Monday Mailbag – Teaching Chord Patterns

How do other teachers go about teaching the I – V7 chord pattern? I use a scale book primarily. I do explain it to them and some students get it; others have no clue and cannot convert the pattern to any other key!

When I introduce the I – V7 chord progression, it’s after the student has already learned their pentascales, primary triads, and inversions. So I just explain to them that sometimes it’s desirable to have an easier and faster way to switch chords than using the root position for each of the primary triads. I show them how they can use the inversions of the chords to keep their hand in the same general area of the keyboard. For the 7th chord specifically, I would just show them how to add the 7th to their dominant chord and then invert it into different positions. This easily segues into playing the progression including the V7 chord either in addition to or in place of the V chord.

Of course, the student rarely immediately absorbs all of this information, but we keep discussing it in subsequent weeks and I usually have them utilize it in a harmonization assignment (they play a tune like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in the RH while harmonizing in the LH). I don’t routinely use theory books with my student, so we do all of this at the keyboard or using the actual music that they are playing.

I definitely still need to work on more systematic approaches for some of these theory concepts, so if anyone else has suggestions of how they teach the V7 – I progression to their students, please feel free to share!

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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