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Most pop songs of any decade can be boiled down to a strong chord progression or two.

This Get Inspired! episode features videos of relatively “clean” hits that aim to stay away from dark topics and the lovey-dovey stuff with a few exceptions. Just couldn’t help it!

As hits ebb and flow, there’s plenty more I could add and some to eventually subtract. I may change things up as time goes by. Some tunes were suggested by my son, others by my students and some have withstood the test of time and are permanent hits that crossover from generation to generation.

Below each video, you’ll find the opening or a popular chord progression of the hit in the original key and then translated into numbers so the piece can be played in any key.

Why an episode featuring pop songs and their chord progressions?

  1. The 321 Challenge is an innovative resource found here at LeilaViss.com. It's premise is simple: select 3 musical boundaries that include a popular chord progression, explore the boundaries for 2 minutes, 1x each day. This episode directly correlates with the 321 challenge and gets under the hood of pop songs. It shares the basic chord progressions and encourages you to play along, play by ear and get creative yourself.

  2. This quality-controlled collection of pop tunes serves to assist teachers and pianists in their search for appropriate/decent lyrics and pop tunes. They have been student-tested and/or approved.

  3. These tunes were chosen because they use standard and sometimes unique chord progressions which offer great teaching and learning opportunities. To really know a chord progression, it’s crucial to understand the chords in relationship to each other and then transpose them to any key. That’s when knowing the numbers or functions of chords within in a key is crucial and that’s why they are supplied below.

  4. Chord progressions can spur creativity. That’s why you’ll see unique “covers” of some tunes. These artists were inspired and made the tunes their own—that’s what a “cover” is.

  5. When you see others create clever covers of hit tunes, it may inspire you to do the same. Perhaps you’ll want to create your own YouTube Channel! That’s just what my student Rylan Montoya did. Make sure to hear his covers and original work and subscribe to his channel here.


BIG TIP! YouTube has a feature that allows you to change the Playback Speed

If you want to play along by ear, you may want to slow the video down to give you more time to process what you hear. That’s when you want to take advantage of YouTube’s playback speed control features.

 
 
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Slow down YouTube videos on desktops

  1. Open up any YouTube video in your browser.

  2. Look to the bottom-right of the player for a settings cog

  3. Click it and tap on Playback Speed.

  4. Change to a speed you prefer.

 
Tap the three dots on the upper right side of the screen

Tap the three dots on the upper right side of the screen

 
 

Slow down YouTube videos on phones

  1. Open up a YouTube video and play it.

  2. Tap the video while it's playing.

  3. Tap the three dots that appear in the right hand corner ⋮

  4. Tap Playback Speed.

  5. Tap a desired playback speed—slower OR faster.


Where to find sheet music

It also nice to read pop tunes —especially when learning the melody. Here are recommended books and sites to find sheet music.

ShowTime, ChordTime, FunTime, BigTime Hits by Faber

Hal Leonard Pop Piano Hits

Musicnotes.com

Apps for reading and playing pop tunes

These apps include pop music as they teach how to read music.

Simply Piano

Piano Maestro

Noviscore

Other cool tools

Yamaha Chord Tracker : provides chord progressions of any tune in your iTunes library.

HookTheory.com: provides chord progressions of just about every pop tune you can imagine.

Anytune: slows down any imported Mp3 file without changing the pitch and much more.

Chord symbol tips:

  • Capital letters imply a Major chord.

  • A small “m” implies a minor chord.

  • A letter followed by a “/’ followed by another letter means to play the chord in the right hand and play the single note in the left hand.

 

Can’t Stop the Feeling

by Justin Timberlake

 
 

 Original Key:

C Am F Am C

Any Key:

1 6m 4 6m 1

 

Despacito

by Luis Fonsi Feat and Daddy Yankee

Cover by Peter Bence

Original key:

Bm G D A

Any key:

1m 6 3 7


Havana

by Camila Cabello Feat, Young Thug

Cover by Peter Buka

 
 

Original key:

Gm Eb D

Any key:

1m 6 5

 
 

Radioactive

by Imagine Dragons

Cover by Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix

 

Original Key is Bm, the video is in Bbm:

Bm D A E

Any key:

1m 3 7 4

 

Let it Be

by the Beatles

 
 

Original key:

C G Am F

Any key:

1 5 6m 4


Something Just Like This

by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay

Original key:

G A Bm A

Any key:

6 7 1 7

Student Rylan Montoya’s cover of

Something Just Like This


Pompeii

by Bastille

Original key:

D A F#m E

Any key:

6 3 1m 2


Walking in Memphis

by Marc Cohn

Original key:

F G C Am

Any key:

4 5 1 6m


Hallelujah

by Leonard Cohen

Cover by Pentatonix

Original key:

C G C Am C Am F G

Any key:

1 5 1 6m 1 6m 4 5


Piano Man

by Billy Joel

Cover by Brooklyn Duo

Original key:

C G/B F/A C/G F C/E D G

Any key:

1 5/7 4/6 1/5 4 1/3 2 5


Fight Song

by Rachel Platten

Cover by Piano Guys

Original Key: G

G D Em C

Any key:

I 5 6m 4


Hey Ho

by the Lumineers

Original key: C

F C Am G

Any key:

4 1 6m 5


Africa

by Toto

Cover by Peter Bence

Original key: B

A G#m C#m

Any key:

b7 6m 2m


Happy

by Pharrell Williams

Original key:

Fm7 Bb C

Any key:

1m7 4 5


Married Life

from Disney Pixar’s “Up,”

Cover by Kyle Landry

Original key: F

F F/E F/D F/C G

Any key:

1 1/7 1/6 1/5 2


I Will Wait

by Mumford and Sons

Original key: Bbm

Bbm Ab/C Db Gb Db/F Ab

Any key:

1 7/2 3 6 3/5 2


High Hopes

by Panic! At the Disco

Original key:

Bb F Dm C

Any key:

4 1 6m 5


Happier

by Marshmello and Bastille

Original key:

Dm C/E F Am Bb

Any key:

6m 5/3 1 3m 4