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Nashville’s Number System and Music Theory

Will Griffin

Using Chords

Purpose:    To show the student that in every song, no matter what song the key is played, that certain chords are usually Major chords and certain chords are usually minor chords.
Objectives:  Upon completion of this lesson, the student will:
    A:    Know that often the I, IV & V chords are usually Major chords
    B:    Know that  often and usually the ii, iii, and vi chords are minor chords.
    C:    Know that this is relatively true for each and every Key of music.
    D:    Know the usually major and minor chords for the keys of C, G, D, A, & E;
    E:    Know the fundamental chord pattern in a 12-bar blues song, using I, IV & V chords.
Procedure:  Read the following carefully and learn to use the major and minor chords for C, G, D, A, & E.

    Making, choosing and using chords is fundamental to playing music.

    Even when playing leads on the guitar, piano or other instruments, these riffs/licks are based on the chord the song is in at that particular point and measure.

    We're going to use the same table we used previously in finding the notes and scales in various keys.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8(1)
Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do
G A B C D E F# G
D E F# G A B C# D
A B C# D E F# G# A
E F# G# A B C# D# E
I ii iii IV V vi vii I

    You'll notice a little difference this time in that at the bottom we have Roman numerals.

    This is because these are the chords in those keys.  Thus I-IV-V are capitalized, because these are the chords which are Major chords in those keys, while the ii, iii, & vi are minor chords in those keys.

    Thus the Key of "C" has C-F-G as Major chords and D-E-A as minor chords.  The vii or Locrian scale is seldom used and to keep things simple for now, we'll talk about this further later..

    Likewise in the Key of "D" the D-G-A are the Major chords and the E-F#-B or minor chords.

    If you go back to the "Scales & Keys" lesson and the "Making Chords" lesson, you'll see why this is so.

    So let's take a look at the typical 12-bar blues pattern, which all blues, boogie-woogie, jazz, country and rock & roll music is based.  You'll typically see a 12-bar blues charted as:

I - I - I - I7
IV - IV - I - I
V - IV - I - I/V7

    If the song were in the Key of "C" the chords would be:

C - C - C - C7
F - F - C - C
G - F - C - C/G7

    If the song is in the Key of "D" the chord pattern would be:

D - D - D - D7
G - G - D - D
A - G - D - D/A7

    Does a pattern start to appear for you showing you once again that the keys are all relative to each other?

    Take any song you know how to play and whatever the key is and substitute the chords for numbers.  Then transpose and do the song (chord chart) in one key higher and you'll be amazed at what you hear and play.

    If you are familiar with early rock & roll (1950's) you'll see this chart that was very typical for the pop music at that time.

I - vi - IV - V 

    Try playing this pattern in the Key of C, then Key of D, Key of G, and Key of A and notice what you hear and play.

    These are not the hard rules, but generally the way to bet.  As an example let's use the 12-bar blues example again, this time make the second IV chord a iv (minor) or as may be written IV-  or 4-.

I - I - I - I7
IV - iv- - I - I
V - IV - I - I/V7

    There are several instances where you'll see variations such a a ii be a II, but usually you'll see this, if this chord appears right before a V chord.  In this position, the II is really the "5 of the 5".  Look at are notes/chord tables as a reference to see what I mean.

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