Chords are the backbone of music. Yet, how many of us take the time to teach our students about chords? Not as part of their technique exercises or on a theory page, but as an element that makes a song … well, a song. And, how many times do we sing chords so we can play chords?
How I learnt back in the day
I learnt how to read chords through theory books & exam prep books. And, I distinctly remember thinking it was incredibly boring & had no bearing on my music. Ironically, when I did learn how to play off chord charts & lead sheets outside of piano lessons, it never occurred to me that my ‘regular’ music had the same chord structures.
There was a complete disconnect.
How to NOT introduce chords to students
While I did use some theory books at first, I decided early on I wanted to do things differently.
I decided to use Roman numerals since this was how I learnt from chord charts & lead sheets. It was, I decided, the perfect way to chord progressions.
Except for one little problem. Most of my students did not know anything about Roman numerals.
And, wow, did I ever struggle. Trying to teach that while the individual notes change when we transpose to a different key, the pattern does not. Even if the chord progression was the exact same, a new song meant we were learning from scratch. And learning chord inversions? I remember the headaches … both my students & me!
How was I helping my students become independent musicians? I wasn’t.
Teaching in a new way
Why do melodies often feel much easier to students? They sing or hum them all the time! They’ve subconsciously internalized the intervals & patterns.
If you can sing chords, you can play chords.
So, I started over. Changed my whole approach. Instead of wondering why students could sing melodies & not chords, I got them singing away from the bench, at the bench while playing, & giving them words to explain what they were playing.
My students started seeing those patterns that were so easy for me to see. They began seeing & hearing that each type of chord sounds similar regardless of what key it’s played in. They began to make connections.
While we worked on chords in their warm-ups, I kept pointing out or asking them to find the chords they were currently learning in their ‘regular’ music. And, through this process, they learnt a new strategy for figuring out that ‘tricky’ accompaniment … whether it was in lesson or during the week. They became more independent musicians!
And, isn’t that what we all want? Student who have the confidence to play independently. Who can play the songs they love … without needing a teacher to show them how.
If You Sing Chords, You Can Play Chords
Does this sound like it would meet a need in your studio?
I’ve created a 10-week set of warm-ups that will get your students up off the bench, singing, playing & exploring chords like they never have!
To purchase your copy of these warm-ups, click here. (It also included a list of the exams this warm-ups help your students prepare for.)
Or, to see what I’m talking about … click below for a freebie.