This newsletter is a follow-up to last week’s issue, when I tried to convince you all that learning about chord families was worth your time. Now that you’re all raring to go, let’s check out those I – IV – V chords in more detail.
But first, I need to ask all you jazz geniuses to take a deep breath and prepare yourselves for a few expedient simplifications and omissions.
In last week’s issue, I told you about the most common chord progression in popular music: I – IV – V (pronounced “One, four, five”). Today I’d like to teach you an easy way of figuring out I – IV – V chords for a given key. By the end of the lesson, you’ll be able to play “Twist and Shout” in five different keys without using a capo. C’mon and work it on out!
So let’s say you’re at a party and someone in the live band gets wind you play some guitar. The shove a Rickenbacker in your hand, and call out, “Twist and Shout in the key of C!”
Here’s what you do. First, you know that “Twist and Shout” is one of those I – IV – V songs because of my last newsletter. So you just need to find those chords for the key of C.
The I chord is easy–it’s the chord the key is named after: C. The IV chord and V chord can be found by reciting your musical ABC’s while counting on your fingers:
C = 1 < -- That’s your I chord D = 2 E = 3 F = 4 <-- That’s your IV chord G = 5 <-- That’s your V chord
So C - F - G are the I - IV - V chords for the key of C. Let’s say it turned out that C was too low for the singer at that party, and he wants to try the key of E now. Make sure to jump back to A after G.
E = 1 <-- That’s your I chord F = 2 G = 3 A = 4 <-- That’s your IV chord B = 5 <-- That’s your V chord
E - A - B. This simple technique works for the most common keys played on the guitar: The keys that spell the word CAGED. See if you can find the I - IV - V chords in each of those five keys. To see if you’re right, try playing the following strumming pattern. It should sound like Twist and Shout, no matter what key you’re playing in:
I IV V < -- That’s where you make the chord changes D D D D D D D D D D D D <-- D’s mean strum down 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + <-- Those are the beats
Next week, I’ll show you how to find the other chords in a given chord family, which will open up whole new worlds of songwriting and key-changing bliss.