Overview (Pop)

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We’re going to learn to play pop songs on piano by understanding and interpreting them in a “modular” way (in terms of their component parts).

Let’s consider the components of a song:

The Whole Song

“The whole song” is everything from start to finish. At this “level”, you can consider the length, style, instrumentation, character, meaning, lyrics… everything you “feel” about the song is usually discussed at this level.

The Sections

One “level” down from “the whole song” are the sections. Here, I’m talking about the structure of the song as it goes along through time. This stuff will be mostly familiar to most people… a song may be comprised of things like “verse” and “chorus” as well as perhaps less familiar terms like “bridge”, “middle 8″, “intro”, “outro”, “solo”… etc. We cover all this in due course, but it’s useful to start thinking about songs in terms of the “bits” they’re made up of.

Chord Progressions

When approaching a pop song, all sections (more or less) should be seen as being comprised of “chord progressions”. A “chord” is a combination of notes that characterise a few moments of a song before “progressing” to another chord. Most of the character in popular piano music is underpinned by the “feeling” caused by progressing from one chord to the next.

Beats and Bars

Try this… count “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4″ over and over, out loud whilst tapping the table.

What you’re doing is creating “bars” of four “beats”.

Every four “beats” (1, 2, 3, 4) makes a “bar”.

Beats and bars are the unit of measurement we use to describe time passing in a song.

Most importantly, it is how we establish how long each chord lasts in a chord progression.

What’s the point of all this?

If you’re going to learn pop piano in a relaxed, easy way… we just need to be breaking it into bite-sized chunks that are easy to handle, and this is the terminology we will be using.

The next lesson contains a more detailed look at some of these terms, then we’ll be getting stuck into some playing!

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