Now Playing
Michael, Row
The Boat Ashore
"Michael Row The Boat Ashore" is an old spiritual, that was also recorded by
many folk groups in the fifties. This is a finger picking arrangement for guitar
like "Some folks Do" in Music8. In this case, it is the key of A major that is the
best fit for this song on the guitar, in first position. It is fairly easy to play and we
will use it as one of our teaching songs, when we get to the guitar pages. The
song will play once. Click on the player below to hear it again.
Using The Lessons
People that come to these pages through search engines enter on different pages. I
would recommend that to get the full benefit of these music lessons, especially if you are
a beginner,  you visit every page at least once. This is a totally new approach to learning
music. The focus is on "
How Music Works". That page that you miss could be the one
that contains the key information, that you need. These pages are full of music tips and
music info that you probably won't find anywhere else.
When we listen to music, we focus on the words and the melody. The words are sung to
the melody. You can have music without words, but today words sung to melody is the
predominate form in popular music. When we listen to our favorite music, we are aware
that there are some notes being played that are not the melody. They enhance, back up,
and support the melody. You can't put just any note with a melody note. There are rules
that tell  you what notes to use. You have to use notes that harmonize with the melody.
Simply stated, notes that harmonize are notes that sound good with the melody. You
could spend years studying harmony but there is a better way. You only need to learn to
play the chords that go with the song to have all the backup notes you need. These
notes can be played all at the same time, spread out or a combination of both, as our
"Now Playing" songs show.
Backing The Melody
When you back or accompany, you often play more than one note at the same time.
Backup notes can be played on a musical keyboard with either hand, but now for
simplicity, we will confine accompaniment to the left hand. Below is the same picture that
we used in Music5 to show you how to use your right hand for melody. The finger
numbering is the same for the left hand. Study the picture as you learn to finger chords.
The picture to the right gives you the
numbers for the fingers of each
hand. As you can see, you start with
the thumb as finger number 1 and
then you continue consecutively from
there until you get to the pinkie as
finger number 5
Forming Chords
The most basic way to form a chord is to start on a note and take every other note. The
note that you start with is the 1st or root note and is the letter name of the chord. The
next note will be the 3rd. The note after that the fifth. This is the basic triad or three note
chord. After that we could add a 6th, or 7th or even a 9th or 13th. In addition to a letter
name chords also come in different types. The type of the chord you get by building on
the first note or degree of the scale is major. The major chord triad is our most basic
chord and is named with just a capital letter. In the key of C all you need is the capital
letter C to tell you to play the C major chord. It's notes are c-e-g. The type of chord you
get by building on the fifth note or degree of the scale is the dominant 7th. This is our
second basic chord and is named with a capital letter and the number 7. So for the key
of C it's G7.  For the key of C that gives us the notes g-b-d-f. When we want to apply
these chord types to any key we use a roman numeral to represent the scale position
and type. Abbreviations and regular numbers are used to further define the type. In the
simplest songs we have the I major chord as a triad and the V dominant  chord as a 7th.
This would be called the I and V7 chords. Many many songs are harmonized with just
these two chords.
Playing Root Chords
The song "Some Folks Do" is one of the many songs that only use the tonic major and
the dominant 7th chord. In the key of C major the I chord is C and V7 chord is G7. We
are going to use our left hand to play chords. The thumb is 1and the fingers are
numbered 1 to 5 thumb to pinkie just like on the right hand. The keyboard pictures below
show the fingered notes and finger numbers in bold. When the root note of the chord is
on the bottom it's called the root position When any other note of the chord is on the
bottom it's called an inversion. I've shown a picture of both the C and G7 chords in the
root position.  Since the g note is on the bottom in the G7 pictured below, it is called the
root position. If you try to play it you will find that it is really spread out and hard to play.
Also because you are going to be changing back and forth between the C and G7,
having both chords in their root position makes you shift your hand up and down on the
keyboard. There is a better way. See Playing Inverted Chords.
Playing Inverted Chords
There is a better way. Playing the G7 inverted as pictured below, allows you to switch
between chords just by moving a few fingers. Going from C to G7, your thumb stays on
g, your second finger plays f and your pinkie goes from c to b. You'll notice that the d
which you would play with finger 4 is in parentheses. That is because on a 7th chord you
can leave out the fifth and it still sounds good. So you can leave out the d on the G7 if
you want. It makes it easier to play. Try switching back and forth between the C and
inverted G7 on your piano or keyboard.
C Chord
G7 Chord
G7 Chord Inv 1
The Lead Sheet
The music that you see below is called a lead sheet. It gives you everything you need
to know to work with a song. It has the melody in musical notation and the words that
you sing to the melody.  We are going to start learning about reading musical notation
in the next group of lessons. You learned to play this song in Playing Keyboards,
without the music. For now we'll continue to sing or play the melody by ear. But to do
this lesson, we have to learn a few things. First notice the vertical lines. They divide the
music into measures or bars. The 4 over 4 at the beginning tells us to count four beats
to a measure. Finally, the chord names tell us what chords to play. That's all we need
to know for now.
Try playing "some Folks Do" with
melody and chords like the sound
Playing The Song
In the midi above, we are playing the melody for "Some Folks Do" and backing it up with
chords. We are playing one chord to a beat. As this is a four beats to a measure song,
there are four chords to a measure. Try playing the chords as you sing the words of
"Some Folks Do".  As you play each chord try to make all the notes sound out together.
From the lead sheet, you can see what word a chord change has to come in on. When
you change a chord, work hard to get it in without missing a beat. If you are really
ambitious try playing the melody with your right hand while you play chords with your left
hand. See if you can play it like the sound sample above.
Automatic Accompaniment
Modern keyboards have many features that make it easy for the budding musician to get
started. You can set the keyboard to play either the right or the left hand of a song in the
song bank, so that you can practice the other hand by itself. You can play a full featured
automatic accompaniment, including bass and drums, in hundreds of styles. You just
have to select the chord once at the beginning of each chord change. You do have to
practice getting it in right on the first beat of the change, but then you have all the time till
the next change to get your fingers ready for it. Each chord will play in the chosen
accompaniment style until you select a new one. You can either set the keyboard for fully
fingered automatic chords to get every type of chord or choose the more limited single
fingered setting to play a limited number of chord types with one to three fingers. The
single finger settings are only single finger for the major triad. To get 7th chords or
minors you use two or more fingers. I don't like these because they are not the real
chord fingerings. In the fully fingered auto chord setting, you are using the real chord
PLaying Automatic Accompaniment
Because of the limited range of the accompaniment section, you have to use different
chord inversions in different keys. You are going to find that the chord fingerings I've
already given you are out of range for the key of C on most keyboards On a normal
split setting, as we play toward the top end, the f is usually the highest note in the
accompaniment section. That is why root position of C won't work at the top. The fifth g
is out of the accompaniment range. The root position of C works at the bottom but
there is no b below c for our G7. We use the 2nd inversion of the C chord with the g on
the bottom and then leaving our pinkie on g, we just stretch out to play the root position
G7. This set works at the upper limit of the accompaniment range. Remember, you can
leave out the 5th on the 7h chord on most keyboards.  I've also given you another set
with inversion of both C and G7 that will work in the middle of the accompaniment
range. Remember the 5th on the G7 can be left out. These chord sets work together
with little hand movement. I'm introducing them in the auto chord section but they are
good to use in regular playing also.
C Chord Inv 2
G7 Chord
C Chord Inv 1
G7 Chord Inv 4
Playing In G and F
Remember as we went through previous lessons, we learned to play the melody to
"Some Folks Do" in the keys of G and F as well as the key of C. Below I've given you the
I and V7 chords for backing the song in those two keys. I only need to give you one set
for each key because they are in the middle of the auto chord section of a keyboard. So
they are good for playing with or without auto. Remember, you can leave out the 5th on
the 7th chord. You don't need another lead sheet. You've already learned to play the
melody to these songs in all three keys. Just match the correct key chords with the key
your right hand is playing in. Are you beginning to see how understanding music makes it
easier? Top musicians can play a song they know in any key. What you are doing here is
called transposing. Play your song in all three keys both auto and regular.
G Chord
D7 Chord Inv 1
F Chord
C7 Chord Inv 1
What's Next
I've shown you how to back up a simple song. The chords we use to back up a song are
called chord changes. There are many types of chords and chord change patterns. As
we go through these lessons we will introduce new songs with new chord patterns until
you can play your way through most folk,country, rock and blues and maybe even a bit
of jazz. So far, we've only used two of the many chord types that are used in music.
Below I discuss some of the other chords that you will be using in future songs.
I, IV, V7Chords
The best way to understand chords is to see how they relate to the major scale. We will
assign each note of the scale a roman numeral. Chords built on the different notes of the
scale are different types. The chord that is based on the first note of a major scale,
roman numeral, I is major. Since it has the same name as the key or scale, it is called the
tonic or key chord. It is most often except in jazz just a three note chord or triad. It is the
most basic chord and needs no qualifiers. In the universal numbering system good for
any key it's just the roman numeral number I. In the key of C it's just the capital letter C.
As a triad it is notes are c-e-g. The next most important chord is the dominant seventh
chord. It's is based on the fifth note of the scale. It  is roman numeral V7. It needs the
qualifier number 7 to tell us it is the dominant 7th chord.  It's 7th is a half step lower than
the major 7th. Many songs have been written that use just the I and V7 chord. You can't
say which one is more important because you need them both in a song. In the key of C
it would be G7. It's notes are g-b-d-f. these are the notes we get when we start with the
fifth note in the C major scale and take every other note. I f we start on the first note of
the G major scale, which has an f sharp, we have the notes g-b-d-fsharp. This is
Gmaj7th. The G7, with the f natural, a half step lower, is the basic mainstream chord not
the jazz sounding Gmaj7th. If a simple song uses three chords, that other chord will most
likely be the sub dominant chord that is based the fourth note of the major scale It is
roman numeral IV. It is a major triad just like the tonic chord. For the key of C major it's F
with the notes f-a-c.  You will see from future lessons how knowing chords by type and
scale position will greatly simplify your understanding of music.
IIm, IIIm VIm Chords
When you form chords on the 2nd, 3rd or 6th degrees of the scale they are a type called
minor. They are the next most common chord and only need a small letter m next to the
roman numeral or capitol letter to identify them. In the key of C major, you have the IIm,
Dm, with the notes d-f-a, the IIIm minor, Em, with the notes e-g-b and the VIm, Am, with
the notes a-c-e. What makes them minor? If you form major chords on these notes from
their major scales, you have D with the notes d-fsharp-a, E with the notes e-gsharp-b
and A with the notes a-csharp-e. You can see that what makes these chords minor is
that the middle  note or third is a half step lower then in the major chord. If they are
extended to a 7th chord, that also is lowered a half step like the dominant 7th chord. Of
course when they are formed at their scale position, you always get the right notes.
Chord Formulas
It is important to look at chords as they relate to the key but many songs are more
complex and use more than just these chords. We can work out the notes for any type of
chord by using formulas based on the major form. The major 7th would be just 1-3-5-7 or
for C, c-e-g-b. The dominant 7th would be 1-3-5-flat7 or for C7, c-e-g-bflat. The minor
7th would be 1-flat3-5-flat7 or for Cm7, c-eflat,g,bflat. Telling you which notes of the
major form to alter can give you a formula to find the notes for any type of chord. It does
not tell you anything about how to use them. But if you come across a chord in a song
and you don't know the notes this is a good way to figure them out quickly.
©2004 -2005
Harmony And Chords
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