Friday, February 11, 2022

Learn Piano Chord Progressions with Pop Songs: Try Every Key Challenge

Practicing chords doesn't have to be boring.  I love to pair chord practice with pop songs since the majority of pop songs are limited to just 3 or 4 chords. 

Although pop songs can have some pretty complicated rhythms for beginning piano students, they can enjoy accompanying YouTube videos with an understanding of chord symbols.  Or they can sing along as they play the accompaniment. Choosing songs that they are familiar with really ups their ambition to practice and helps with audiation.  

I've compiled a list of familiar primary songs from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints with just 2 or 3 chords for my younger students, but having some fun pop songs in the makes chord practice more appealing for my older students.

Playing Chord Progressions in Every Key

I adapted the catchy opening theme of "Try Everything" to create a "Try Every Key" Challenge to help my students enjoy learning the I-IV-I-V7-I chord progressions in a more fun way.  

Click here to view the Free Printable Try Every Key Challenge.

Then listen to the song to get the rhythms rolling in your head.  Although the rhythm isn't precisely dictated, singing the chord lyrics can really help student to get the sound of chords embedded in their brain.  

Audiation, Piano Chords and Guitar Tabs

Years ago I attended a piano teaching workshop and marveled at how Randall Faber could just rattle off the chord names so quickly as he played songs. This definitely wasn't something I learned in my piano training, but attending my son's Let's Play Music classes boosted my ability to identify chord progressions more easily in everyday music.

I love how with just a little practice, I can now pick out the melody of my favorite pop songs and usually anticipate the chords to play along!  

If the chords go beyond the basic primary chord progressions with I, IV and V chords, a quick google search with the name of the song usually brings up an Ultimate Guitar Tabs version. 

For a list of pop songs in various keys that use only primary chords check out my previous post, 

"Teaching Piano Chord Progressions with Pop Songs"

Pop Songs Duets

Here are a list of songs that have easy melodies for me to pick out as a teacher.  A fun way to open piano lessons is to ask them to "name that tune" as you play the opening lines of a melody while they play from chord symbols in the bass.

Then send them home with a challenge to play along with the YouTube video and write out the rest of the chords they hear. 

I-IV-I : I-IV-I : I-IV-I:| I-V

I-V : V-IV : IV- I : IV-V : I

Do you have any favorite pop songs that use just a few chords?