Want to develop better ears while you also get some new skills together on piano? In this week’s tutorial, I will show you how to play a simple chord progression on the piano, while you sing along. Super easy and fun! Piano skills and ear training should always be combined for maximum efficiency.
What is a cadence?
A cadence in music is the close of a musical phrase, where there is some kind of moving chord to a resting chord. Today’s cadence is called the Plagal Cadence, and is often referred to as the “church cadence.” The IV-I resolution is a subdominant cadence, and shows up all over the place in pretty much every style of classical and contemporary music, from Handel’s Messiah to country music to the Blues.
The Plagal Cadence
Here is I – IV – I in the key of C. Notice I have notated it with the C in Root position and the F in 2nd inversion for voice leading purposes. Voice leading is when you choose chord inversions that allow each of the notes or voices to move as smoothly as possible.
When we move from C to F, notice that the bottom note stays the same, the middle note moves up by a ½ step and the top note moves up by a whole step. This movement will stay the same in every key. I find it’s a lot easier to transpose when you think of the intervals!
Practice via the Circle of 5ths
We are going to practice this via the circle of 5ths: C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G and C.
You should also practice this clockwise via the circle of 5ths: C, G, D, A, E, B, Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, F and C.
Once you are comfortable playing this through the keys, we are going to turn this into an ear training exercise. Your left hand is going to play the root of each chord, which functions as our bass note.
Next, sing along with the bass line using Do for the I chord and Fa for the IV chord. You could also sing “1” and “4,” if that is more comfortable for you.
How to Practice
- Practice singing and playing this through all 12 keys via the Circle of 5ths.
- For an extra challenge, practice singing this while playing DOWN to the IV chord. This can be harder to hear and sing!
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