Chord Sequences

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The succession of chords needed for a piece is known as a chord sequence. Some sequences will work for a number of songs, for instance the much-used progression C C | Am Am | Dm Dm | G7 G7. This was affectionately known to studio musicians as “we want Cantor,” a reference to the introductory music to an old radio program called The Eddie Cantor Show. You might try it with “Blue Moon,” “Heart and Soul,” or “La Mer.” You will be surprised how much of these and other songs this popular sequence will fit. Chord sequences are often written in simple “lead sheet” form, like this:

The diagonal lines (known as hash marks) mark the beats. Sometimes more elaborate hash marks show a specific rhythm.

12-bar Blues
For practice, here is the chord sequence for a typical 12-bar blues. Try using the barred chords for variety. Here’s a hint: all except the E7 can be found with a bar at the fifth fret.

“Dream a Little Dream of Me” (F. Andree, W. Schundt, G. Khan)
Here is a familiar song for chord practice. It was popularized in the sixties by the rock group the Mamas and the Papas, but actually it goes back decades to an earlier era of American popular song.

Let’s first play the complete chords to get used to the fingerings:

After learning the positions, try the song with a chord on each beat as indicated, using a simple sweep of either thumb or pick.

“Dream a Little Dream of Me”

Words by Gus Kahn. Music by Wilbur Schwandt and Fabiau Andree. TRO–(C)–Copyright 1930 (Renewed) 1931 (Renewed) Essex Music, Inc. Words and Music, Inc., New York, New York, Don Swan Publications, Miami, Florida and Gilbert Keyes, Hollywood, California

Additional lyrics:
Stars shining bright above you,
Night breezes seem to whisper I love you,
Birds singing in the sycamore tree,
Dream a little dream of me.
Say nightie-night and kiss me,
Just hold me tight and tell me you’ll miss me,
While I’m alone and blue as can be,
Dream a little dream of me.
Stars fading, but I linger on, dear,
Still craving your kiss;
I’m longing to linger till dawn, dear,
Just saying this:
Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you,
Sweet dreams that leave our worries behind you,
But in your dreams whatever they be,
Dream a little dream of me.
Chorus (twice)

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