Diatonic Chords...an introduction to chord progressions

This lesson on chords will open up your understanding of all the basic chord progressions that are used in nearly all popular music. You will learn what chords fall naturally into any given key and how these chords are most commonly used in writing and playing music on the piano.

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4 Steps to Learning How to Play Any Song on the Piano

1. Determining the melody - Melodies determine what chords will be played. If you can use your ear to figure out what notes are being played in the melody, you are 1/4 on your way to learning a song! More resources on learning how to determine melodies

2.Harmonizing the melody - Once you have figured out the melody (using some of my techniques on the resource page), it is time to harmonize it. This is simply choosing various chords to accompany the melody. There are several techniques and tricks to doing this. More resources on learning how to harmonize melodies

3. Altering Chords - This is the best part! Now that you have strategically figured out the melody to a song and have harmonized it, altering your chords to produce certain sounds is the next step. If you were playing gospel music, you would alter your chords differently than if you were playing classical or country music. More resources on altering chords

4. Listening - After you have determined the melody, harmonized the melody, and altered some of your chords, there are various techniques you can use to make sure that your song sounds right. More resources on listening techniques

I personally recommend "The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear" 300-pg Course and through my relationship with Jermaine (the author of this course), I've been able to get him to throw in a few bonus items (3 additional piano software programs). He has taught literally thousands of musicians how to play the piano by ear. If you understood just half of what he discussed above, you'll definitely benefit from his 300-pg course. Click here to learn the secrets to playing absolutely any song on the piano in virtually minutes! I highly recommend it.

...a simple definition.

Diatonic chords are those chords that are naturally related to a given key. They are built on the seven notes of the major scale which is also called a diatonic scale.

If you sit at the keyboard and play a C major triad with your right hand, thumb on middle C, third finger on E, and fifth finger on G, and then move that hand position up the keyboard with the same finger spacing you will play all the diatonic chords related to the key of C.

Notice that the chords share the key signature of the (major) scale they are related to.

In the case above the key of C has no sharps or flats so the chords will follow that rule. That is why they are related to that particular key.

If we try the same playing exercise in the key of G we will have to adjust our hand position to include the F# that is part of the G major (diatonic) scale. Remember that the chords will share the same key signature of the major scale being used.

Notice the Roman Numerals beneath the chords?

Schooled musicians use the roman numeral system to define the position and function of the chord. The (I) chord in any key will always be major, the (II and III) chords will be minor, the (IV and V) chords major, the (VI) chord minor and the (VII) chord will be diminished.

In "musician speak" I might tell you that a particular song is a I, IV, V progression in the key of A, or G, or Eb. If you know the diatonic chords for the key of A for instance you will know to play A, D, and E major chords in that particular song. In The key of Eb, you would use Eb, Ab, and Bb major chords.

Diatonic extended (or 7th) chords.

The diagram below adds the 4th note to the chord which is either a major 7th or dominant 7th. The 7ths add color and tension to the chords for a richer sound.

Notice the C6 and F6 bracketed chords above. These can be used as substitutes to the Cmaj7 and Fmaj7 chords for variety.

Use open voicing for a richer sound.

The chord diagrams below suggest a different way to play any chord for a more professional and interesting sound. From the bottom up the notes are root , fifth and seventh in the left hand and third, seventh and third again in the right hand.

Take away concepts...a brief review.

1. The diatonic chords are chords related to a particular key. A song in that key will most likely contain a common progression containing several of these related chords.

2. The roman numeral system allows us a sort of musical shorthand when identifying common chord progressions used in music. Since the scales and chords are the same in construction we can use the roman numerals to replace using the letter names of the chords.

Best Home Study for "Ear Players"

After checking out dozens of home study courses that teach you to play by ear and focus on chord progressions I am convinced that the folks at Hear and Play have the best, most well rounded program available for just about all styles of music from Gospel to Jazz. Read my review or visit Hear and Play for more information.

As always.....

If you have questions or suggestions regarding this lesson please Contact Me  or

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