For this exercise we will play the song in G Major, which is the key the Glee
cast have used. This way you can play along to Glee’s version comparing
what you come up with as you work on your arrangement. (If want to change
the key of this or another song, please refer to the last page on transposing.)
Let’s listen first to the bass line. It begins by moving up and down in scale
tones (the entire song is based on the G major scale), but the bass line starts
and then lands on the downbeat of each chord in our progression. In other
words, these chord changes happen on beat one of each bar...each chord
getting 4 beats.
The first bass note is G-moving up to D-moving up to E-then down to C. This
bass note pattern repeats, except it moves down to B from D (instead of up
to E) on the repeat like this:
G-D-E-C G-D-B-C this is the simple bass note pattern for all our verses-the
intro- the interludes-and the ending. Practically the whole song!
Now your basic theory will come in handy here when trying to figure out
what the chords will be. We know that there are three major chords and three
minor chords in any major key.
We are in G major...so our three major chords are G-C-and D Major (built on
the 1st-4th-and 5th tones of the G major scale) The three minor chords are e-minor,
a-minor and b-minor (built on the 6th-2nd-and 3rd tones of the G major scale)
So now we can see that the chord progression here will be:
G Major-D Major-e minor-C Major
G Major-D Major-b minor-C Major
Again...these chord changes happen on beat one of each bar, each chord
getting 4 beats, or one chord per bar.
Now picking out the melody will be done by ear. Listen to the melody...maybe
sing along. Once it is in your head, sit at the keyboard and pick out the
melody notes. Having the lyric sheet might be helpful. This is a fairly
simple melody most of which is based on only 5 notes. (All in the G major
To begin play a G Major chord-the first chord of the song. Hint: the first
note of the melody is one of the notes in the G major triad. Melodies are
often found inside the chord’s triad (or one tone away)...not always...but
it is a good place to start looking. Ear training, identifying intervals, is another
great skill to have and will streamline this process. You may want to ask your
teacher about this or search out info on ear training exercises. I highly
Play the chord progression as you look and listen for the melody. This may
take some time, but remember that you are getting familiar with the building
blocks of the song, which will help you to create your own version of the
song as you go along. This exercise will also help you get started writing
your own songs.
Move on to the chorus of the song once you have the verse’s melody in hand.
(You may want to change the melody slightly from verse to verse...but it is
pretty much the same all the way through!)
Do the same exercise for figuring out the chorus. Hint: The first four notes of
the melody are all suspended over one bass note (also called a pedal tone). The
bass rocks back and forth for two bars on an octave C...the chords played over
that are D Major-C Major-D major-C Major7 followed by two bars of G Major...
and then all of this is repeated and ends with what is know as a turnaround, a
series of chords that lead us back to the verse. Our turnaround is made up of the
three major chords found in our key (G Major) See if you can hear that and find
Once we have the basic melody and chord progression in hand, it is time to
see what we might want to do to arrange this song to our liking.
Here are the parts of this song we will want to identify and this will make up
our song’s arrangement pattern (keep in mind that many of these parts are
repeated patterns i.e. the melody-the chorus-the interlude-and the turnaround
are all repeated.)
1. The intro (uses the same chords as the verse)
2. Verse 1 (Melody starts here.)
3. Verse 2 (same chords and melody)
4. The interlude (same chord progression as the verse)
5. Verse 3 (same chords with added left hand movement.)
6. The chorus (has it’s own chord progression played twice)
7. A short turnaround (taking us back to the verse chords)
8. Repeat intro (same chord progression as the verse)
9. Verse 4 (same chords and melody as other verses)
10. Verse 5 (same chords and melody as other verses)
11. Repeated chorus (same chords and melody as first chorus)
12. Repeated turnaround (same as before)
13. Interlude...improvisation optional...use verse chords.
14. Tag/Ending (continue verse chords...play title/hook melody, 'Don’t Stop
Believing' etc, over the verse to end)
The rest is up to you! The tempo, the key, your dynamics, and the overall
feeling and vibe you want your version to have. Playing along with a recording
of the song at home can also be a great way to learn the piece and have some
fun in the process!
I also suggest you find a way to record your arranging and writing sessions
so you don’t lose any great ideas. You will find that going back to these
recorded sessions will help you to pick up where you left off as these
session can go off and on for days and even weeks. And remember have fun!!!
A FEW NOTES ON TRANSPOSING TO A NEW KEY
A simple way to transpose your song is to use the number system that has
been a standard method used especially by studio musicians who need to
sometimes quickly transpose a song for a singer that is having difficulty
singing in the key they have started with.
This number method of notating chord changes will work in all keys. You just
need to know how to play all your chords and scales...easy right? :-)
For example, the rock band Journey's original song, 'Don't Stop Believing', is
in the key of E Major. (Glee’s version is in G Major.)
The verse chord changes begin with this simple chord sequence:
E Major, B Major, c# minor, A Major
Looking at these first four chords let’s assign a number which corresponds
to the scale sequence they fall into.
E Major = 1, as it is the first note of the E major scale. B is the 5th note
of the E major scale, so our B Major chord = 5. C# is the 6th tone of the
scale and A is the 4th tone.
So using this system our first four chord changes can be noted as:
or you may also use roman numerals:
I -V-VI min-IV