One Chord at a Time

by Melissa McNeely

There used to be a commercial of some kind that had the byline of ‘oh what a difference a day makes!’ I’m embarrassed to say that I do not remember the product that this commercial was selling, but like so many other overly repeated ad tag lines dancing around in my foggy memory, I remember some pretty catchy ad tag lines! What I can tell you is that sometimes when I sit at the piano to practice, I think of this specific ad tag line, and it helps keep me motivated to work a little bit longer on a skill I’m currently working on. But I do like to insert many other words into the phrase, you know, to keep things interesting. Oh, what a difference some piano practice makes! Oh, what a difference warming up before playing the piano makes! Oh, what a difference knowing one more chord makes! Oh, what a difference some repetition makes! Oh, what a difference marking my music with my fingering makes! And on and on!

I’m working on lots of new things with my piano practice. One specific thing I’m working towards is more chord comfortability. In a basic sense, I’m working on learning more chords. Now, in one of my last group lessons, I was exposed to SO MANY chords I dare say I was in shock with the amount of chords out there to learn! I’m starting to focus on one, or maybe two chords at a time and then try to get those chords solid in my brain. I’m proud to report I’m pretty comfortable with G Major and C Major cords right now. The D7 chord is my next chord in progress. Again, with a very long road of chords ahead of me, I took time to ask Ashlee from Ashlee Young Music Studio how I was to possibly commit all of these chords to memory? (I may have drawn from my overly dramatic side but I’ve calmed down a little bit now!) But I want to share with you, what Ashlee shared with me. Ashlee told me that she started learning the piano at a fairly young age, and has played the piano the majority of her life. She played through high school and then went on to college and got an undergraduate degree IN MUSIC, and went on to get a Master’s Degree in MUSIC and it wasn’t until she was in graduate school that she felt confidently comfortable with all of the chords! WHAT!? Okay, so, this information helped me immensely, as you can imagine. It helped me reframe my own chord knowledge expectations to a manageable goal!

Armed with this new information, and Ashlee’s great encouragement I may add, I slowed down my goals for ALL OF THE CHORDS “memorization” goals, and started to focus more wholey on the individual chords, one at at time. I thought if I could get one or two ‘down’ I’d be lightyears ahead of where I am now. After feeling comfortable I would then practice them with my left hand and then my right hand. The fingering is so different depending on the hand you are using! What I’m discovering is that my hands need repetition to get these chords ingrained into them, not to mention my brain. Lots of repetition. But with every practice session, my fingers are finding their way to their correct keys for the chords almost like magic! And with both hands! What I’m also doing, is pairing my new chord learning with a piece using those chords precisely.

And how is it going you may ask? Each time I sit down to practice and work on these chords, I’m feeling more and more confident! Dare I say, ‘oh what a difference A SINGLE CHORD makes!’


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