And now, it’s time for a Heartwood Headscratcher(TM)!
What do these four recordings have in common:
“Wild Thing” by The Troggs
“Twist and Shout” by The Beatles
“La Bamba” by Los Lobos
“Always With Me, Always With You” by Joe Satriani
A) Each has been banned by radio stations for having obscene lyrics.
B) They’re the four songs most likely to inspire people who shouldn’t be drinking or dancing to do both.
C) Joe who?
D) Each features the most common chord progression in popular music: I – IV – V.
A) Incorrect! You’re thinking of “Louie Louie,” which was banned after the F.B.I. concluded that Jack Ely’s almost completely unintelligible singing was lewd. The song proved to be an auditory Rorschach test—the actual lyrics are tamer than a guide dog.
B) Incorrect! No one listens to Joe Satriani anymore except guitar geeks like me and you.
C) Ok, maybe it’s just me.
D) Correct! Which leads us to this week’s tip…
If you’ve been playing guitar a while, you’ve probably noticed that certain chords seem to go together. For instance, if you’re playing a song in the key of G, chances are you’re going to encounter C, D, and Em too. That’s because those chords belong in the chord family of the key of G.
And there are three chords within any family that really stick together: The I, IV, and V chords. Think of them as inseparable siblings. Just to get you started hearing these chord relationships, play an A, D, and E chord, one after the other. Now play G, C, and D. Now try D, G, and A. Hear a similarity? You just played a I – IV – V progression in three different keys.
Knowing your chord families is really helpful. “But Rob,” I hear you saying, “I had a hard enough time remembering names at my own family reunion in St. Louis last summer. Why should I press my luck with someone else’s family?”
I hear you. I frequently have to count back when someone asks my age. But because popular songs are often comprised just of chords in a single chord family, knowing this stuff makes it much easier to figure out songs by ear, compose your own music, and change songs to other keys. And it’s really not that hard to learn the basics.
One more parallel between chord families and real families: both are often enjoyed most in small doses, so I’ll wait ‘til next week to give you a good overview of how the whole system works.