Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The I IV V Chord Progression
More on Transposing Songs in Rise Up Singing

Over the past few Wednesday tips, we've been instructing you in the use of keys and the book Rise Up Singing to play chords on the kalimba to accompany your singing. Rise Up Singing does not have the melodies of these songs written out, but it does have the chords and words written out. For the song "This Land is Your Land" the chords provided indicate:

(in D) G D / A D ://

"(in D)" is just a note to the musician - often, the first chord of a song is the same as the key of the song. However, in this song, the first chord is G, but the song is actually in the key of D. The actual chord progression follows: G, then D. The "/" indicates the end of the first line ("This land is your land, this land is my land"). The next chord is A, then D. The symbol "://" indicates that these chords need to repeat to finish the verse - i.e., the second half of the song is the same as the first.

Now, to play this on kalimba is problematic, because the G-tuned kalimba has no A chord, though it does have the A minor chord. If you want to play a dirge, you could probably use the A minor. BUT if you want this song to sound the way people usually expect it to sound, you need to do something else. There are two possibilities: you could retune your kalimba to D major (by changing your C's to C#'s - but we won't go into this right now). OR you could transpose the song from D to G. This will either make the melody higher or lower, and that may cause problems for your voice but, for the time being, let's assume that it is all OK. Actually, if you are a woman, you will probably find this song works BETTER in G than in D. It's the "boy key - girl key" thing.

If you look at the I-IV-V table from the tip two weeks ago, you can see that the I-IV-V in the key of D uses the chords D, G, and A. But in the key of G, I- IV-V is G,C, and D. The prescription for transposing from D to G is: replace D with G, replace G wth C, and replace A with D. If there are other chords besides I-IV-V, you have more work to do, but let's put that off for another day. SO, the chords for "This Land Is Your Land" in G, in the style of Rise Up Singing, become:

(in G) C G / D G ://

If you own Rise Up Singing, you might even want to write the transposed chords in red next to the printed chord progression. Using this method of transposition, you will a) usually be able to determine which key a song is, and b) transpose any song based on the I-IV-V chords into G, where you can play it on your Hugh Tracey Kalimba. OR you can transpose to C to play on your Catania Kalimba.