Learn to Play Piano

Rocket Piano is an easy way to learn to play piano with over 12 months of step-by-step lessons: Classical, Pop, Country, Rock and Blues.

Online small business ideas
Free piano lessons

Free piano lesson 9 - Harmonic principles and progressions PDF Print E-mail
Written by philip   
Monday, 20 April 2009 19:15

 

Lesson 1 – Get to know the notes on a piano
Lesson 2 – Basic scale theory
Lesson 3 – Basic chord structures
Lesson 4 – Learn to play two songs
Lesson 5 – Practice your ear
Lesson 6 – Notes and fingering
Lesson 7 – Add melody to chords
Lesson 8 – Understanding and expanding chords
> Lesson 9 – Harmonic principles and progressions

 

 

From lessons 1 to 8, we have worked on chord building, scales, notes etc. and we have given you the tools to play any piano tune (including the melody), both from chords and notes. We also tried to focus on developing your ear. This lesson attempts to open the world of harmonization. It is one thing to know what possible chords one can play in a song (based on the tritones – Lesson 8) or how to play all the possible chords, but it is another skill to know what chord to play when. This is not a skill that can be developed overnight. It comes with a lot of exposure to music, a lot of playing an instrument, and a well developed ear.

 

 

We want to open some doors on harmonization in such a way that you can apply it in the songs you play. We also just touched on two songs, but there are thousands of songs where you can apply the same principles.

 

Let's introduce you to a few harmonic tendencies. The first one, we have introduced already (Lesson 8).

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Use chord expansions instead of basic majors and minors (see Chordexpansions.pdf)

 

 

E.g. A9 or A13 instead of A

 Em7 or Em9 instead of Em

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Use related minors instead of majors

 

 

Majors and their related minors can be used interchangeably

E.g. Am instead of C, Em instead of G

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Music tends to move anticlockwise in the circle of fifths:

 

 

Open CircleofFifths.pdf

 

 

This means that chords often progress as indicated on this circle. Can you remember "Battle Ends and Down Goes Charles' Father"? (Lesson 6). Well, this is essentially the same, just in another application. Lets take the key of G major. What will the three basic majors and three basic minors be? G, C and D. See where they lie on the circle of fifths relative to G. The related minors will be Em, Am and Bm. See where they lie on the circle of fifths relative to G. If you move to another key everything will be in the same relationship.

 

E.g. in the key of C, the three basic majors and minors will be one position anticlockwise. This is another way of determining which chords to use in a certain key, and how.

 

E.g. “He is Lord” from Dale Grotenhuis (alternative harmonization):

 

 

(In the key of G)

 

 

| G - B -          | Em7 - A7 - | Am7 - - - | Am7/D - D9 - | G - - - | G - - - | C - Am - |

risen from the…

 

 

Notice that in the above progression, the B is the third harmony, but in this case it is a major. You often get that the third harmony becomes a major, followed by the next minor in the circle of fifths. In the above example, the circle of fifths is broken by a related minor.

 

 

 

See the next example of a Jazz chord progression in G major. Play it in 3/4 time (waltz).

 

 

| Gmaj7 - - | Em7 - - | F#m7b5 - - | B9 - - | Em7 - - | A9 - - | Dm7 - - | G7b9 - - | Cmaj7 - - | - - - |

 

 

Cm7 - - | F9 - - | Bbmaj7 - - | - - - | Bbm7 - - | Eb9 - - | Abmaj7 - - | - - - |

 

 

F9/A - - | - - - | Bm7 - - | Bbdim - - | Am7 - - | D7b9 - - | Gmaj7 - - |

 

 

 

It starts with a G major, followed by its related minor. It then starts with a sequence in the circle of fifths, starting with the F#m, right through to the Ab major.

It is then broken by an F9/A, followed by another line on the circle of fifths, back to the G.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Music often tends to move with a continuous bass-line:

 

 

 

Play this example:

 

 

| D - - - | A - - - | D7 - - -| G - - - | D - - - | A7 - - - | D

 

Now play:

 

| D - - - | A/E - - - | D7/F# - - -| G - - - | D /A - - - | A7 - - - | D

 

 

 

Both versions contain the same chords, but building it on a continuous baseline, brings a stronger line into the harmony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Delay the fifth harmony

 

 

 

Try to delay the fifth harmony. Rather try to play the related minors or move anti-clockwise in the circle of fifths.

 

 

In the song “We love you with the love of the Lord” (D Major). In stead of playing…

 

 

| D - - - | A - - - | D - - - | - - - - | D - - - | - - - - | A - - - | - - - - |

 

Play:

 

| D - - - | Em7 - - - | F#m7 - - - | Bm7 - - - | F#m7 - - - | Bsus - B7 - | Em7 - - - | Asus - A - |

 

 

 

Here, the A is only played right at the end for a short while after the Asus. Note how the Asus chord anticipates the A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Chord substitution (neighbouring chords)

 

 

In stead of moving through the circle of fifths, it can be substituted with a neighbouring chord. See examples below:

 

 

 

(in Bb Major)

 

 

Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7

 

 

 

becomes

 

Cm7 B7 Bbmaj7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations:

 

Cm7 B9b5 Bbmaj9 (I worship you Lord)

 

 

 

Cm7      B9#5      Bbmaj9      Gm7      Cm7        B9         Bbmaj7 (O Lord my God)

              (or F9)                                                    (or F7b9)

 

 

 

Cm7/Eb B9 Bb9 (Blue Christmas)

 

 

 

 

 

7. Use diminished chords between neighbouring chords

 

 

 

(In G Major)

 

 

Bm7 Bbdim Am7 D7b9 Gmaj7 (Jazz Waltz)

 

or

 

Bm9 Bb9 Am9 D7b9 Gmaj7

 

 

 

(In C Major)

 

F F#m7b5 G9sus4 G9 (Cumba Ya)

 

 

 

(In C Major)

 

C C#dim Dm9 (Father in Heaven)

 

or

 

C A9/C# Dm9

 

or

 

C A7b9 Dm9

 

 

I sincerely hope that there was something in these lessons for everyone – from the new piano player to the more advanced one. You are welcome to contact me if you have any "query about" this. I also give chord building seminars for churches and congregations.