The sexy secret of "one, four, five"

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The Sexy Secret of "One, Four, Five"
by Lisa McCormick


Let's face it, sometimes music theory just doesn’t seem very sexy.

But wait -

Have you ever lusted after figuring out how to play a song on the guitar, instantly, just by ear?

No sheet music, no tabs, no chord charts. Just you, the naked song, and the starry night. A match made in heaven.

Turns out, you may be a whole lot closer to that than you think.

In many cases, all you need is an understanding of the magic of "One, Four, Five", in order to quickly figure out how to play thousands of songs, by ear.

What's "One, Four, Five"?

"One, Four, Five" is common shorthand for Basic Chord Theory. And Basic Chord Theory is the hidden system behind what makes chords work together, within a key.

If you play a chord-based instrument (guitar, piano, organ, banjo, mandolin, uke, etc.), understanding Basic Chord Theory can be a real game changer for you and how you connect with your instrument.

What Does it Mean?

Let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in. Ready?

Every major key (like the key of C, for example), has a corresponding major scale (the C major scale).

Think: Do, Re, Me, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do.

(or: Sing the first line to the Christmas Carol 'Joy to the World', and you'll have the major scale, backwards!)

Now, replace the Do, Re, Mi's, etc. with numbers.

Do = 1. Re = 2. Mi = 3. Fa = 4. Sol = 5. La = 6. Ti = 7.

Sticking with the example of the key of C, and the C major scale, sing or play the scale starting on C.

Now, C = 1. D = 2. E = 3. F = 4. G = 5. A = 6. B = 7.

With me so far?

Now, single out number 1, number 4, and number 5.
("One, Four, Five", remember?)
And you get C, F, and G.

Finally, play those as major CHORDS (not just notes). You get a C major chord, an F major chord, and a G major chord.

Ready for the Sexy Part?

Now let's use these three chords (the One, the Four, and the Five) to figure out how to play a song, by ear.

Let's use the song 'Happy Birthday' as our guinea pig.

Play a C chord, and sing "Happy", with your voice on the note G. Keep going into the song (…birthday to…), playing a C chord the whole time.

When you get to the word "You", the C chord clashes with your voice! Ouch. Time to try a different option.

The rule of thumb here is to keep playing the same chord until you reach a point in the song where that chord does not work any more.

But rather than trying every other chord in the world to fix the problem, try using either the "Four" chord (F major), or, the "Five" chord (G major), to accompany the word "You" in the song.

Turns out the G chord sounds pretty good there (the "Five chord").

Keep playing the G chord, and singing the song (…you…Happy birthday to…), and once again, when you get to the word "you", it sounds like it's time to change chords.

Again, don't waste your time trying every chord in the world. Try your other two options, the C or the F. (the "One" or the "Four")

Turns out the C chord sounds pretty good there (the "One" chord).

Stay with the C chord, and keep singing the song (…you…Happy birthday dear…), and now, when you get to the word "Lisa" (sorry, couldn't resist!), it's time to change chords again.

What are your options? F, or G. Let's try the F, just for ha ha's (the "Four" chord).

Sing my name (or, rather, the name of your true love) and play the F chord. Ah, sweet perfection.

Keep with the F chord, and keep singing the song. (…Lisa…Happy…).

When we get to "Birthday", the F no loner sounds good, and the chord wants to change again. What'll you go for? The C? The G?

(if you figured out that it is a C, you get an extra present on your next b-day).

Almost to the end of the song. Sing "To", and play G. Sing "You" and play C.

Now congratulate yourself and make a wish!

This is the power of "One, Four, Five" in a nutshell, in the context of the key of C.

Five More Little Factoids You Need to Know:

1. This system works in every key, exactly the same way. Try working out the same song, in another key. How about the key of G?

2. This system will work for thousands of basic songs. Folk songs, pop songs, rock songs (remember "Three chords and an attitude"? THIS is what they were talking about!).

3. The more you practice working songs out by this system of trial and error, the better and faster you’ll get at it. Playing by ear will begin to come to naturally.

4. When "1", "4" and "5" don't cut it, try the The "2", "3", or the "6". But here's the rub: play these as MINOR chords.

5. Amongst musicians, chord-numbers are represented with Roman Numerals. Now that you understand the basics of the system, start using the nomenclature that the big kids use: 1 = I, 2 = II, 3 = III, 4 = IV, 5 = V, 6 = VI, 7 = VII.

6. What about the VII chord? It shows up far less frequently, for one thing. And when in does, it is played as a diminished chord. Let's worry about that later.

Now, Go Forth and Play!

Now that you know the secret system behind "I, IV, V" (that's "One, Four, FIve, silly), try it on some other common basic songs, just to get the hang of it. Yankee Doodle. Rockabye Baby. You Are My Sunshine. Amazing Grace. Joy to the World. Blue Suede Shoes.

Amaze yourself and impress your listener as song after song after song pours out of you and your instrument, seemingly like magic. Now, that’s sexy.
.


© Lisa McCormick, 2012
Lisa McCormick Music, LLC
All Rights Reserved.


Lisa McCormick is a guitarist, recording artist, and guitar instructor for GuitarTricks.com.

Her tutorial, The Secret Power of I, IV, V, (and beyond!) can be found in the GuitarTricks Full-Access Section.

(http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=997)
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact us.

#1

The Sexy Secret of "One, Four, Five"
by Lisa McCormick


Let's face it, sometimes music theory just doesn’t seem very sexy.

But wait -

Have you ever lusted after figuring out how to play a song on the guitar, instantly, just by ear?

No sheet music, no tabs, no chord charts. Just you, the naked song, and the starry night. A match made in heaven.

Turns out, you may be a whole lot closer to that than you think.

In many cases, all you need is an understanding of the magic of "One, Four, Five", in order to quickly figure out how to play thousands of songs, by ear.

What's "One, Four, Five"?

"One, Four, Five" is common shorthand for Basic Chord Theory. And Basic Chord Theory is the hidden system behind what makes chords work together, within a key.

If you play a chord-based instrument (guitar, piano, organ, banjo, mandolin, uke, etc.), understanding Basic Chord Theory can be a real game changer for you and how you connect with your instrument.

What Does it Mean?

Let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in. Ready?

Every major key (like the key of C, for example), has a corresponding major scale (the C major scale).

Think: Do, Re, Me, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do.

(or: Sing the first line to the Christmas Carol 'Joy to the World', and you'll have the major scale, backwards!)

Now, replace the Do, Re, Mi's, etc. with numbers.

Do = 1. Re = 2. Mi = 3. Fa = 4. Sol = 5. La = 6. Ti = 7.

Sticking with the example of the key of C, and the C major scale, sing or play the scale starting on C.

Now, C = 1. D = 2. E = 3. F = 4. G = 5. A = 6. B = 7.

With me so far?

Now, single out number 1, number 4, and number 5.
("One, Four, Five", remember?)
And you get C, F, and G.

Finally, play those as major CHORDS (not just notes). You get a C major chord, an F major chord, and a G major chord.

Ready for the Sexy Part?

Now let's use these three chords (the One, the Four, and the Five) to figure out how to play a song, by ear.

Let's use the song 'Happy Birthday' as our guinea pig.

Play a C chord, and sing "Happy", with your voice on the note G. Keep going into the song (…birthday to…), playing a C chord the whole time.

When you get to the word "You", the C chord clashes with your voice! Ouch. Time to try a different option.

The rule of thumb here is to keep playing the same chord until you reach a point in the song where that chord does not work any more.

But rather than trying every other chord in the world to fix the problem, try using either the "Four" chord (F major), or, the "Five" chord (G major), to accompany the word "You" in the song.

Turns out the G chord sounds pretty good there (the "Five chord").

Keep playing the G chord, and singing the song (…you…Happy birthday to…), and once again, when you get to the word "you", it sounds like it's time to change chords.

Again, don't waste your time trying every chord in the world. Try your other two options, the C or the F. (the "One" or the "Four")

Turns out the C chord sounds pretty good there (the "One" chord).

Stay with the C chord, and keep singing the song (…you…Happy birthday dear…), and now, when you get to the word "Lisa" (sorry, couldn't resist!), it's time to change chords again.

What are your options? F, or G. Let's try the F, just for ha ha's (the "Four" chord).

Sing my name (or, rather, the name of your true love) and play the F chord. Ah, sweet perfection.

Keep with the F chord, and keep singing the song. (…Lisa…Happy…).

When we get to "Birthday", the F no loner sounds good, and the chord wants to change again. What'll you go for? The C? The G?

(if you figured out that it is a C, you get an extra present on your next b-day).

Almost to the end of the song. Sing "To", and play G. Sing "You" and play C.

Now congratulate yourself and make a wish!

This is the power of "One, Four, Five" in a nutshell, in the context of the key of C.

Five More Little Factoids You Need to Know:

1. This system works in every key, exactly the same way. Try working out the same song, in another key. How about the key of G?

2. This system will work for thousands of basic songs. Folk songs, pop songs, rock songs (remember "Three chords and an attitude"? THIS is what they were talking about!).

3. The more you practice working songs out by this system of trial and error, the better and faster you’ll get at it. Playing by ear will begin to come to naturally.

4. When "1", "4" and "5" don't cut it, try the The "2", "3", or the "6". But here's the rub: play these as MINOR chords.

5. Amongst musicians, chord-numbers are represented with Roman Numerals. Now that you understand the basics of the system, start using the nomenclature that the big kids use: 1 = I, 2 = II, 3 = III, 4 = IV, 5 = V, 6 = VI, 7 = VII.

6. What about the VII chord? It shows up far less frequently, for one thing. And when in does, it is played as a diminished chord. Let's worry about that later.

Now, Go Forth and Play!

Now that you know the secret system behind "I, IV, V" (that's "One, Four, FIve, silly), try it on some other common basic songs, just to get the hang of it. Yankee Doodle. Rockabye Baby. You Are My Sunshine. Amazing Grace. Joy to the World. Blue Suede Shoes.

Amaze yourself and impress your listener as song after song after song pours out of you and your instrument, seemingly like magic. Now, that’s sexy.
.


© Lisa McCormick, 2012
Lisa McCormick Music, LLC
All Rights Reserved.


Lisa McCormick is a guitarist, recording artist, and guitar instructor for GuitarTricks.com.

Her tutorial, The Secret Power of I, IV, V, (and beyond!) can be found in the GuitarTricks Full-Access Section.

(http://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=997)
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact us.

john of MT

Full Access

Joined: 10/08/09

Posts: 1155

Ahhh...memories.

From school kid guitar lessons and music/choral classes I knew about I - IV - V but I just never 'heard' it. Then one day decades ago I heard an oldie but goodie tune on the radio and immediately played it. It was Tommy Roe's, "Shiela". That "sweet little girl" still gives me some sweet memories of an aha-moment and a breakthrough in playing "thousands of basic songs."

I was slow to hear the progression and to put the theory to practice but not so My Lady. Fast forward 45+ years and I'm back to playing guitar and practicing chord changes and she perks up, "Hey...that sounds like "Bristol Stomp!"" Darn! It took me a loonnng time to 'hear' that progression, but not her.

#2

Ahhh...memories.

From school kid guitar lessons and music/choral classes I knew about I - IV - V but I just never 'heard' it. Then one day decades ago I heard an oldie but goodie tune on the radio and immediately played it. It was Tommy Roe's, "Shiela". That "sweet little girl" still gives me some sweet memories of an aha-moment and a breakthrough in playing "thousands of basic songs."

I was slow to hear the progression and to put the theory to practice but not so My Lady. Fast forward 45+ years and I'm back to playing guitar and practicing chord changes and she perks up, "Hey...that sounds like "Bristol Stomp!"" Darn! It took me a loonnng time to 'hear' that progression, but not her.

bobbykeyz

Registered User

Joined: 02/25/13

Posts: 1

Beethoven, Johnny Cash, John Lennon

Hi, I'm a guitar player who switched to keys about 7 years ago. Back in college after 35 years where I flunked theory twice. Studying guitar again. Over the years I retained enough info to have become a fairly proficient Pop/Blues keyboardist. Now playing with two performing bands in Wichita, Ks. One phrase that has stuck with me all these years from my theory prof, was, "Beethoven, Johnny Cash and John Lennon all have one thing in common". Of course we wer thinking - What the hell could that be? And it was, I, IV, V. He also said there is no mathematical resolution to the ways you can configure scales, It Is Infinitesimal. That is why there are thousands of songs in Keys like, C, F, E A and D. All based on that little bit of magical, sexy, absolutely simple theory trick. Know this and music becomes a whole new world. I just joined this site, and I think I'm going to like it.

BobbyKeyz

#3

Beethoven, Johnny Cash, John Lennon

Hi, I'm a guitar player who switched to keys about 7 years ago. Back in college after 35 years where I flunked theory twice. Studying guitar again. Over the years I retained enough info to have become a fairly proficient Pop/Blues keyboardist. Now playing with two performing bands in Wichita, Ks. One phrase that has stuck with me all these years from my theory prof, was, "Beethoven, Johnny Cash and John Lennon all have one thing in common". Of course we wer thinking - What the hell could that be? And it was, I, IV, V. He also said there is no mathematical resolution to the ways you can configure scales, It Is Infinitesimal. That is why there are thousands of songs in Keys like, C, F, E A and D. All based on that little bit of magical, sexy, absolutely simple theory trick. Know this and music becomes a whole new world. I just joined this site, and I think I'm going to like it.

BobbyKeyz

LisaMcC

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 11/02/06

Posts: 3312

Shhhh - don't tell the rest of the world how simple it really is. It is an essential secret ingredient to our mystique as music makers...(AND it really is profoundly powerful).
-Lisa
Lisa McCormick, GT Instructor
Acoustic, Folk, Pop, Blues

Full Catalog of Lisa's Guitar Tricks Tutorials
Find Lisa on Facebook!

#4

Shhhh - don't tell the rest of the world how simple it really is. It is an essential secret ingredient to our mystique as music makers...(AND it really is profoundly powerful).
-Lisa
Lisa McCormick, GT Instructor
Acoustic, Folk, Pop, Blues

Full Catalog of Lisa's Guitar Tricks Tutorials
Find Lisa on Facebook!

john of MT

Full Access

Joined: 10/08/09

Posts: 1155

Add the relative minor (vi) chord and one ends up with hundreds of songs in the repertoire.

A couple nights ago I was aimlessly surfing the 'net and Google'd "I-vi-IV-V". What returned were dozens of hits about the "50's progression" AKA the "doo wop" progression. That's an understandable nomenclature.

But what amused me is the other name that seems to be popular (although new to me), the "ice cream progression" or "ice cream changes". According to one page I saw the progression is so named because its 'sweet and familiar'.

I found a bunch of interesting trivia about the progression...check it out.
"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time."
-- Chet Atkins

#5

Add the relative minor (vi) chord and one ends up with hundreds of songs in the repertoire.

A couple nights ago I was aimlessly surfing the 'net and Google'd "I-vi-IV-V". What returned were dozens of hits about the "50's progression" AKA the "doo wop" progression. That's an understandable nomenclature.

But what amused me is the other name that seems to be popular (although new to me), the "ice cream progression" or "ice cream changes". According to one page I saw the progression is so named because its 'sweet and familiar'.

I found a bunch of interesting trivia about the progression...check it out.
"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time."
-- Chet Atkins

john of MT

Full Access

Joined: 10/08/09

Posts: 1155

I love vampire threads. ;)

Thirty eight contemporary songs using our favorite progression. I'd love to see these guys do this with Oldies...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I
"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time."
-- Chet Atkins

#6

I love vampire threads. ;)

Thirty eight contemporary songs using our favorite progression. I'd love to see these guys do this with Oldies...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I
"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time."
-- Chet Atkins

Guitar Ralf

Registered User

Joined: 05/29/14

Posts: 1

I Iv V

Good work Lisa. I never thought about a sexy secret. I tried the CAGED chord in the I - IV - V routine a couple times. then I started to link them. I started with C - F -G then continued with G - C - D , then I choosed D Major because the dominant ( the 5th.Chord ) in G Major is D. Always strumming up and down Just to learn the chords ... I found twelve different I - IV - V combinations .

Ralf

#7

I Iv V

Good work Lisa. I never thought about a sexy secret. I tried the CAGED chord in the I - IV - V routine a couple times. then I started to link them. I started with C - F -G then continued with G - C - D , then I choosed D Major because the dominant ( the 5th.Chord ) in G Major is D. Always strumming up and down Just to learn the chords ... I found twelve different I - IV - V combinations .

Ralf