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Sonny Armintrout

When to change Chords

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When playing a song in only G-C-D, the G chord is my root chord and it is my neutral chord in pitch, C chord being higher than G. The D chord is the lowest pitch in this Nashville number system, 1,4, and 5, is this correct? I can not figure out when to change chords and which chord to make. Help me . Newbie"

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JanVigne    27

The I-IV-V is not (really) about pitch, it is about tonality and what our raised on 12 note Western scales perceptions tells us will come next because our brains tell us "this" should be what follows.

Let's go back to a suggestion I have made in other threads ...

You can establish your I-IV-V chord names by creating an inverted "L" shape which begins on your I chord's root note. In a G-C-D progression that would be you "G". Play, in this instance, the G on the fifth fret of the fifth string for convenience.

From your root/tonic note's position, move over one string (the base of the inverted "L") to find the IV's root on the same fret as the I chord's.

(There is an exception to this rule which has to do with the second, third string tuning. That's why we started on the fifth fret.)

From the G on, say, the fourth string/fifth fret, your C would be on the third string at the fifth fret. That's the name of your IV chord.

From there, move up two frets on the same string to find your V. Here you would move to the seventh fret of the third string to hear a D.

Now you know the names in the I-IV-V chord progression.

With the exception of the second to third string tuning, this rule of the inverted "L" applies at any location, for any I chord name and for any root/tonic note, on any fretboard when the guitar is in standard tuning.

Play your notes and you will hear the tonality of the progression. When you reach the V (D), the progression sounds "completed" but not "finished".

Now play the same notes but return to the original root note to finish the progression. Play the G.

That's the tonality of the entire progression and that's what our brains are wired to hear.

Do the same but play a lower pitched V note and you'll hear basically the same tonality. Play the same run of notes with the lower pitched D and then finish on the higher pitched G.

That sounds complete and finished also.

It's a slightly different tonality when the V goes down in pitch and there are some generic rules about ascending and descending note runs that you can apply. However, what our brains will detect, no matter whether you go higher or lower in pitch with the V, will be the progression is competed and it is finished when you return to the I chord/root.

Most often in a I-IV-V progression, the V chord will be made into a V7 with the dominant seventh tone added to the chord shape. This makes for a bit more "urgency" and a bit more of a "mental need" for resolution of the progression back to the I when this is added. However, it won't matter to your perceived chord progression whether that V7 is up in pitch or lowered in pitch.

It's purely your choice of what you want to play and how you want it to sound.

Since so many songs revolve around a 12 bar blues pattern, you can learn the bars as they divide the song into easily recognized starts and stops. If you only played that 12 bar blues pattern, you probably wouldn't be too far off in most cases.

It is then useful to know the patterns for an 8 bar and a 16 bar blues. These are you next most common patterns in the vast majority of "pop" songs which covers blues, country, gospel, rock, etc.

Train your ears to recognize the sounds your brain is expecting in each case and realize these are basic rules and they can be fudged if the performer wishes to do so. Most of the original bluesmen didn't adhere to strict rules and they played what sounded right to them at the time. A 12 bar could easily be stretched into a 13 bar or even a 14 bar while sticking to basically the same pattern as a 12 bar.

That's a talent you need to develop but don't get concerned if it takes awhile to develop. Since you're in a I-IV-V, there's not much that can go wrong if you change a measure or two before or after the vocalist's cue.

Sort of like playing on the I chord's tone through an entire solo, the notes are always going to "fit" as long as you stay within the I-IV-V progression. There may be better choices to make at times, but you won't be "wrong" if you just stick to what you know should work.

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Thanks for reply and I did understand what you wrote, but only answered part of my question.

My question is, take Desperado. I want to know why it starts like this and why these chords are more suitable than others.

Desperado, (G)Why don't you come ┬ęto your senses?

You been (G)out riding fences for so log (D)now.

The tonality is moving up and down and how do I know which chord for when in the song. Do people eventually learn and just know that when a certain sound comes out of their mouth it is a "C" chord or an "F" chord?

How do you assign chords to certain parts of a song?

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JanVigne    27

When you ask about a specific song, generic rules are only guidelines.

First, checking "Desperado" online for available tabs in G Major, there are several options. None of which seem to fit your G and D example.

Therefore, I don't know exactly how to answer a question which appears to be incorrect in its assumption.

However, take a tab for the song and you can see the opening lines, which have nothing like a 12 bar rule to guide them, is a series of chords which come from, and fall within the accepted chords to be played when you are working in, the G Major scale.

There's nothing out of line here, that's the style of the songwriter. The style of the progression is meant to pull you in as a listener but not to jar you with unexpected turns. Therefore, every chord in the opening to "Desperado" is well within what a listener can accept as correct and can also accept as a more "developed" sound than a simple I-IV-V. It's not simple, which makes the listener perk up a bit when they hear the song the first time, but it is unique enough to make the opening easily identifiable on subsequent listens.

That's fairly good songwriting technique.

"Take the A Train", "April in Paris", "Jailhouse Rock" and most well known symphonies have exploited the same technique over the years. When employed in pop music, you could say it is used to give the listener time to crank up the volume.

A I-IV-V progression is the most basic description of the chords which you may play. Nothing says a C Major (the IV chord in the key of G Major) must be played only as a C Major shape.

C is within the G Major scale and therefore it is your target chord shape and tonality. You can though play a C7 or a C6. You can play a C diminished or a C augmented. The first question to ask yourself before you play a C6 is, however, does it fit the style of music you are playing? If it doesn't, then you risk sounding wrong to the expectations of a listener.

For example, a C6 tuning is the generation's old convention for tuning the steel guitar to play a classic Hank Williams style of "Country" music. That "6" sound is the tear jerker in the group. You can fairly safely guess it would sound out of place in most Gospel songs.

You could also move to an E minor chord since E minor is the relative minor to G Major. If you stay within those rules of playing within the intervals of the key's tonic note, you won't go too far out into left field.

Tonality plays the most decisive role in which notes or which chord shapes you would select. Obviously, a C7 sounds different than a C Major. What sound do you want in the listener's head? That's what you play.

But if you go to your first jam session and only play I-IV-V progressions, you shouldn't get any complaints. So, when in doubt, play the I-IV-V.

Or learn the other most common progressions used in other styles. Each style has its own "rules". The I-IV-V is well known and most basic to learn simply because it is so ubiquitous.

In a way, I cannot teach you in one forum post how to play an opening like the chords played in the most complex version of "Desperado".

Style plays a role in which chords you might select. Blues and pop/classic rock depend on more Major and dominant 7 chords than would most other genres. It is the tonality of those flatted notes, the discordance of the minor sounds where the listener might expect to hear a "Happy" Major sound, which provides the basis for a "blues sound".

A musician understands the listener's mental construct - what they have come to expect - suggests "this chord" with "these notes" will be in the progression. A musician then becomes more interesting when they hue to the style - playing flatted notes in blues. You can't play "Love in Vain" with only Major chord shapes if you want to sound like you're playing the blues.

Or they become more interesting when they change the expectations to a variation of the next chord/note. A musician can also over do this approach and go over the head of the the listener.

Or they can become famous with those listener's who are constantly on a search for different sounds. The modal playing style of Steve Vai comes to mind here.

So, yes, you do simply have to learn the rules for what to play. As I said above, you could stick to a very basic 12 bar I-IV-V progression and you would not sound "wrong". All the notes for a G Major chord progression, and its relative minor, are in the G Major scale. You would never be "off key" playing the simple I-IV-V but you may not sound as interesting to some listeners. You may sound as though you are playing in a different style than where the song exists, but you won't sound "wrong".

Again, if you're playing basic blues, too much can easily become too little.

And, IMO, today's styles of playing have gone too far in many cases in a search for not sounding "old fashioned". If I ask a twenty year old musician whether they ever listen to such and such, many times I've heard back, "Yeah, but they're pretty simple stuff."

Exactly! That's why they are who they are! They didn't try to play over their listener's head just for the sake of not playing simply and effectively.

Know the general rules of the style you are playing. Every genre has its easily definable rules based on tonalities. From there, rules are made to be broken, as they say.

Music is contextual, we expect to hear what comes next based on what we have heard prior to. There are essentially no notes which cannot be justified when they are played in a melody, a solo or a progression. What can occur though is the note you select has not been set up properly in the listener's expectations. Therefore, if you want to bend the rules, you need to know how to do so - how to set up the sound and how to follow through on the sound - and to pull it of with some panache.

You can read a few articles which are generically titled "How to play like ... ". These are almost always written by some smart guy who tells you a songwriter/performer "then moved to the flatted 'X' interval of the such and such mode ... ".

I stopped reading such stuff years ago. I don't make any attempt to play exactly like any other player.

Nor could I ever convince myself someone such as Leadbelly was actually thinking of flatting an interval in a specific mode when he played such and such a note.

He played it because it sounded good, it fit the style of music he was playing and it didn't sound wrong at the moment he played it. In such a instance, he stored that sound in his mental vocabulary and would return to it often since it was a dependably "good sound".

That then became a part of Leadbelly's style.

If you want to sound like Leadbellly, you play that note in that context.

If you want to sound like yourself, you develop your own vocabulary of what to play. You certainly borrow from other players - what is called "influenced by" - but you don't try to play "like" that performer unless you are in a tribute band.

This is a problem faced by many performers as they grow older, their fans keep wanting the old songs done as they were done decades prior. There's little room to grow with new sounds and the music world eventually passes them by for a new something or other.

It's all contained in practical theory for the guitarist. Just put that into a search engine.

You can delve as deeply into theory as you care to go. Or you can play by listening to yourself and building your own vocabulary of tonalities.

There is no one right way to play, you set your own style and you play within those limits. Or you join a tribute band.

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Well I read all the info and do understand your meaning but not all the content. I grew up listening to my folks playing and singing in the front yard when I was young. Now I've grown up some I want to play and sing. My problem I do not know when to use a G chord versus a F chord. I sing high I need a high chord but which one? Help me I want to sing and play.

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JanVigne    27

I can't teach you to sing and play on a forum.

You didn't say you didn't know anything about playing music.

If you study music, and how to play and sing in key, then you will soon understand the content of my post. But I can't teach you how to do any of that over a forum.

You need a few lessons, at least.

Here's some information to look through, maybe it will help ...



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When playing a song in only G-C-D, the G chord is my root chord and it is my neutral chord in pitch, C chord being higher than G. The D chord is the lowest pitch in this Nashville number system, 1,4, and 5, is this correct? I can not figure out when to change chords and which chord to make. Help me . Newbie"

You've gotten a lot of great information in the thread, but let me point out something really simple that I didn't see addressed clearly. I would not describe D as a lower pitch than G in this question.

If your root is G, that means G is 1 or I. (For this, as far as I can tell, Nashville is no different from solfege or classical theory with Roman numerals.) If we keep this really simple, this probably means you are in the key of G major. The natural notes in G will be G, A, B, C, D, E, F, and back to G. If you were on a keyboard, you'd probably be moving left to right, low to higher in pitch. On your guitar in standard tuning playing open chords (as most beginners would), you'll probably be going from top to bottom in your strings, which is low to high in pitch. Of course, you can play the other chords/notes lower or higher in reality, but that's not what people are referring to when they say 1, 4, 5 (I, IV, V) - they just mean in naming the notes in this way G-F. In every major key, the chords built on the 1, 4, and 5 notes will be major ones. This is why they are so common - they are easy to play and sing and sound comfortable to us.

You are going to hear this chord progression constantly, especially in simple popular music. Once you start to play G, C, D chords on your guitar (or anything), it will become very familiar to you and you will begin to hear it everywhere. The G is going to be "home." For the most part, in simple music, C and D will go up and then come back down to home, especially on standard tuning in guitar where the open G chord is close to as low as you can play.

You asked how you know what to play or sing. If you are playing or singing a simple song in G major (identified in the simplest way by the tonic and by these chords), you are not going to have an F major because that chord isn't found in the key of G. If the same song were played with an F, it would likely mean that it had been transposed to C major. The song would sound basically the same, but the I, 4, 5 would be C, F, G. You can see where a beginner might be confused because both keys have C and G, but which is used depends on where "home" is. In guitar, it's often easier for beginners to play G, C, D, so even if the song were originally written in C, you could change it. That's the point behind calling it a I, IV, V song (instead of a "G song" or "C song") - it can be played with any major key on the first, fourth, and fifth tones. (This is also why a capo is a great and wonderful thing.) I don't want to overload this post with too much information, but if you need some basic theory beyond this and find this helpful, I don't mind explaining what I understand of it.

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