John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is one of the most iconic piano ballads written in pop music. Luckily, it’s also one of the best songs for beginners to learn. It’ll help reinforce your skills in the C major key, and give you some insight into building cool chord colours off of basic chords.
First thing’s first, let’s look at the the main motion that these chords are played in. The chord movements are all mostly consistent regardless of the verse, pre-chorus or chorus, so once you get this motion down, it’ll make learning each part much easier.
If you look at the main progression of the verse, you’ll start on a C major triad, but it’s played by alternating the top two notes and the bass note, C. This C bass note continues to be the anchor note as the top two notes change from a E-G to a G-B and finally landing on a F-A. The verse progression ends with a subtle yet iconic chromatic climb, moving from the A to the Bb and finally the B.
As the progression moves into the pre-chorus (Imagine all the people…) It starts on an F chord, then walks down in the C major scale, finally landing on a G chord. As you play, focus on this scale motion pattern moving down the left hand, while the right hand plays basic triads. Don’t be afraid to slow this part down if it’s still tricky!
The chorus is a simple progression built on the chords F, G and C. There’s a unique turnaround chord that’s played after the C chord that’s called an E7 chord. It consists of the notes E-G#-D in the right hand while the left just plays E for the bass note. The E7 chord is a perfect example of John Lennon’s brilliant approach to songwriting; that chord gives the chorus an additional colour that stands out from the other basic triads.
Practicing The Song
So those are the three parts of the song. It’s a pretty simply tune, but it’s rhythmic motion and iconic moments like that chromatic climb in the verse give you plenty of specific things to work on and build your skills as a piano player.
As always, never be afraid to slow things down when you need to, and use the recording of the track as a reference track to build your ear training as well! Remember, just because it’s a simple track doesn’t mean there’s a lot to learn, so happy practicing!