Piano Playing is Easier than You Think When You Understand Musical Form

Form is the key that unlocks the musical map of a song or a musical compostition. Like a house has rooms, so a song has rooms or sections.

Chord progressions come in sections, like one room in a house. You can put several different rooms together to make a big house, or you can live in a one room house. Just like people. In most 3rd world countries people live in one room houses -- which means, of course, that much of the world lives in one-room houses.

Those of us who live in the West generally live in multi-room houses.

But there are also musical houses -- we call them songs -- that are built out of several different rooms -- several different chord progressions. Some of them, like mansions and castles, go on and on and get quite involved.

But most songs are like many modest houses -- they have 2 or 3 rooms, sometimes 4 -- built using 2 or 3 or 4 different chord progressions.

Each "room" in a musical house is called a theme, or a "motif". The first theme is always called "A". The next theme is called "B", the next theme is called "C", and so on. Most songs only have 2 or 3 themes, but these themes often repeat.

For example, let's say we have a chord progression that goes like this:

C Am7 Dm7 G7

...and then it repeats those same 4 chords...

and then we have another chord progression that goes like this: Gm7 C7 F Fm7 Bb7 Eb G7

...and then the first chord progression is used again as the song ends.

This song would have a musical form of A, A, B, A -- main theme, repeat of main theme, contrasting theme, main theme.

If a song went like this:

Theme contrast theme

?it would be known as ABA musical form

If a song went like this:

Theme, theme, contrast, theme

?.then the song would be in AABA musical form

The "B" section of a song is sometimes called the "bridge", or the "release", or the "chorus". These terms usually mean the same thing -- depending upon the form used.

Can you guess what this might be called?

Theme - contrast - theme - contrast - theme - contrast - theme - contrast

Right you are! A B A B form.

This is also known as "verse-chorus" form.

Most popular songs fall into one of these forms:

A B A

A A B A

A B A C A

A B A B

Why should you care?

Because if you know songs are constructed this way, you can look at songs with smart eyes -- you know what to look for, and once you determine the form, you have a "mental map" of the song -- you're not just wandering from chord to chord anymore.

In addition, most songs are proportional. That is -- 4 bars of section A, then 4 bars of section B, then another 4 bars of section A, and so on. You will find TONS and TONS of popular songs that are 32 bars long in A A B A form -- 8 bars of theme A, 8 bars of theme A repeated, then a bridge of 8 bars, finishing with 8 bars of theme A.

Does that give you an advantage knowing that?

It gives you a HUGE advantage because you know what to look for, and you know that if you learn theme A you have automatically learned 75% of the song! All that remains is to learn the 8 bars of the bridge, and you've got it!

And that's why you need to learn about form.

Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and music educational materials such as DVD's, CD's, musical games for kids, chord charts, musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. His courses have been written up in hundreds of newspapers and magazines. His book-CD-DVD course titled "How To Play Chord Piano" (http://www.chordpiano.com) has sold over 100,000 copies around the world. He holds an advanced degree from Southern Oregon University and was the founder of Piano University in Southern Oregon. He has also logged time as an assistant music therapist, piano tuner, and working piano player. He is the author of the popular free 101-week e-mail newsletter titled "Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions" with over 55,000 current subscribers. Those interested may obtain a free subscription by going to http://www.playpiano.com/

In The News:


pen paper and inkwell


cat break through


Adults Can Learn to Play the Piano Too

Are you well past puberty and have always had a... Read More

Form - Giving Shape to Your Music

Do you ramble on endlessly with your improvisations? If so,... Read More

The Record Industry Continues Battle Against Free Music Downloads

Movie and record producers alike are saying file-sharing networks that... Read More

Creating Your Own Compositions

The idea of actually creating a complete piece of music... Read More

The Need To Perform

I can't believe how much of the year has gone... Read More

The Life and Music of Beatle George Harrison

Propelled into fame as one of the Beatles, along with... Read More

6 Tips for Organizing Your Music Files

If you're a digital music fan, you probably have problems... Read More

The Three 8 Mile Battles

Three battles at the end of the 8 Mile movie... Read More

Piano Lessons Can be Fun!

There are essentially two ways to learn piano - note... Read More

Review: Audioslave - Out of Exile

Every once in a while a band comes along that... Read More

How to Create an Original Melody

Here's a method I use that works. First, sit down... Read More

Play Too Loud And Well Cut The Power!

"Turn it down!"How often have you heard that command in... Read More

Health Insurance for Creative Artists -- A Multi-Talented Health Investment

For the Creative Artist -- Good Health Insurance is Truly... Read More

1959 Stratocaster Vintage Guitars

Mid 1959 Stratocaster vintage guitars have a slab rosewood fingerboard... Read More

One Way to Improve Your Music Journalist Relationship

Boy, I really detest how some people do websites. Bands... Read More

The Case Against Traditional Piano Lessons

How would you like to spend 4 years in a... Read More

Taking iPod Culture into Clubs as Well as Cyberspace: Jonny Rocket Interviewed by The G-Man

Already making plenty of noise in the marketplace is a... Read More

How the Internet Helps Musicians

Everyone talks about the negative impact of the Internet on... Read More

Why Learning How to Improvise is So Important

Imagine asking a beginning writer to write a short story... Read More

Health and Beauty Tips for Your Brass: Keep It Shiny!

Did you know that the health and beauty of your... Read More

How to Make State-of-the-Art Video Singles Cheaply

When it comes to promoting their new music releases, I... Read More

Origin of Erik Saties Gnossiennes

The 'trois Gnossiennes' (1890) is a set of dance-like pieces... Read More

Guide to Finding Music Online

Are you frustrated because finding your favorite songs on the... Read More

An Interview with Jon Bon Jovi ? 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Cant Be Wrong

The idea originated with singer Jon Bon Jovi. Jon kept... Read More

Rickenbacker 4003 Electric Bass Guitar

The Rickenbacker 4003 electric bass guitar is one of the... Read More

Spectral Muses Revisited: The Channeled Melodies of Rosemary Brown

Rosemary Brown (1916-2001) was a middle-aged South London widow, making... Read More

Celtic Music: The Japanese Connection

My friend, guitarist Brian Hughes, toured with the Chieftain's in... Read More

Memorizing Music - How Is It Best Achieved?

When memorizing music there are several things you can do... Read More

A Brief History of Fender Guitars

Perhaps no other guitar maker has touched the hearts of... Read More

How To Play The Violin

This article gives the essential basics for how to play... Read More

Born to sing, Britney Spears is as big as ever today

Britney Spears was born December 2 1981 as Britney Jean... Read More

How to Start Your Own Band

Every once in awhile a guitar student will express a... Read More

Paint Your Own Musical Landscapes!

I don't know why, but I find the idea of... Read More