One of Stevie Wonder’s secrets…

I was asked today in a lesson to explain what a chord progression was.

I gave the example of the second line of Stevie Wonder’s Lately – 0:26-0:33 of this video.

‘Yet the thought of you’s been hanging on my mind’.

The chords used underneath are the same as the second line of another of Stevie’s hits – For Once In My Life – 0:25-0:30 of this video.

‘For once, unafraid, I can go where life leads me’.

Try substituting one line for another – for example sing the For Once in My Life line over the relevant part of Lately. The keys and tempos are different, but if you sing the line into the right key, and slow it down a bit, you will hear that it sounds good, it sounds right. Why? Because the chords underneath are the same.

And so the term ‘chord progression’ can be used to describe any sequence of chords, but usually refers to a common sequence of chords which is used repeatedly in different songs.

For example this particular progression is one based around the common 2-5-1 progression, but it has a few extra variations on the 2. Specifically – they are the 5 chords at the bottom of this picture.

And when I explained this, I could see some shock flicker in the face of this young man – because he told me he was afraid that knowing Stevie Wonder’s secrets might ruin the magic of the music! But there was also some new understanding in it for him – because while he has no problem sitting down and figuring how to play songs himself, as he said himself he would like to know a bit more about the theory behind the songs.

It reinforces the point I made in yesterday’s blog – that understanding a song will make it easier to play it. This was another step along the journey of understanding music for my student.

The weekly challenges I am introducing next week will help you with this aspect of things, but right now if you are an adult and want to see music differently, to gain a greater understanding of it, to play better, all in the comfort of a group who want to learn the same things you do, then my new term of adult classes are for you.

They start next Tuesday and this is the last plug for the small number of places still left. Drop me a line if you are interested, or if you have any questions.