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Analyzing a Congregational Song

posted Mar 26, 2011, 3:17 PM by Christie Funchess   [ updated Jun 7, 2011, 11:49 AM by Laurie Lightbody ]

Some people might say that theory in any field is not extremely practical. I hope that we have disproven this assumption at least in the field of music from our theory lessons. Today, we are going to take what we have learned and make it extremely practical. Let’s look at the standard gospel song, “Nothing But the Blood.” We will examine the chords and offer a few comments that might apply to other songs as well.

Remember, this is a basic harmonization. The hymnbook you use may vary. After we work through this, it would be a great exercise to look at your own harmonization of “Nothing But the Blood” and determine what is different and how that might affect what you would play. These are the basic steps I follow when analyzing a song.

1. Determine the key signature. In our case, the answer is G Major.

2. Review that key’s primary chords. I - GBD; IV - CEG; V - DF#A. (This helps you to recognize them quickly when analyzing.)

3. Go beat by beat, measure by measure, and name the chords.

~ Measure 1

            beat 1: I - G Major

            beat 2: “

            beat 3: “

            beat 4: V - D Major

~ Measure 2

            beat 1: I - G Major

            beat 2: “

            beat 3-4: “

~ Measure 3

            beat 1: I - G Major

            beat +: “

            beat 2: “

            beat +: V - D Major

            beat 3: I - G Major

            beat 4: “

~ Measure 4

            beat 1-2: V - D Major

            beat 3-4: I - G Major

~ Measures 5-8

            Repeats measures 1-4, hooray!

~ Measure 9

            beat 1-2: I - G Major

            beat 3: I - “

            beat 4: V - D Major

~ Measure 10

            beat 1: I - G Major

            beat 2: I - “

            beat 3-4: I - “

~ Measure 11

            beat 1-2: V - D Major

            beat 3: “

            beat 4: vi - e minor

~ Measure 12

            beat 1: V D Major

            beat 2: “

            beat 3: I - G Major

            beat 4: “

~ Measures 13-14

            Repeats measures 9-10!

~ Measures 15-16

            Repeats measures 3-4!                                                         

A few comments:

- I would never write it out like this on paper. The list above is only for the format of the blog. I normally just write the Roman numeral under the chord it names. (Visit here to see a PDF version with the Roman numerals under the chords.)

- The only non-primary chord was the minor six “e minor” chord. The notes of the chord spelled from bass to soprano are “e, b, g.” Always stack notes in thirds if possible. “E, G, B,” spells the e minor chord. In the key of G Major, e is the sixth note of the scale, so I know that this is a vi chord. I know it is minor, because it is made up of a minor third with a major third on top.

- This example was particularly easy. All of the chords were found in root form. In a later lesson we will explain how to recognize chords that are in inversions. (The basic principle is take the notes given and stack them in thirds. The bottom note will name the chord.)

Our knowledge of chords just helped us to analyze a song out of the hymnbook. You can play with much more confidence when you recognize the chords before your hands have to play them! Anyone ready to do “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”? It can wait. This week, try to do some more on your own. In our next lesson, we will discover some of my favorite chords, secondary dominants. Until then, happy analyzing!

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