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Primary Chords

There are 3 major components to most music we hear today, which are:
  • Melody
  • Harmony
  • Rhythm
While the melody of the song matters most, those who learn music must pay particular attention to the chords of a song. It would be great to be able to identify the chord sound and chord type upon hearing it. However, everyone mostly pays particular attention to the melody and not to the chords of a song.

What are chords?
Chords are the basic foundation of harmony that supports the melody. Using the ideal chords can sometimes vastly improve the sound of a piece of music sound when it is performed.

Why are chords necessary?

Without chords, music will be very bland and much less interesting. Chords enrich a tune and makes it much more enjoyable to listen to. Can we imagine listening to a piece of music totally void of chords?

How many types of chords are there?

There are 5 basic chord types namely; major chords, minor chords, dominant chords, augmented chords and diminished chords.

How do we begin to understand and appreciate chords?
The first step is to begin with the 3 primary chords of a major scale: I, IV & V.

Here is what you can do to help yourself get a head start.
- Acquire musicality by playing a lot of songs in any major key that uses the 3 primary chords.
- Listen carefully to understand and appreciate the connection between the moving melody notes and the primary chords used.

Here is an example that uses the 3 primary chords to the popular song 'When The Saints Go Marching In' from Piano Lesson Made Easy Level 1.

Version 1 is to apply the primary chords only where necessary.

Version 2 explores the use of the primary chords. Compare this with the above version and note the differences.

Here are two more examples to explore the use of primary chords. Follow these instructions:
- Work out the triads and inversions of the chords on your own or with your music teacher's help.
- Play the chords where indicated on the music scores below to get a listening comparison of how the chords work with the melody.

Using the 'Good Morning' song from Piano Lesson Made Easy Level 1, the first example uses only chord I & V. These two chords are the most basic to begin with.

The next example below adds the use of chord IV to the same song. Play this version below and compare with the one above and you will notice that the inclusion of chord IV makes the music sound better. So, the more chords you add, the better the music will become.

Let's apply C and G chord to the improvised melody of Mary Had A Little Lamb. In the video clip below, two young students play this together. One plays the chords in Alberti bass accompaniment, while the other plays the improvised melody.

Taken from YMSD Improvisation Workshop 3


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