The use of chordal progressions became popular in the Baroque era and serve as the harmonic structure of most of what we hear today. The word “chord” comes from the Middle English word “cord”, which is a shortened version of the common word, “accord”, which is either a sense of agreement or harmonious sound, according to Wikipedia.

Playing or even understanding chords can be less than harmonious, though. They just look like a black stack attack on the page, right? However, learning to identify chords and chord progressions, whether by ear or by charts, can have a positive impact on all your musical skills, from jazz improvisation to playing well with others.

If It Ain’t Baroque…

the-baroque-eraThe term “baroque” has been widely used since the nineteenth century to describe the period in Western European art music from about 1600 to 1750. It was the era of the famous composers Handel and Bach. Even though the music of the era is over 400 years old, it is more popular today than it ever was, enjoying a revival in the 20th century.  We began our exploration of classical music in the Renaissance, which was when all the characteristics that would eventually become classical music came together. Now have a listen to the music of the magnificent Baroque era of music, which offers something for everyone.

For more on Baroque music history, Music of the Baroque offers this fantastic timeline of the era.

Would you like a more in-depth look at the music of the Baroque era? Have a look at this Baroque Music Beginner’s Guide from Classic FM.

Where did the symphony orchestra come from? Aaron Long created an educational cartoon to show the development of the Baroque Orchestra:

Humble Hip Hop Origins

hip-hopWhen most people think of “hip hop”, they immediately think of rap music. However, hip hop is far more powerful, complex and poignant than the mainstream media would have you believe. Hip hop is a form of musical expression that has enhanced and empowered the lives of many people for over forty years. Musical U takes you on a historical journey through the history of hip hop, from old school to new, and explores why hip hop is as influential as ever today.

Out of troubled urban centers, specifically The Bronx in New York City, arose the music of hip hop. The Paley Center for Media Out has more on the emergence of hip hop in this article.

It is said that there are four elements of hip hop, not just rap. To learn more about these pillars, check out this article from The National Museum of Hip Hop.

Could it be that there are actually five elements of hip hop—or more? In this video, Afrika Bambaataa, an American disc jockey from the South Bronx, New York, talks about how there has been a media fascination with only one aspect of hip-hop when there should also be a focus on knowledge:

Jazz Hands!

2-ways-to-accelerate-your-jazz-learning-with-dr-stefan-hallAre you interested in accelerating your jazz guitar learning? Then follow this two-step approach from Dr. Stefan Hall, a humanities professor who moonlights as a professional jazz guitarist and teacher. In previous parts of our interview with Dr. Hall, we asked him how he taught himself to play jazz guitar by ear, and how he teaches his students to do the same. However, learning to play jazz requires some theory and in the third part of our interview with him, we see what happens when he combines deep listening experience with the physical fretboard experience of modes and chords.

Dr. Hall teaches his students to begin improvising by learning modes. In this lesson from Jazz Guitar, you’ll learn what the modes are, how they look on the guitar and how you can use them in your guitar solos and improvisations.

By combining the use of modes with ear training, you can learn to accelerate your jazz learning. Learn Jazz Faster has this video which aims to improve your improvisational skills with the application of chords and chord patterns:

Ignite Your Musical Future

igniting-your-future-in-music-with-susan-de-weger-1How many music conservatory grads wind up with the coveted orchestra job? Five percent. That’s not very many, so what happens to the rest of the graduates? Musical U has been asking Notable Values Founder, Susan De Weger, about her own musical career, how to help aspiring musicians tackle the 21st-century job market by thinking about your musical identity. In the last part of their interview series with Susan, they asked her about the IgniteLab program at the Melbourne Conservatorium, which is her latest venture in helping musicians to find their unique career paths.

Are you interested in having advice about career-building right from the source? Check out IgniteLab’s three easy steps to advancing your career through personal branding.

For many of you, the concept of artist “branding” might be a new concept. Skinny Artist explains: think of it as a stamp by which people will recognize you.

The idea of creating a brand is to stand out from the crowd. Music Industry How To lists five ways in which you can stand out from the competition in music and bring your game to the next level.

Basic Chord Ear Training

training-your-ears-for-chordsIsn’t it magical when someone sits down at the piano or picks up the guitar and seems to know how to play every song by ear? If you would like to learn how to be that type of musician, focus your ears on identifying chords and chord progressions, as these seemingly “magical” musicians have done.

Even if you don’t play a chordal instrument, this very valuable musical skill will help advance your other musical skills and teach you to hear harmony in a new light. Here, we take a look at the very basics of chord ear training, from defining a chord to explaining how to hear chord progressions.

Your chord ear training will start with learning to identify major and minor “flavors”. For more on how to do that, we turn to Guitar Lessons for their advice of learning to recognize chord qualities.

We mentioned that you ought to start chord recognition training with the different types of triads. Composer David E. Farrell has this video tutorial on all things triad:

When you learn a jazz standard by ear, how should you go about figuring out the chords changes? Jazz Advice tells you how to listen to chords progressions by focusing on the root of the chord.

Harmony will set you free!

From learning to play modes and chords on the guitar to the poignant expressions of hip hop, having a good understanding of Western harmony and its history has endless benefits for all musicians, even if you don’t play a chordal instrument.

With a better understanding how chords work together to create harmony, you will develop a greater appreciation of music in general, and have a more harmonious musical experience, whether playing solo or with others. Enjoy your musical journey!