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Jam School!

Applying I/IV/V Chords to a Simple Song

Using a Band/Orchestra Instrument

and a Tape Recorder


Step 1: Find A Song to Play - You need to find a relatively simple song to play. I recommend starting off with Silent Night. It can be harmonized using just the I, IV and V chords, and you only need one chord per measure to make it work.

Step 2: Learn to Play the Song in YOUR instrument's key of C - If you are going to use the I/IV/V arpeggios from the High School Scale Skills Instruction Sheet, you will want to learn Silent Night so that it starts on a G and ends on a C.

Step 2: Record the melody on tape - As soon as you have learned to play the song, record it on tape. You will select your chords for the song by playing arpeggios along with this tape. (so record the song slow enough that you can keep up when you are playing along with the tape)

Step 3: Know Your I/IV/V Arpeggios in your instrument's key of C - This is taken from the third exercise on the High School Scale Skills Instruction Sheet. Play the exercise over and over slowly until you have it comfortably memorized. Note the roman numerals above the different arpeggios.

Step 4: Find a Rhythmic Pattern for your arpeggios that fits with the meter of the song - Silent Night is in 3/4 time, so you want your arpeggio pattern to be three beats long.

Step 5: Play back the tape recording, and start playing your arpeggios along in the patterns that you've practiced. This is like working a multiple choice question with 3 possible answers. Start off using your I chord (C-E-G) and keep playing it in the pattern until it appears to clash with the melody. Make a note of where the clash occurred. They rewind the tape and play along again. Use your I chord where it sounded good before, and now try your IV chord a change needed to be made. Does the IV chord sound good? If it does, keep going. If not, rewind again and try the V chord. You can find a chord for each measure of Silent Night by choosing between these three basic ones.

Now That You've Done It...

Try some more songs. Learn your arpeggios in more keys. Go over to the Home on the Range example using the computer program and see some fancier chords in action. Or maybe combine arpeggios with melody and harmony to write music for a group to play. This is an activity that requires a lot of practice, but one what will truly make it possible for you to produce music out of thin air.

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