Posted on 94 Comments

Finding the Chords

 

 

It goes like this –

The fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

{ 7 August 2020]:  If you are here reading this post, it is probably because you wish to become a musician or (more likely) to grow as a musician.  And if that’s the case, you should know that my previous article (now called “Become a Musician”) is the natural prequal to this post.  That (pre-sequent) posting was titled “Play Piano by Ear”; but I just now changed its title.       I suggest you make use of that one first. }

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are LOTS of songs accessible from YouTube.  And (of course) there are no rules. But I’m going to assume that most of the time (when you’re trying to find the chords to a certain song) that you’ll be ‘working alone’.  That you’ll just have the song in your head (having already internalized it) and won’t be using a professional recording of it.

 

You see – if you’re just starting out, there’s some (big) advantages to working with the key of C  (which means – C and/or A-minor). Now sometimes you MAY want to make use of a recording to help you figure out the chords to a song; but – what if the recording is NOT in the key of C?  (And of course – MOST of them are NOT) Then you must either learn the new set of chords … or transpose the song (many times, probably) into C (where it’s easier to play).

 

In either case, you should make use of the (double) ‘1, 4, 5, hand’ (which I explained in the previous blog) … and thoroughly reacquaint yourself with your six chords (1, 4, 5 … and the Dark One, the Dark 4, and the Dark 5  … which (in C) are :   C, F, G … and Am, Dm, & E [or maybe Em]). [If you’re working in another key, the pattern will be exactly the same.]

 

When Leonard Cohen (who of course WROTE the song ‘Hallelujah’) says, (as in the epigram) “… like this – the fourth, the fifth” –  his word choice suggests “notes”, but he does not mean that.  He means – “the four, the five” … he’s talking (in real time) about the chords.  (He had to to do the wording the way he did – for the ‘rhyme’ he was after.)

 

Anyway, at those points … he’s telling you what the song’s doing.  And (even though it won’t be as elegant as what he manages to build in)  I propose to use this song as a ‘practice song’ … in hopes that it will help you get used to using your chords (1, dark One; 4, dark 4; & 5, dark 5).

 

Besides, we’re in luck:  I just now checked Leonard Cohen’s YouTube “Hallelujah” video (Live in London, 152 million views) and … it’s pitched in C !      [and the video is below, at the end]

 

As I said (last time) – a song will almost always ‘come home’ at its end (or end of a musical line) … but – how do you start?

Well, unless you have a different guess, the ONE will be the chord to try.  (Songs do NOT always open on the 1; but many of them do.  And if a song starts with a ‘pick-up’, you should try the 5then the 1.)  Just pay attention.  You’ll get used to it. 

 

 [The tune to ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY” is musically rather simple: it partakes of the Four chord only once in the whole song: and that’s where you sing the Name of the person you’re singing the song TO.  And, other than that one spot, the song is either on the One, or the Five. Not much guessing for that one.  

And by the way – in ‘Happy Birthday’, the second time you sing the word ‘birthday’ – that is a good time to use the G-seventh … which you do by adding the ‘seventh note’ (F) to the chord.  So instead of just playing Do, Mi, Sol … you play Do, Mi, Sol, & Ti-flat.  That’s how you create (any) seventh chord.]

 

Anyway, “Hallelujah” DOES open on the One … and then goes to the dark One (back & forth a couple times) … then 4,  5, then home …  

Try accompanying yourself now, and see how far you get.

 

Did you do it?

 

 

 

            C                                Am                                  C                                       Am       

I’ve heard there was a secret chord     that David played and it pleased the Lord

 

           F                               G                         C                   G

But you don’t really care for music, do ya?

 

       C                                   F                    G                  Am                            G

It goes like this –  the fourth, the fifth    the minor fall, the major lift

 

                                             E                    Am

The baffled king composing Hallelujah.

 

  C       F                       Am                   F                     C             G    C             G

Hallelujah,    Hallelujah   Hallelujah, Hallelu – u-u-u   jah

 

 

 

 

In most versions I’ve heard of this song,there’s a (back & forth) One / Dark One vamp at the beginning and between verses … but not this Live in London version.  It’s (maybe) an “Easy Gospel” treatment    and stays in the sunlight more.

 

In any case (and in any version) – the most important Musical Transaction in the whole song … is in the chorus: when (with the second ‘Hallelujah’) the song comes home … to the One (of course).  But it does NOT come home to the Regular One, it comes home to the Dark One.  This is terribly important to this song.  

(Try playing a C at this point instead of an Am.          … Mmm?)

 

The other place in this song (that’s also Very Important) – is [in the verse(s)] – the chord which shows up just before the word ‘Hallelujah’ (the last word in the verse).

It’s the Dark Five (the E).

 

This is perhaps the ‘Secret Chord’ that the lyrics refer to … because (till it actually shows up) you wouldn’t necessarily think there WAS such a chord (which is able to DO what the Dark 5 DOES    right in that spot ! I find it surprising. Shocking maybe even.

 

Red & Green & Yellow (etc.) do NOT imply purple.  

Maybe someday we will see a color which we never had imagined even existed.

 

Every time we play (& sing) a song … (whether we’re practicing or performing) … we need to Reach for the Song.  [I learned this from Gabriel, my music teacher]

 

Something deep inside tells you (when you come closer)

 

I mean, I think we should respect and appreciate the creative genius behind much of our Art.  However, I can tell you that – when I find a way to improve any song (according to my own sense of it) – I do not hesitate to adopt the change

 

Songs change (and grow) over time … don’t they?

 

For example, I rather prefer: “… saw her bathing on the roof in the moonlight, and her beauty overthrew ya” … so that’s the way I sing it now.

 

And (musically), I rather prefer the Four chord (rather than the dark one) – for the last chord before the chorus.

 

(Just another arrangement choice)

 

Reach for the song.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

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