Did you know that there are literally thousands of songs you can play if you know just 3 chords? It's true. Songs from "Amazing Grace" to "Cum Ba Ya" to "Happy Birthday" to "On Top Of Old Smoky", "My Country 'Tis of Thee", "Take Me Out To The Ball Game", "God Bless America" and countless others. But there are also Christmas Carols that you can learn to play this Christmas if you know, or are willing to learn, three simple chords. So what are these chords? In any given key, there are 3 "family members" that are residents of that key -- the I chord, the IV chord, and the V chord. They are far and away the most likely chords to occur in any given key.
For example, if I am playing in the Key of C, and the first chord is the C chord and I have to guess what the next chord is, I would guess that it would be either the F chord or the G chord. Why? Because those are the other "family members." So we have narrowed the odds a great deal just by knowing who the members of the family are.
So how could I tell whether it should be F or G? If the melody is a "B", then the chord is probably a G chord. Why? Because "B" is in the G chord, but is not in the F chord. If the melody is a "A", than I would guess that the chord is F. Why? Because "A" is in the F chord, but is not in the G chord. You can also just match one of the three chords to the melody to see if it sounds right. If it doesn't, try another of the 3 chords.
It won't take long before you get the knack of matching chords to the tune of a song. Does that mean that there are always just 3 chords in a song? No, but there are literally hundreds of songs that are made of just 3 chords. Here are a few Christmas Carols you can play with just 3 chords: O Christmas Tree Angels We Have Heard On High Silent Night Away In A Manger Joy To The World Deck The Halls Go, Tell It On The Mountain O Come, O Come Immanuel Star Of The East The First Noel The Holly And The Ivy While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen Hark! The Herald Angels Sing I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day Can you use other chords in these carols? Of course. And they will probably sound fuller if you do.
But you can "get by" with just 3 chords -- the family chords in whatever key you want to play them in. Here are the primary chords (the family chords) of all the major keys (remember that the primary chords are the I chord, the IV chord, and the V chord based on the scale of that particular key): Key of C: C, F, G Key of G: G, C, D Key of D: D, G, A Key of A: A, D, E Key of E: E, A, B Key of B: B, E, F# Key of F: F, Bb, C Key of Bb: Bb, Eb, F Key of Eb: Eb, Ab, Bb Key of Ab: Ab, Db, Eb Key of Db: Db, Gb, Ab Key of Gb: Gb, Cb, Db Do you have to know all these chords in all these keys? No. You can choose to play in just one key, or just a few keys. But what you MUST know is the 3 chords in whatever key you want to play in! That means that the stark beginner can learn 3 chords in just a few minutes, and be able to play along with thousands of tunes, because most folk songs, hymns, country songs, and many rock songs just use the 3 basic chords.
That's why people who know zilch about music can pick up a guitar or sit down at a piano or keyboard, learn 3 chords, and chord along while singing everything from "Silent Night" to "Joy To The World" to.well, you get the idea. Go thou and do likewise. It's not too late -- Christmas comes every year right on schedule!.
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