Music Theory 102 - Playing in Key - Introduction to Chord Functions

Michael Palmisano
A free video tutorial from Michael Palmisano
Award Winning GIT Grad, Guitargate CEO, 15yr Working Pro.
4.5 instructor rating • 3 courses • 90,126 students

Lecture description

I'm sure you have heard people say things like, "that's in the key of C major." The easiest and best way to explain what that means is to think of your key as "home." If you are in the key of C major, then the C major chord is home base. It is the complete resolution of all musical tension. The flavor or feeling of a song is created by the function of its chords, and all of the chords function in relation to "home." Some chords go away from home. Some chords go towards home. Some moves are close and some moves are far. But, they all serve to create or resolve musical tension, which is ultimately resolved by the arrival at our root, or "home." In musical terms, the key (or key center) is called the root or the one (I) chord. Therefore, in the key of C major, the note C is the root and the C major chord is the one (I) chord.

Below, I have listed the two most common keys in popular music. Remember the key center is called the one chord. Therefore, the keys listed below are the keys of C major and G major, respectively. You will notice that there are seven chords in any key, which are notated by roman numerals. You will also notice that, regardless of the key, when the one chord is major so are the four and five chords. The two, three, and six chords are always minor, and the seventh chord is diminished. Don't worry about diminished just yet. We will get there in a bit.

Take a look at the key of C major. If C major is the one chord, then what is the six chord? If you answered A minor you get it. What is the two chord in the key of G major? That's right! A minor.

I major II minor III minor IV major V major VI minor VII dim

C D E F G A B

G A B C D E F#

At the bottom of this lesson you will see a few progressions. A progression tells you what chords are in a song - but not the key. You need to start viewing chords as performing functions relative to the key center, root, or one chord. With this knowledge you understand how any song can be played in any key. Chords exist in a context, not alone. It is the chord function that is important.

I have listed the most common progressions in popular music. You will recognize them. I want you to try them with the different strumming patterns we have already explored, and I want you to try them in both the key of C and G. . For example, play a I IV V in the key of C major. The chords are C major, F major, and G major respectively. The C major chord functions as "home." The F major chord will function as going "away." And the G major chord will function as if it wants to "go towards home." Now try the same I IV V progression in the key of G major. The chords will now be G major, C major, and D major, respectivley. Now the G major chord will function as "home." The C major chord will function as going "away." And the D major chord will function as if it wants to "go towards home." You will find that the functions of the chords are the same for each key, but the overall flavor or feeling is different. The key is different. The progression is the same.

Lastly, I want you to experiment with using different rhythms and progressions you make up yourself. Have fun. See what sounds good and what doesn't. Start developing an "active ear." Think about the function of the chords you are playing. Don't be passive. Are they creating or resolving tension? Are they going towards or away from home? Everything serves a purpose!

Progressions

I IV V

I VImi IImi V

IImi V I

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07:26:47 of on-demand video • Updated August 2017

  • Develop your own unique voice on the guitar
  • Understand and APPLY music theory
  • Play any chord anywhere on the neck
  • Understand the function of chords in progressions
  • Know how to analyze and interpret chord movement
  • Immediately know what scales to play
  • Visualize the whole neck in a specific key
  • Understand and internalize the function and sounds of different scales
  • Understand the difference between key center, chord scale, and chord tone approaches
  • Understand the CAGED System
  • Play all diatonic and common non-diatonic scales anywhere on the neck
  • Understand the available tonal options when improvising
  • Analyze and solve advanced chord functions
English [Auto] Music Theory one of the two playing in key. What in the world does it mean to play in key. You've heard people say this is in the key of G This is in the key of C. What are they talking about. All right. So whatever key whatever key choose that's one that's home base that's the resolution of all musical tension. That's what it means. So we have seven nos we have A B C D E F and G. All right. And we have our accidentals you know our sharps and flats which give us 12 keys 12 possible keys. You start on B flat B flat one. If you're in the key of F sharp F sharp one wherever you start that's one. That's what's Kieran. So you're going to have a one chord which is a chord built off of whatever tonic you chose. And you have a chord built on two on three on four five on six and on seven. All right. Now all these chords serve a specific function relative to their tonic. Some go towards the tonic some go away some create tension. Some help to resolve tension. Some just kind of hang there and create a weird sound you know. But the reason that you know there are so many songs that are so popular that are hits that have say a G A C and A D in them is because that progression that assemblage of those chords serves a specific function which we really like as listeners. All right. So check this out. So whatever key you're in again you're building a root of seven seven chords of seven scale degrees is a chord off each one. We're going to go into how you build these scales later but for right now just look at what I have appear. And this is the key of C. All right. So you see C A D minor and even minor F Major G major A B A. And a minor and a B diminished. Don't worry about be diminished it will get there. Don't worry about it. What you want to see here is that your one your four and your five chord are major. Your two three and six are minor always. That's the deal. All and you can start on any key anywhere. Your 1 4 5 are major 2 3 and 6 are minor and they each serve a specific function. So we're in the key of C.. I'm choosing this is arbitrary C one. This is home base. This is again solved all musical tension when you get here. Arrive back home and the present. So I'm going to play a little ditty for you and I'm going to talk you through some of these changes and you're really going to understand the function of these chord first progression appears a 1 for 5 so playing all major chords So in C it's going to be c as one F is for G is 5 so check to see. It's really going to sound like you want to say you're one chord. That's your home. That's your back your one. That's where your That's where you started your four always wants to go away. Always wants to come. Now what about if you look at this next progression. We have a 1 6 2 5. OK so in the in the key of C you're going to have C C major. So one of the minor chords function. Now again we're going to go into this more detail in the future. But your 6 chord your minor chord is the exact opposite of your one chord complete contrast. So again sticking with the ridiculous country thing like everything goes wrong. It's like I want to go somewhere like the five chord. Pretty cool. So that's just the key. But it's important to realize that I didn't just play a C major chord in G major chord a major chord. I played a one chord played five chord played a six minor chord all serve as a function. So here's what I mean I'm going to change the key. If you look up here for in the key there. Right. So now you're going to see our major You're 1 4 and 5 right and then your two three and six are going to be minor. So we're going to the same two progressions and we're going to have C are in the same same keys in the key of C.. But you're going to see that the functions have changed. So look here's this is one and racy This is one for fives IS GOING TO BE HOME AWAY wants to go home. So here's our g. Same function different. Now let's do the 1 6 2 5. So there will be a minor and D major. So you tell the same story. What's the goal. That's that's what it means to play in key. You have the progression that you won that serves a specific function in relationships or in relation to the route to the key to the tonic. But you can you can move you can change the key wherever you want your one form fives are always major two three and six are always minor will get to diminished will get to 7. Just realize that every chord serves a purpose. Every chord has a function. And it's important when you start listening to this stuff to be an active listener say to yourself wow that resolves that created tension that sort of resolved tension it wants to go somewhere. A Well it got there. Be an active listener mess around with these you know mess around with progressions try a one two three progression go and make stuff up. So what I want you to do for this lesson to complete it. Play me a 1 4 5 1 6 2 5 in two different keys. You know make up a ridiculous country progression you know. Do whatever the.