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The Circle #19:
Hooked On A Chord Progression

Posted on: August 17th, 2011 by dville

How would you like to be able to work through a song once and have the chord progression internalized?  Notice I didn’t say memorized.

Memorize: verb [ trans. ] Commit to memory; learn by heart : he memorized thousands of verses.
Internalize: verb [ trans. ] Make (attitudes or behavior) part of one’s nature by learning or unconscious assimilation.
I believe the gateway to the internalization of chord progressions is first to assimilate the emotional quality of each of the chords contained within the sequence.  Since this is starting to sound like a scientific treatise, let’s do an experiment.
We’ll use the song, Hooked On A Feeling in an effort to verify our hypothesis that internalizing the emotional quality of each chord in a chord progression leads to better assimilation of stated chord progression into our psyche. Here is a link to the chords and lyrics to the song from Richard G’s Uke Songs website (if you don’t how the songs goes listen to the B.J. Thomas recording below. FYI it’s in the key of A).   Go to the sheet music and play through the song once.

Next, turn away from the sheet music and try to play through the chord progression from memory.  Don’t worry about singing the lyrics, just try to hum the melody and strum through the chords.
After you’ve done that, take a moment to reflect on what happened in your attempt to remember how the song went.  Did you see the sheet music in your mind’s eye as you tried to remember the progression?  Were your ears of any use to you as you tried to find the correct chords?  Was your mind a blur of meaningless letters and numbers?  Regardless of what happened in this first part of the experiment, don’t get frustrated, say, if you could only remember the first chord or two to the song.  Remember this is an experiment.
Slowly work your way through the chord progression again using method outlined below.    Go through the song one chord at a time, internalizing the sound of, and emotional quality, of each chord and how that sound relates to the lyrics.  The song is broken into three sections, the verse, a bridge and a chorus.  Another thing to note is that although this song contains ten chords, it is basically a three-chord song (C-F-G7) with a little added spice. I put this in the key of C for ease of learning.
Verse: I-IM7-I7-IV-iv-I-V7
C Major (I): Home-Stable-Even Sounding
[C] I can’t stop this 
C Major 7 (IM7): Romantic-Light-Jazzy
[CM7] feeling
C Dominant 7th (I7): Tension
[C7] deep inside of
F Major (IV): Sunshiny-Slightly Melancholy-Even Sounding
[F] me 
F minor (iv): Sadness
[Fm] Girl you just don’t
C Major (I): Home-Stable-Even Sounding
[C] realize what you 
G Dominant 7th (V7): Tension
[G7]  do to me.  
Bridge: V7-I-I+-vi-I7
G Dominant 7th (V7): Tension
[G7] When you
C Major (I): Home-Stable-Even Sounding
[C] hold me in your 
C Major Augmented 5th (I+): Suspense
[C+] arms so tight, You let me 
A minor (vi): Sadness-Compassion
[Am]  know every
C Dominant 7th (I7): Tension
[C7] thing’s alright 
Chorus: IV-V7-I-V7-IV-V7-I-iii-IV-V7
F Major (IV): Sunshiny-Slightly Melancholy-Even Sounding
[F] I’m 
G Dominant 7th (V7): Tension
[G7] I’m hooked on a 
C Major (I): Home-Stable-Even Sounding
[C] feeling 
G Dominant 7th (V7): Tension
[G7] High on be-
F Major (IV): Sunshiny-Slightly Melancholy-Even Sounding
[F] lieving
G Dominant 7th (V7): Tension
[G7]  That you’re in
C Major (I): Home-Stable-Even Sounding
[C] love with
E minor (iii): Sad Yet Hopeful
[Em] me
F Major (IV): Sunshiny-Slightly Melancholy-Even Sounding
[F] Instrumental
G Dominant 7th (V7): Tension
[G7] Instrumental
Now try playing through the song again without looking at the chords, letting your ears guide you. Here’s how I did it.

When you finish your experiment, email me the test data on how this method of learning the chord progression worked for you.  Were you able to better recall the progression after a conscious effort to internalize the emotional quality of each chord in the progression?

Posting of this song is for educational purposes only.


2 Responses

  1. SJ says:

    This was a great way to learn the chord progression. It's too bad the lyrics didn't come as easily.

  2. Libby Wheeler says:

    Hi Jim.

    First of all, I was fortunate to participate in your great workshops with the Southern Ontario Ukulele Players in London, Ontario, Canada, so I was just a bit familiar with your “Sunshine, Tension, Home” terminology attached to F, G7 and C. I think that speeded up this process for me.

    Although I was totally unfamiliar with the song Hooked on a Feeling, within 20 minutes I was able to play through the song without following chords. I thought this was quite remarkable.

    I followed your process for the most part. I did a few reps of playing the song looking at the chords. When I tried to play the song by “memory” after that, I got stumped at the Fm. So then I really stopped to look at the “feelings” you described for each chord. This took a few minutes, because the temptation was to just read and follow the chords again. I did one other thing at this point: I printed out the lyrics to the song without the chords on a separate sheet of paper. That way, I could not peek and cheat (unfortunately an instinctive tendency as a born memorizer!). When I next played the song through, I found I could get much further into the song, because the chord progression seemed to make more sense to me. I think I really could “feel” the transition from C to C+ to Am to C7, for instance–a totally unfamiliar pattern to me. Who would have believed I would “get” that?

    A few more repetitions, and I was able to play the song from the lyrics only sheet without hesitation.

    This was a really fun experiment. It taught me a new way to analyse songs. In both the jam group and the performing group in which I participate, we are totally glued to our song sheets. Maybe there’s hope!

    Thanks so much.

    OK. It is now about 40 minutes since I started this exercise, including the practising of the song, and the careful writing of this email. I just went back to the lyric sheet (without chords) and played through the song smoothly. The proof is in the pudding! I have “internalized” the chords for this song. Wonderful.

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