Tag Archives: pianocompanion

The Chord Progressions of Hit Songs in 2019

Posted on October 14, 2019 by songtive

tutorial3

Chord progressions provide for the basis of every song. First is a look at the chord progressions of the choruses of four of the most popular songs in 2019, according to their chart placements on the Billboard Hot 100. After that, you will find how to replicate the chords of these choruses using the Piano Companion app on your phone, tablet, or computer.

This list would not be complete without Lil Nas X’s debut song Old Town Road, which spent a record-breaking 19 consecutive weeks leading the Hot 100, with a remix with Billy Ray Cyrus impacting radio stations everywhere. Lil Nas X originally went viral with this song on social media before it turned into a mainstream hit. The key of G# Dorian is not one of the most popular ones, nor is the overall chord progression. Despite the massive success of this song, the instrumental melody of the chorus isn’t exactly seen as one that would make for guaranteed success.

Lizzo’s song Truth Hurts has an interesting backstory when it comes to chart success. It’s spent more time at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 than any other song in 2019 except for Old Town Road, despite originally being released on September 2017. Nevertheless, the song became a big hit eventually and musically has a relatively basic chorus. It only has two chords, and the key of C Major is one of the most-used in music. Clearly, it did not take a complex chorus melodically to turn this into something people want to hear.

Shallow is the only ballad on this list, as well as the only one to top the Billboard Hot 100 in 2019 through mid-October. It is also the only song on this list to have more than four chords in its chord progression. With those outliers in mind, it is worth noting that the song is set in the key of G Major, the single most popular key in music. This may allow listeners to hear a very familiar sound, which could explain why it is so radio-friendly. Through radio play well past its initial release, one could argue that it is a modern-day classic.

Perhaps one of the toughest songs to learn how to play on this list is a straight-up pop song. Halsey’s song Without Me spent two non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and had a lengthy run on many Billboard charts. Its chorus features a four-chord progression, which isn’t unusually long, but the key of D# Minor isn’t particularly common.

Sunflower spent one week at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is the song that interrupted Without Me’s two-week run. Like Without Me, Sunflower’s success was and still is long-lived. While both artists performing the song are best classified as rappers, Sunflower plays more like a basic pop song. It’s in a popular key and has a pretty basic chord progression. The first four chords of the chorus are all D Major, followed by four G Major, followed by four E Minor, and then back to G Major for the final four chords. It is the only song on this list where the chord progression features chords repeating themselves consecutively.

As you may have noticed, none of these five songs share the same chord progressions or keys, making for a diverse group of music. From that, it can be argued that people are willing to listen to many different chord progressions in many different keys, just as long as the music fits with the vocal melody.

If you are looking for a way to play these melodies yourself, download Songtive’s Piano Companion app on your phone, tablet, or computer. Upon opening the app, navigate to the Chords Dictionary tab to get a visual glance at how to play each cord. Then, find your way to the Piano tab and you can try it for yourself. The default sound is Grand Piano, and there is a setting to change the sound of something such as a guitar or synth by tapping on the upward arrow in the top right corner. Even better, you can record while you play so that you have a chance to listen back.

If it takes you some time to find the chords in the Chords Dictionary tab, there is no need to worry; once you find the chords, you can add them to your Chords Dictionary to make it quick and convenient to re-find the chords.

Tutorial 3 – Explore New World Of Music with Scale Spelling

Posted on March 18, 2016 by songtive

In our previous posts (Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale and Tutorial 2 – Minor Scale Construction and Introduction to “Circle Of Fifths”) we were talking about a method of constructing Major and Minor scales, as well as we’ve introduced a very handy music tool – “Circle of Fifths”. Today, we are going to introduce another very important music concept – “Scale Spelling”. With a help of that we will discover the whole new world of music scales which is far wider than Minor and Major.

As everyone already knows, all notes in a scale have letters. We also know that there are 8 notes in a scale, with 7 distinct ones. Now, all notes/letters from the scale also have a corresponding number. These numbers are referred to as “scale spelling”. Please open a “Piano Companion” application and choose “Scales Dictionary”.

By the application default settings, the first scale that you see is a Major scale. Just have a look at the numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) – this exactly what we call a “Scale Spelling”.

Let’s choose “Aeolian” (Minor) scale from the list.

Can you see that the “Scale Spelling” for Aeolian scale is different from the Ionian one (Major)? As you may guess, if you chose any other scale from “Scales Dictionary” it will be different too. But let’s take a closer look at Ionian and Aeolian scale spellings.

It will be very helpful, if you take a piece of paper and write down a C Major scale and put 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (1) above every note of the scale. If you do it correctly, that’s how it should look like:

 Each note of the scale has it is own number, which we always write above the note names. Let’s write a C Minor and the “Scale Spelling” for Aeolian scale above it.

Even if you never learnt music before, we’ve already mentioned that “b” – flats are responsible for bringing notes DOWN for one semitone, whereas “#” – sharps are responsible for bringing notes UP for one semitone. As you can see the spelling for Aeolian scale (Minor) has b3, b6 and b7 in it. The notes that are below these numbers, also have flats: Eb, Ab and Bb. Isn’t that simple? The scale spelling is like a clue for any musician. Let’s say, you know only a construction method for a Major scale using specific pattern (2-2-1-2-2-2-1) and have no idea how to create any other one, but there is a scale spelling for Minor scale in front of your eyes. By writing your Major scale and putting this scale spelling above the notes (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 8) you’ll be easily able to add necessary flats to notes and finally get your Minor scale. The same method applies to any other existing scale in the music world. However, you should follow 2 simple rules:

1) The letters (notes) MUST always correspond to the assigned number (spelling).
2) There may not be notes that share the same name in the scale

What does it mean? Literally, you just need to choose correct enharmonic names for your notes. For example in C Minor (Aeolian) you can’t put “D#” under the number “b3” because “D” is already referred to your second note, the number “2” of the spelling. The same applies to “Ab” and “Bb”. You can’t put “G#“ and “A#” instead. We are quite sure that this fact is very obvious, but still sometimes people can forget, so keeping this tip in mind will help not to make mistakes.

Ok, the time has come, to find out why a Major scale is called “Ionian”, and why a Minor scale is called “Aeolian”. The reason why these scales have more specific names, simply because there are different types of Major and Minor scales. Most of the scales can be divided into Major and Minor families. So let’s have a look at 7 scales that are mostly used in today’s music:

 

SCALE SPELLINGS:
IOANIAN - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
DORIAN - 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
PHRYGIAN - 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
LYDIAN - 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
MIXOLYDIAN - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
AEOLIAN - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
LOCRIAN - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

The picture above points us to the different types of Major and Minor scales that have all white notes in it like C Ionian and A Aeolian. There is exactly the same thing for D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian and etc. As we’ve mentioned earlier all scales can be divided into 2 families: Major and Minor. In this case we have:

Major scales:

  1. Ionian
  2. Lydian
  3. Mixolydian

Minor scales:

  1. Dorian
  2. Phrygian
  3. Aeolian
  4. Locrian

The most used scales in Popular music are Ionian, Aeolian, Mixolydian and Dorian. Less used is Lydian, because of the #4 which gives quite dissonant sound, that may feel unpleasant the ears. The most famous example of Lydian scale use, you can hear in known by everybody “Simpsons” music theme. Phrygian and Locrian are common in soundtracks and background music for Horror movies. Just have a listen, and you will understand why! These scales often used in Metal music as well.

The most accurate definition of the scale family would by checking thr 3rd note of the mode. If the 3rd number of the scale spelling is flattened, then it belongs to the Minor scale family. By the way, have you noticed that there are more Minor scales than Major ones? There is exactly the same thing for chords. There are more Minor chords that you can construct from the scale, than Major ones.

If you have a proper look to the scale spellings of these modes (scales), you’ll see how easy it is to construct any mode you like, if simply have a scale spelling in front of your eyes. All you have to do is just to construct Ionian scale and flatten or sharpen necessary notes, according to the spelling. Isn’t that simple? It’s definitely is!

We believe that we’ve shared enough information for today and there is a lot to think about and experiment with. And don’t forget to check out your “Scale Dictionary” in “Piano Companion” which has so many more scales to play with!

 Just keep an eye on our blog and you will find so much more interesting about music.

Tutorial 2 – Minor Scale Construction and Introduction to “Circle of Fifths”

Posted on February 25, 2016 by songtive

In our first post we were talking about the names of notes, it’s placement on keyboard, Major scale construction method and how “Piano Companion” application can help you in memorising all these musical things. Today, we are going to discuss how to build a Minor scale using the same method as we used for a Major scale creation. We will also introduce a very handy tool – “Circle of Fifths”.

As you can remember from the previous post (Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale), to construct a Major scale we need to know the specific order/pattern of gaps/steps or (in musical terms) “intervals” between notes. You probably already know that these intervals are called “semitones”. The order/pattern for the Major scale is 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 and the easiest way of figuring it out – was counting gaps between white notes on keyboard from “C” to another “C” note. We can apply the same concept to create any Minor scale. We just need to find out which Minor scale has all white keys in it as well. There is a great musical feature in the application, that will help us to do that. If you open the main menu of “Piano Companion” you will see the button “Circle Of Fifths”:

When you press the button, you will be redirected to another screen, where you actually can see the “Circle of Fifths”:

 Ok, you all probably have a question in you mind: “How this tool can actually help me to find the key, that I am looking for?”In our case it is A Minor scale, which has all white notes (which has no flats and has no sharps). Please have a look at the circle again:

 

There are 3 sections in the circle:

  1. Purple section – It represents Major scales.
  2. Peach section – It represents Minor scales.
  3. White section – It represents sharps and flats that each of these key has.

Can you see that a letter “A” is underneath a letter “C”? You can also see that there is a white section underneath both letters “C” and “A”.

Basically, that means that a “C Major scale” has no sharps and flats, as well as “A Minor scale” has no sharps and flats too. This is exactly what we were looking for, isn’t? The same rule applies to other letters of the circle. According to the picture, it’s clearly seen that a “G Major scale” has 1 sharp as well as “E Minor scale” has one sharp too. A “D Major scale” has 2 sharps, whereas a “B Minor scale” has 2 sharps as well and etc. Now you can tell for sure, that a “C Major scale” and “A Minor scale” has all the same notes, only the root note/ starting point is different. These scales are called “Relatives”. So, if you ever want to find out which Minor key has the same amount of sharps or flats as your chosen Major scale (and opposite), you can always use a “Circle of Fifths” as your guide.

This is not all that a “Circle of Fifths” can assist you with. It has much more information that it may seem from the first glance, however we will talk about this handy tool deeper, a little bit later. Right now, let’s come back to the main goal we were aiming for – Minor scale construction. Please go back to your main menu of the “Piano Companion” and choose a “Piano”:

Here is our piano roll, but with note names on it, just to make the process easier:

img_56e19cabed3f6

If you press the keys from A to A, you will hear the A Minor scale. So let’s have a look at the specific order/pattern for Minor scales. We are sure that you all understand, this order/pattern is different, than the one for Major scales. How do we determine it? Once again, all you need to do is look at the keyboard and count how many gaps/steps there are in between each note of the scale. Have a look at the picture below:

Cool, now we can confidently tell that the specific note order is 2-1-2-2-1-2-2, which is the order/pattern of gaps/steps that applies to any Minor scale. With this pattern you will be able to create any Minor scale!

There is one more interesting fact about the name of a Minor scale. It has another more specific name – “Aeolian scale”. If you remember the Major scale is also called – “Ionian scale”. Don’t forget, you can always check these scales in “Scales Dictionary” of the “Piano Companion” application:

As you can see, we have emphasised some “little circles” on the picture. There are two types of them:

  1. Fully coloured circles – represent 1 Tone/ 2 semitones
  2. Half coloured circles – represent 1 semitone.

That means if you forgot the specific sequence of intervalic gaps for “Ionian” or “Aeolian” scales, you can always refer to this “circle pattern” because it is equal to the“numeric pattern” of “2-1-2-2-1-2-2” or “2-2-1-2-2-2-1”.

That is all for today and If you find our articles useful, just keep an eye on our blog, as this is just a beginning. New posts will be added frequently. Keep on doing music!