“The Chord Approach: The Easy-Peasy Way To Make Music!” by Nancee Marin


Regardless of your genre preference or level of playing, having music theory knowledge is indispensable. The term “theory” is pretty much a misnomer since it is something practical for the performance and enjoyment of music. It should actually be called music grammar because it functions exactly like grammar in any language. Both involve basic building blocks and formulas derived from them. Western music uses notes in half and whole steps and intervals (which in turn form scales and chords, respectively) as its foundation while language uses words, syntax, and other parts of speech (tenses, etc). If you know the most important general grammatical rules for one particular language, then you can easily learn, memorize, and formulate both formal and informal forms of that language—and yes, that also includes slang! As a multilingual freak, I’ve had people ask me how to teach certain expressions in certain languages, and of course, they want to know the most hip and the oh-so-popular all-time favorites—ah, those good ol’ cuss words! Well, I’m not exactly a prude, but I simply tell them to learn the basic grammar first and they can go from there. So if you’ve got the basics down pat already and you want to impress native speakers or sound like one, you can pick up books on colloquial expressions to learn new materials. You’ll find that you can just “plug and play”—“plug” in the essentials you’ve previously learned and apply the new stuff to them, then “play” around with them to make new sentences! Pretty soon you’ll come up with many colorful ways to express yourself, and let’s hope it’s not limited to just, well, profanity. 🙂

It’s exactly the same thing in music. The most elementary concepts in music theory (the chord approach in particular) are the foundation for more advanced levels and they apply to all styles of music. Notice, for example, that standard pop radio hits and traditional hymns are both chord-heavy. They both require the solid proficiency of reading and playing chords. The chord approach is especially a huge incentive for beginners as it helps them sound and look like pros. Even the knowledge of simple chords gives them the ability to move around across the instrument and to harmonize simple melodies, which is a gateway to playing by ear. So, knowing music theory will certainly get you places. It helps you become versatile in more than one style. It doesn’t matter what you play. If you’re a prospective student or already a beginning student, you don’t have to force yourself (or allow yourself to be forced!) to learn classical music first (as the “fundie” piano teaching establishment would like you to believe)! For one thing, a C note is a C note, no matter how you slice it. A C note in “Three Blind Mice” is the same C note in Beethoven’s 5th. A C chord in Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” is the same C chord in those good ol’ time hymnal pages (say, Silent Night). The 3rd interval in a Willie Nelson tune is the same one as the one in one of those Justin Bieber ditties. ‘Nuff said.

Recall that learning music is a lot like learning a language. Both are means of expression. In language acquisition, it starts with listening and then imitating the words being said. This is how babies and young children learn how to express themselves. Reading and writing are the final stages in the process. Ironically, in traditional music teaching, the order is backwards. Students are expected to read and write notes by rote first, then “express” (playing music by ear, improvisation, or other creative means) later. Seeing the slow progress, no wonder many folks are frustrated with the old-school method to the point of quitting cold turkey! Music theory has been usually just taught as rote memorization of rules without much practical application. So, to put it not-so-mildly, teaching sightreading and rote music theory right off the bat is just as goofy as teaching young ones how to read and write without teaching them how to speak FIRST, and who would really think about carrying a conversation by strictly reading books or memorizing words instead of spontaneously coming up with words to use to chat someone up? That’s just like programming a bunch of robots to talk, and frankly, it’s totally unnatural.

I’m definitely not throwing the poor baby with the bathwater when it comes to “traditional” music theory. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. It simply needs to be turned the other way. 🙂 That said, the “contemporary” chord approach is very popular for a very good reason. For one, it’s some sort of “shortcut” applicable to ALL genres and ALL levels of music mastery as mentioned earlier, and some instruments lend themselves especially well to it. As a pianist/keyboardist trapped in a guitarist’s body (and/or vice versa?), I like to use the guitar and piano as prime examples. The way they’re built allows instant visual and tactile approach. Both are stringed instruments with the notes/pitches and fingerings chromatically arranged, so the patterns are easily felt and seen. Music theory concepts such as half and whole steps and intervals that make up scales and chords are easily shown on the layout of the instrument as early as the first lesson. NO note reading is even necessary! Naturally, sightreading instruction is included in small increments within the context of chords and fingering patterns. I’ve personally used this method with a number of students over several years, and I’ve found that there’s higher retention rate as they get higher levels of enjoyment and comprehension.

Therefore, the chord approach is a more satisfying way to learn and play music, including (and especially) in the beginning stages. You have more ingredients available at your disposal to cook things up. Call it the get-pitch-quick scheme. 🙂 It’s almost instant gratification—with a bit of work, of course. This isn’t some snake oil-type “learn to play in a flash” solution, for sure, but there’s the sense of accomplishment in knowing how to play with a richer sound across the full range of the instrument using just a few notes, and out of them infinite permutations and combos are available at your fingertips! This opens up the creative world of improv and composition, for which musicians, songwriters, and composers across the globe and throughout all eras are known and admired!

If you’re curious about how the chord approach works and if you’ve always wanted to learn how to play in less time with less stress and more enjoyment and more bang for the buck or if you’re a teacher or musician wanting to expand your horizons, I’ll be more than happy to talk to you. Feel free to contact me to discuss possibilities to go forward together!


tHE WEEKLY- Paradoxical Abnormality by Iki Taimi


Pastors Corner:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, so I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

-Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

Light Yoke Please: Image

We are coming into the Passion week and so I thought it would be appropriate to share a Jesus moment, direct from Yeshua himself.  Jesus is a paradoxical abnormality that confounds our very being.  He claimed all authority in heaven and earth but lived a life, from a manger birth to a wooden cross death, of complete humility.  He was All God, AND still All man.  Jesus ate and lived among “sinners” but knew not sin.  He baffled Pilate, infuriated the Pharisees, and dethroned Herod.  Jesus demands all of our life but then says that his burden is light and yoke is easy.  He tells us that if we cling to life we will lose it but if we give our life up for His sake, that there we will find it.  He takes the role of the High Priest, as well as the sacrifice.  He claims the absurdity of the meek inheriting the earth, and the Kingdom belonging to the poor in spirit!   Jesus is a paradoxical abnormality.

Ellen G. White wrote, “By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin.  It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen.” So it would seem that even in death, the crudest and most definitive state of absolute separation, Jesus is able to UNITE!  Yes, Jesus is essence of things I cannot understand or fully grasp.  He is the overwhelming grace and hope of the impossible becoming possible.  This Galilean carpenter is indeed the God of the Universe, and He draws me into His presence and loves me as His very friend, even while I still consider him my enemy!  Thank God Jesus is my paradoxical abnormality!  


Pastor Iki

“Satisfaction Guaranteed” by Iki Taimi

Pastors CornerImage

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in the scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

-Isaiah (Isaiah 58:11)


Satisfaction Gauranteed:

You and I hear this saying when people are trying to sell us things.  They want us to know that we can trust in their product to meet our very needs.  We are led to believe that if we buy the item our every desire will be fulfilled and we will want for nothing.  The word “satisfy” intrigues me, meaning to meet the need or desires of someone; To fulfill.  This is everyone’s hang up!  We all want “satisfaction.”  It rings to the very core of humanity.  This is at the root of our motivation for any goal that we have.  

We want to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or met! The deepest most intimate burning of our hearts to feel safe, accepted, loved, empowered, respected.  So we work hard, study long hours, sacrifice ourselves, accrue money, and spend it, in order to have these pieces of our lives met.  We sleep with as many people as it takes to feel loved and accepted.  We give up our health working too many hours so that people would respect us.  We fight, and beat others up emotionally, physically, or mentally so that we could feel empowered.  We try to act tough and shut ourselves emotionally off to others around us, trying not to show vulnerability, to feel safe.  We think that money, things, and positions would “satisfy” our deepest cravings. And at the end of the day we are not “satisfied.”

C.S. Lewis wrote, “What does not satisfy when we find it, was not the thing we were desiring.” In other words, the reason why we are not satisfied (at least for long) with the better paying job, the new relationship or new church we just joined, the upgraded car, computer or gadget we just bought, is because that is not what our hearts truly desire after.  A new church won’t fix your issues.  A new relationship won’t get rid of your feelings of loneliness.  The new car won’t get you more respect.  No our desires are not met here.

In our scripture this week we are told that God will satisfy our desires.  Not the superficial ones but the deep seeded ones.  So that even if our situation or environment is not ideal (scorched places), our bones will still be strengthened!  So “take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (King David).  He knows your deepest craving for love, and safety, respect, and acceptance.  This next week spend less time trying to satisfy your desires, and more time in the presence of the one who knows your truest cravings!  In that place you will find satisfaction….guaranteed.


Pastor Iki