 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Greener Offline

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1227
Loc: Toronto
As mentioned already ...

Music = Melody, Harmony & Rhythm (and don't forget expression)

Melody alone is quite naked.

Chords provide harmony. Often your melody is part of the underlying chord and contributes to the harmony. It is often and usually on top, but not always.

There are lots of reasons why you may want to learn about chords. The basic rules to build them are straight forward and easy to learn. They will also provide an excellent foundation and gateway to vast topics of theory.

Top
#2306500 - 07/24/14 02:36 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: fizikisto]
Alex1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/20/14
Posts: 7
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: fizikisto
They are the harmony that support the melody. They make the song sound more full and lush, and pleasing to the ear.


Thanks. If I understand correctly, you would never perform a song by playing just the chords alone, but if you wanted, you could perform a song with just the melody and no chords. Correct?

Also, are chords usually left hand while melody is usually right hand?

I'm just trying to get a handle on the general concepts as I'm a real beginner right now.


Edited by Alex1 (07/24/14 02:59 PM)
_________________________
This is the song I'm currently learning: http://www.johnbarry.org.uk/sheetmusic/somewhere-in-time.pdf

Top
#2306501 - 07/24/14 02:37 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3220
Loc: Virginia, USA
Two reasons:

It is much faster to recognize a C major chord in 1st inversion and have your fingers land on the chord like you've practiced a thousand times, rather than think hmm, gotta put 5 on E, should G be 4 or 3? reach for C with 1, no wait I should have used 4 on E, oh crap.

Secondly, when you think in the key and the chord you recognize your wrong notes faster and avoid learning the piece with errors that are hard to fix.
_________________________
gotta go practice

Top
#2306506 - 07/24/14 02:42 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Sweet06 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 408
These are all mis-guided questions that are vague and have no "real" answer. You can perform a song however you want. The melody is typically the recognizable portion of the song. The chords are what make it sound more full and interesting. Go to your keyboard and play "mary have a little lamb" and you'll hear it sounds dull, but recognizable. As an example of a melody that ISN'T the top note... try play c major d minor e minor f major to play the song "lean on me".. hum it in your head and you'll be able to play it. Then as an experiment you can play it without the chords... sooo.... C D E F. You can tell it sounds far less full and "interesting" but both ways you can still recognize the actual song via the melody. You aren't going to really understand these things until you get on your keys and try it out for yourself tho IMO.
_________________________
"Doesn't practicing on the piano suck?!?!"
"The joy is in the practicing. It's like relationships. Yeah, orgasms are awesome, but you can't make love to someone who you have no relationship with!"

Top
#2306520 - 07/24/14 03:03 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
fizikisto Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 557
Loc: Hernando, MS
Yes, learning chords is part of the song. And yes, you can play the melody without playing any chords. If you think of a song that you like, and hum it, generally you're humming the melody line. The melody is the part of the song that you know. However, as a pianist you don't always have to play the melody. For example if you were singing, your voice could be providing the melody. Or if you were playing with other musicians, another instrument could supply the melody. In that case you might just be playing the chords (although there are other things you can do to embellish them as well).

Usually the melody is played with the right hand while the chords are played with the left hand. But sometimes that's reversed. There's a good example of this in the 1st alfred's adult method book. I forget which piece it is, but they have you play a piece with the usual melody in the right hand chords in the left hand way; and then the next piece is a different arrangement (version) of the song that has you reverse that.


Originally Posted By: Alex1
Originally Posted By: fizikisto
They are the harmony that support the melody. They make the song sound more full and lush, and pleasing to the ear.


Thanks. So playing chords alone is just part of learning a song? If I understand correctly, you would never perform a song by playing just the chords alone, but if you wanted, you could perform a song with just the melody and no chords. Correct? I'm just trying to get the general concepts down as I'm a real beginner right now.

Also, are chords usually left hand while melody is usually right hand?
_________________________
Nord Stage 2 HA88
Roland RD800

Top
#2306521 - 07/24/14 03:04 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
MALDI_ToF Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/25/14
Posts: 64
Loc: Vancouver
Originally Posted By: Alex1
Originally Posted By: fizikisto
They are the harmony that support the melody. They make the song sound more full and lush, and pleasing to the ear.


Thanks. So playing chords alone is just part of learning a song? If I understand correctly, you would never perform a song by playing just the chords alone, but if you wanted, you could perform a song with just the melody and no chords. Correct? I'm just trying to get the general concepts down as I'm a real beginner right now.

Also, are chords usually left hand while melody is usually right hand?


It is certainly part of it. I think just the chords might be a bit odd, but in some pieces it might still sound nice, though I don't think you would ever play it that way. Just melody would be dry. That said, if you just play the melody, people would recognize the piece if they already know it; if you just play everything but the melody, it may not be that easily recognized.

As for left hand/right hand, that is usually the case, but it can be the other way round. Or with pieces written for one hand then both must be played with one hand. Perhaps better to say the melody is played with whatever hand/finger makes it easiest to play.

Top
#2306536 - 07/24/14 03:29 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Alex1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/20/14
Posts: 7
Loc: New York
Thank you all for the clear answers! They really help me as I'm temporarily without a music teacher and on my own in the meantime.

Melody: part of song you hum
Rhythm: part you tap out with your foot
Harmony: chords that support and embellish melody


Edited by Alex1 (07/24/14 03:32 PM)
_________________________
This is the song I'm currently learning: http://www.johnbarry.org.uk/sheetmusic/somewhere-in-time.pdf

Top
#2306552 - 07/24/14 03:39 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Greener Offline

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1227
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: Alex1
Melody: part of song you hum
Rhythm: part you tap out with your foot
Harmony: chords that support and embellish melody

thumb

Top
#2306585 - 07/24/14 04:22 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1973
Loc: Philadelphia area
For me, my development was very stagnant until I started looking at harmony and chord progressions. That might be because it's my favorite part of the music.


Enjoy

Top
#2306752 - 07/24/14 11:24 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Dave B]
Charles Cohen Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1393
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
And in jazz, there's a sense that the chord progression _is_ the song.

Melody -- that's something you improvise. But the chord progression is sacred.

Top
#2306819 - 07/25/14 04:54 AM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
AndrewJCW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/10/14
Posts: 45
Loc: Middle of nowhere, Australia
Chords are very important if you want to play in a band setting, or really any setting where there are other instruments. It's very likely other instruments will cover the melody (ie. vocals if you have a singer). In this situation piano's job is often to just play the chord progression.

In church for example you often get band settings where a pianist will come in with fairly extensive classical training, and will be given sheet music, but really the worst thing they can do in that situation (ie. assuming other singers, lead guitarist, bassist) is play the sheet music. Just knowing basic triads and inversions goes a long long way in such an instance.

You can absolutely play songs just with chords, for example this is how guitarists often play songs. It works great if you (or someone else) can sing along.

edit: I read this thread more carefully and I'm really just repeating fizikisto! Anyway, the song you're talking about in Alfred's One is When the Saints go Marching in I think. smile


Edited by AndrewJCW (07/25/14 04:57 AM)
_________________________
Beginner working through Alfred's Book One My youtube channel

Top
#2306838 - 07/25/14 06:40 AM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 614
Loc: Louisiana
Originally Posted By: Alex1
I know beginners often start with learning a song's chords. Is this because the chords are a song's basic structure? I thought melody is a song's structure, but melody consists of top notes, not the chords. Or are chords the rhythm or something else entirely?



Hey Alex, great questions! Why learn to play chords? Well, firstly I'd say because you have 10 fingers plus an instrument which is capable of playing chords. When someone invents a trombone which can play chords, I may look into that too. grin

Beginners probably learn or already know (meaning they can sing or hum) how the melody and rhythm go ... then solve the puzzle involving harmony in the key they want to play in. I would say chords are not rhythm; you can play a tune using one finger, but if you play the correct notes without the correct rhythm, some listeners may not recognize what you are playing.

Everyone probably hears music a little differently depending on how they are wired up. In the vid below I'd say the rhythm is the most important element in her performance followed by the harmony and then the melody. In someone else's performance, I might flip those three elements upside down ... but listen how important the harmony and rhythm are to this tune:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXMg6iPmSw8

I suspect you are going to be one heck of a good piano player some day.
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







Top
#2306840 - 07/25/14 07:05 AM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Rerun]
dire tonic Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1379
Loc: uk south

- thanks for that - wonderful.

Top
#2306843 - 07/25/14 07:21 AM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: dire tonic]
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 614
Loc: Louisiana

You're welcome ... you never know what might motivate a beginner to look at what he has in his hands!
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







Top
#2306894 - 07/25/14 09:54 AM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5566
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
YES, Rerun. I love her stuff. Thanks for bringing it up. I think I'm right on the cusp of being ready to do some of that smile

Cathy
_________________________

Top
#2307000 - 07/25/14 02:01 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: jotur]
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 614
Loc: Louisiana

Quote:
I think I'm right on the cusp of being ready to do some of that


You're welcome ... I hope you will post a recording 'cause I'd love to hear it.
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







Top
#2307130 - 07/25/14 07:27 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 423
Loc: California
Rhythm, melody and chords are distinct things. Taken together they make up a song. Chords are harmony, and you can actually think of a melody as being something that "implies" a harmony too.
_________________________
Music Educator, Computer Engineer, avid reader of literature, enjoyer of the outdoors
http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/

Top
#2307141 - 07/25/14 07:51 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Michael Martinez]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1567
Loc: NY
After about 6-7 years of piano lessons as a kid (the usual classical), I switched to electric organ (with pedals) for quite a while, and the lessons were all about chords! It was a musical revelation to learn all these beautiful and interesting chords as a teen, including all of the various common chord progressions: smile

Circle of Fifths:
http://www.angelfire.com/fl4/moneychords/circle.html

http://www.angelfire.com/fl4/moneychords/circleprogressions.html




Edited by Elssa (07/25/14 07:51 PM)

Top
#2307183 - 07/25/14 09:40 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Elssa]
Starr Keys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 1010
Loc: california
After studying theory for a few semesters, I would say that the most important reason for learning chords is to learn the grammar of music so you can speak it fluently, the way you speak any language.

Chords are subjects and predicates (nouns verbs and objects). Chord progressions are sentences, and cadences (which are made of chords) are punctionation. Letters, designating form and refer to chord progressions, are paragraphs and all those letters together are an essay or story.

If you only know words like a baby without structure you won't know what you are hearing and it will be difficult to reproduce it. You may be able to learn a piece by rote, but it will take much longer than it should, and you will be like those tech people who work for Dell in India, who you can tell don't really know what youre saying or they're talking about but are trained to sound like they do.

Top
#2307352 - 07/26/14 12:09 PM Re: What is the purpose of learning a song's chords? [Re: Alex1]
Starr Keys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/09
Posts: 1010
Loc: california
I thought it would be helpful to give an example of what I was talking about in my last post. Here is an example of one of the most common progressions used in classical and popular music from my Theory II study guide. It was recommened we learn it in both major and minor and all keys, but I in the video I demonstrate how it was taught to practice it in a few random keys and only in Major to keep people from dying of boredom. Notice that I call out not only the name of the chord, but its function in relation to the key. Knowing the function helps to train the ears as well as the eyes and hands.

The Roman numerals and their order on the studyguide page tell you the function. The first chord's function is to introduce the inital tonic or key. The next one, a subdominant chord, in this context is used to approach the cadence, and the next chord, a secondary dominant (the most commonly used one), goes outside the key to delay or expand this approach. Finally, the last two chords make up the cadence or object of this musical sentence. There are many types of cadences. This one, an authentic cadence, functions as a period to end the musical idea, but many others can be seen as comas and even semicolans.

http://imageshack.com/i/ewoxg9W7j (Study Guide Page)






Top

Moderator:  BB Player, casinitaly 
What's Hot!!
8 Live Ragtime Piano Players on the Cape!
-------------------
HOW TO POST PICTURES on the Piano Forums
-------------------
Sharing is Caring!
About the Buttons
-------------------
(125ad) Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
Ad (Seiler/Knabe)
Knabe Pianos
Sheet Music
(PW is an affiliate)
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
(ad) HAILUN Pianos
Hailun Pianos - Click for More
(ad) Lindeblad Piano
Lindeblad Piano Restoration
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Need help with chords
by Shirz
Today at 07:52 AM
Which are the best forums for piano technicians and DIYers?
by Withindale
Today at 03:17 AM
Prelude
by noobpianist90
Today at 01:55 AM
Red Striped Screws and Fancy Nuts
by chernobieff
Yesterday at 11:57 PM
Communication outside of lessons
by Arghhh
Yesterday at 10:23 PM
Who's Online
96 registered (anotherscott, angga888, alfredo capurso, 36251, 32 invisible), 1234 Guests and 18 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
76651 Members
42 Forums
158487 Topics
2327481 Posts

Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
(ads by Google)

Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
|
Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World | Donate | Link to Us | Classifieds |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | Press Room |


copyright 1997 - 2014 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission