(If you do not see a RENEW button, please select a plan
and enter any code you may have received in a renewal notice online or in print.)
If you have ANY questions at all, please contact support@claviercompanion.com
3 minutes reading time (565 words)

Expanding your vocabulary of chords

Example-1-Expand-Your-Chords-JA-201_20170625-210342_1

 Do you think Johann Pachelbel knew how popular his Canon in D would become?

When I discovered the same chord progression in a few familiar songs, my search for more examples began. As you play this chord progression are there songs that come to your mind? 

Example 1: Chord progression from Pachalbel's Canon in D.



This chord progression is often played with a scale in the bass: 

Chord progression from Pachelbel's Canon in D with descending bass line.



The Canon in D progression works in all keys, and the design of the bass part is the same regardless of the key: down a fourth, up a second, down a fourth, up a second, etc. The right hand usually begins with the third scale degree in the top voice of the chord.

Example 3: Chord progression from Pachelbel's Canon in D transposed to F major



Lifelong learners often create their own challenges, no longer needing extrinsic motivation such as an upcoming exam. You might enjoy the challenge of playing the above progression in additional keys. To make this more enjoyable, sing a familiar melody like Jolly Old St. Nicholas as you play the chords. 

Excerpt 4: Jolly Old St. Nicholas



Now, try it with a scale in the bass:

Excerpt 5: Jolly Old St. Nicholas with descending bass line.



Perhaps you noticed the use of the G minor chord, the minor substitute for B-flat, the IV chord. If a G-minor chord works, you might want to try G major as the next-to-the-last chord. One way to nurture creativity is to ask the question "What if….?" For example, "What if I would add a few suspensions?" "What if I added a few embellishments to the melody?" After you've explored possibilities on your own, you might want to check out the ones that follow. 

Excerpt 6: Jolly Old St. Nicholas with chord changes.


In the above example the next-to-the-last chord is G major instead of G minor. The use of a D-minor chord sets up a strong progression of succession by fifths.

The example that follows includes a chord that is not a part of the key of F major. It's a major chord built on the flatted-seventh tone of the scale, another form of the subtonic chord.

Excerpt 7: Jolly Old St. Nicholas with non-diatonic chord substitutions.


In the final example the melody is embellished and the progression is enriched by the use of suspensions and a tri-tone substitute chord: D-flat 9(#11).

Excerpt 8: Jolly Old St. Nicholas with suspensions and tritone substitution.



There are many songs that include the Canon in D progression. You'll find it in songs like Eat This Bread by Jacques Berthier, Give Thanks by Henry Smith, Let It Be by McCartney and Lennon, The End of the World by Skeeter Davis, and You Are My All in All by Dennis Jernigan. You will discover other songs containing this chord progression as you play and listen with "informed ears." 

You have to be a member to access this content.

Please login and subscribe to a plan if you have not done so.

Teaching with backing tracks
Method reviews return! A review of Piano Safari
 

Comments

Already Registered? Login Here
No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.ClavierCompanion.com/

About Piano Magazine

Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

Follow us on

Terms of use

Have Questions?

We are happy to help.

Editorial questions? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Advertising questions? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subscription questions? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Technical questions? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Cron Job Starts