We’ve seen that chords are numbered within a key system. The I IV V are Major, ii iii vi are minor, and the viio is diminished (diminished is minor-flat-five). One way we can understand a song is by understanding its harmonic motion within a key. For this session, we will stick with our chord scheme from the Major scale.
For the V chord, we can play a V7. We can do the same for the I, vi, and ii as well → I
7, vim7, iim7. With the neutral versions of the R5 chords, none of this is going to happen [they aren’t even Major or minor].
Let’s play this progression in the following ways:
- In C, using P1 open string chords
- In C, using E shape R5 chords
- In G, using P1 open string chords
- In G, using E shape R5 chords
- Try either P1 open string or R5 in a new key • resource • by doing this we can quickly find out the boundaries of our chord catalog. We keep learning new chords. We’ll be going key by key in this learning path. For now, we want to make sure C & G are solid.
For any song, we have choices for how we voice the chords. The first option is the way a particular song is played. If a power chord tune, we use power chords. If an open string P1 song, we use those. If we are looking to copy a song, tone for tone, we go this route.
Yet, we can always create any style of any song. We can play a punk version of a country ballad [use R5’s for open string P1’s], or an acoustic version of a rock tune [open string P1’s for R5’s]. Even when not style specific like this, we can choose from our chord catalog to create the chords which we see as symbols. As we expand our chord knowledge, this is a great way to accent or add to what someone else is playing. If they are playing P1 open string chords, we play something different. We don’t interfere by playing the same voicings.
An interesting point I’d like to get in the mix at this point is that a chord symbol is also a scale symbol. We can interpret a symbol as a chord [or chords] and a scale [or scales]. Just as we can simplify or elaborate a chord when we see a chord symbol, we can also interpret a symbol as a scale in different ways.
The actual harmonic motion of a tune [its chord movement, which can be written as Roman numerals] is its wider structure. The key we play it in is its surface realization. The surface – the key – can change.
This is a great way to put our chord catalog to work, while helping us to be more functional & flexible.