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Simple Chords And Substitutions

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I have an anglo Rochelle. I am just learning to play (less than a month), and can handle most songs (melody line) in the key of C, G, and F with practice. I am practicing a lot and making good progress. But trying to add chords perplexes me. My interest in music is mostly vintage popular jazz tunes of the 20's and 30's and 40's, hymns, and contemporary Christian.


I understand that many players use a one note approach to add depth.


There seems to be so many chords. I was wondering this: if I play with a group and I want to play chords (probably partial):


(1) Are there chords that are not necessary and can be substituted by other chords? If so, which can be substituted and with what? Or perhaps there is a chart somewhere.


(2) Since most of my notes seem to be played with the left hand, is it ever advisable to pay chords with the right hand?


When I play traditional hymns, I noticed it easy to create harmonies that sound decent. Playing the tune in thirds on the left hand works sometimes, and when playing with the right hand, a good note seems to be playing the C/D and E/F buttons on the left.


But thirds or fifths don't always sound quite right, and this does not seem to work well with popular jazz. Any advice on this subject?

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I think General Discussions or especially Teaching and Learning would be a better location for your query (sorry, I can't help with your question).

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Hello, Ed,


I see we have a bit of overlap in our repertoires! I'm fond of traditional hymn tunes, too (including Scottish Psalm tunes), but my "popular ditties" tend to be earlier than yours - more in the 1890 to 1920 period.


I also find that hymn tunes and older popular songs lend themselves to harmonising on the Anglo. They're the type of music that was around in the Anglo's heyday. Often, you can get by with the I, IV, V7 and vi chords of the key you're playing in, but you sometimes need the I7 or the II7 as well. (In absolute terms, for the key of C major, that would be C, F, G7 and Am chords, with the occasional C7 to lead you to F, or D7 to lead you to G.)


The jazzier it gets, the more chords you need, and often the chord sheets for jazz-era tunes include C4, C6 or Cm7 and other 4-note chords. Some of these you can find on the Anglo, if you know what notes are in the chord, and search the button layout of your Anglo for them.

However, if you're playing in a group, you don't have to play the full chord - if someone else supplies the notes you miss out. In these cases, it's usually enough to play just the simple major or minor chords with the same name (e.g. for Cadd9, just play C major, and let someone else add the 9th step).


So how do yo play the chords you need? Some years ago in this forum, someone posted the chart in the atttached file. I've found it really useful. I just learnt the chord shapes and practised changing between them, as I did for rhythm guitar. The chart gives you the buttons and bellows directions for chords in the left hand. If you're supplying the chords while someone else plays the melody, I find it best to keep the chords low, i.e. on the left. For special effect, you can, of course, find most chords on the right, too, or spread them over both hands.


Hope this helps,





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Dear Jim R., oops -- you are right. Thought I started this in General Discussion! Can't figure out how to move it now. Sorry about that.


John, thanks for you help. I will study the charts with interest!

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It's not just what chord you can make, but how best to make them. You have a choice between:

1) Playing block chords of 3 or more buttons all together.

2) An oom-pah style in which you play a low note (1st, 3rd or 5th of the chord) on the on beat and then 2 (or more) higher notes on the off beat.

3) Parallel octaves - same note on each hand.

4) Playing an accompaniment in open 5ths (that is, just play the 1st and 5th of the chord)

5) As 4, but filling in the 3rd on the off beat.

6) Playing arpeggios - that is, playing the individual notes of the chord one after the other instead of all together.

7) Playing counter melodies - melodic lines on the left hand that enhance the main melody rather than replicating it.


All of these produce a different sound and feel.


You have a wide range of chords and partial chords available - and a whole new range if you play on the G row, or across the rows rather than sticking to the C row.


It is a long term commitment, and the tunes that sound great today with a "3 chord trick" oom-pah accompaniment will sound even better in a year or two when you find yourself adding minor chords and 7ths.


Often, I play the same tune but chop and change how I accompany it. I don't stick to one absolutely strict arrangement of each tune.

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