Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Teaching Chords with Hymns

 I created a chord based activity for some of my students using the song
"We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet." since the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints is coming up this weekend.
Although the traditional hymn version of this song is beyond the current skill level of many of my students it still provides a great avenue for teaching them to sing a long while accompanying with chords.  A lyric sheet is conveniently posted on Ultimate guitar tabs which includes just the words with chord symbols written above. Following are a few activities for various levels.

Ear Training: Can you hear when the chord changes?  Listen to the teacher play the melody with primary chords and underline each word where you hear the chord change to a different one.

Chord Mapping: Can you identify the chord progression? Since several of my students are Let's Play Music Graduates who are familiar with the primary chords and associate them with colors, I use the lyric sheet to play the D (I), A(V), and G(IV) chords and after they have identified where they chord changes, they listen again and color the chord symbols (on the lyric sheet) and underlined words( in the traditional hymn)

Melodic Dictation: The first line of the song using pentascale notes in mainly step wise motion making it a great melodic dictation exercise.  Students can use magnets on a white board or small candies on a paper staff to form the melodic contour chunk by chunk.

Bass Improvisation: As students sing the melody they can improvise the chord based pattern in the left hand with some of these possibilities:
Root Note Alone (the name of the chord)
Chord Shells (omit the middle note of chord inversions)
Harmonic 5ths (play 5ths with the name of the chord as the root)
Melodic 5ths (play root and 5th with different rhythmic combos)
Root, 5th, Octave (open the hand up)
For a simpler chord application check out this post using songs with just I and V chords.

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