How Do Major And Minor Chords Affect Emotion?

Jordan Leibel - Aug 10, 2018

In the simplest of terms, the emotional center of music comes from one of two places: the major chord or the minor chord. Bold statement huh? Hear me out, because this just might change your life and your connection to music and how you learn songs.  

 

If you’re listening to music and things feel happy and mellow, you’re probably listening to a song that mostly uses major chords to create that feeling.  An example of a major triad would be the first chord most piano players learn: a C major triad (C - E - G)

 

So you play that chord a few times along with some other major chords and you’ve got a pretty happy little jam going on.  

 

Artistic representation of "Hey Jude." Note the butterfly.

 

Once you’re tired of listening to that chord, try contrasting it with this one: The A minor triad (A - C - E). This chord is known as the relative minor of C major. That means that the C major chord and the A minor chord are kind of like siblings: very different yet quite similar in a lot of respects.

 

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that ANY chord you can think of has a relative major or minor version as well! This is HUGE for anyone looking to make a creative alternate version of any song at all!

 

To show this off, let’s look at "Hey Jude" in the major key. The verses of this song are made up of the chords F - C and Bb. And for every chord, there’s a minor version that will completely reshape the melody.  Let’s take a look at this by first determining how to find the minor notes so we can build the minor chords.  

 

To find the note to build the minor chord off of, all you’ve got to do is count up 6 notes in the scale. If you count up 6 notes in the F major scale, you’ll find out your relative minor note is D, and if you build a basic triad using the SAME ingredients as the F major key. So, in this case, it’ll be D - F - A, aka the D minor triad.  

 

The next question is to find the relative minor of C major, which is A - C - E. We get to that chord by the same method: by counting up 6 notes.  

 

Wanna find the relative minor of Bb? You guessed it. Count up 6 notes to land on G minor (G - Bb - D).

 

Now you have everything you need to play each "Hey Jude" chord in its minor form. If you keep the melody intact, but change the chords down into these minor shapes, you have a really cool example of how major and minor keys affect the emotion of a melody. This new version sounds familiar yet unique! And way more moody!

 

How does this new version of Hey Jude make you feel?  Do the new chords change how you perceive the melody? Let me know in the comments.

 

Have fun with this!

 

Jordan

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The Ultimate Piano Warm-Up Routine

Lisa Witt - Aug 3, 2018

Warming up the hands is an important part of any piano players routine. Think of yourselves as musical athletes, you want to give yourself a moment to arrive mentally and physically at the piano before diving into the main parts of your practice. Warming up is also a great way to develop all aspects of our musical skill sets from hand independence to dynamics!

 

Here is my warm-up routine

It will take less than 3 minutes and it can be used as a template to create your very own warm-up routine!

 

1) Play a major scale

 

In this case, I am using C major. Play this scale smoothly on the way up and then staccato or detached on the way down. This will prevent you from becoming complacent and help to wake up those fingers!

 

2)Play the relative minor of that scale

 

But with a twist! Use a crescendo on the way up and a decrescendo on the way down. This will get you thinking about dynamics and activate the brain to hand coordination required to develop dynamics in your playing.

 

3) Play a Hannon style exercise

 

I’ve changed up my pattern so that what I play on the way up is different from what I play on the way down. The beautiful thing about a Hannon style exercise is that they keep the notes quite close together which causes us to develop extra fine motor skills. They also use clever fingering to reset the hands each round enabling us to practice efficiently and quickly.

 

That is my ultimate piano warm-up routine. Practice this in a variety of keys and tempos. This warm-up is the most fun when played quickly so don’t be afraid to push yourself in terms of tempo. The most important thing is that you work at a tempo that you can stay in control in. When you get comfortable, bump up that tempo by 3-5 bpm and keep working at it.

 

Enjoy!

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How To Build Complex Piano Chords

Jordan Leibel - Jul 27, 2018

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how to play complex chords in a way that is easy, intuitive and immediate. I totally understand why people ask this question because I still remember the days when I’d look at complex chord shapes and be totally mystified at what was going on! 

 

The good news is if you’ve spent time practicing your triads and basic major and minor chords, you have a really solid foundation that you need to jump into the next step: building major and minor 7th chords.

 

The best way to do this is by building on a little something I like to call ‘Focus Independence.’

 

Focus Independence is like hand independence except it’s more about the mindset of thinking about two separate frames to think WITHIN.

 

To illustrate this, take a look at each note of the minor 7th chord. In the key of A minor, for example, you have the notes A - C - E - G.  

 

Upon further inspection, you’ll find that the notes of the A minor scale actually contain both the A minor triad (A - C - E) and the C major triad (C - E - G), and the resulting A minor 7 sound happens when each triad overlaps.

 

You can use this to your advantage! Try playing each hand in different positions, your left hand playing the A minor while your right plays the C major. Whether you’re into songwriting, improvising, or just simply want to get yourself more practically familiar with the chord, practicing in this way will be of great help.

 

Think of it like breaking a big chord down into bite-sized chunks! And because these two chords are relatives of each other, you’ll actually find that you’re in a pretty safe spot to make sounds that are naturally going to sound good.  

 

Want to take this step even further? Try continuing to stack thirds on top of each other to create even more elaborate chords like 9ths or 11ths. It’s much easier to let both of your hands share the work!

 

Happy playing,  

 

Jordan

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