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Musician? What is your opinion on tampering with basic diatonic chords?

Discussion in 'Worship Ministry' started by justme6272, Mar 3, 2019.

  1. justme6272

    justme6272 Newbie

    The standard diatonic chords in a major key are I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii dim, I

    Our worship leader's philosophy for keyboard players is to always change iii to I/3 and change the dim chord to V/7, claiming it 'sounds better.'

    There is no forum thread for just music per se, so this one is the closest I've found that might draw music people to it. Even if you're not involved on your praise and worship team, and just a pianist or music theory person, what is your opinion of this?

    I'm tempted to think that the diatonic notes are what they are for a reason, and if we arbitrarily completely removed a minor chord and diminished chord from the 'color palette' we have to work with and replace them with what amounts to two more major chords, we're tampering with a proven system. Ironically, we haven't done any praise and worship songs that even use a chord built on the 7th, so it hasn't been a factor, but they want us to learn how to switch to any key using the Nashville number system, so it's part of the practice routine at home to go up and down the scales in all keys using their changes. When the singer changes, they want to just be able to announce the new key and everyone adjusts, using the same numbers rather than have to re-do all the lead sheets with new, hard-coded chord symbols. I haven't interviewed them all, but I suspect that for most churches, if a different key were needed, they'd just print off new lyrics and write new chords above them, or if it's a software program, change the key with the click of a mouse and print off copies for everyone. If a church doesn't have a variety of soloists, then they don't even have to do that...they just pick one key in a middle range that all the singers can handle and go with that. What does your contemporary worship team do?

    Songwriting allows one the freedom to choose whatever chords you want wherever you want, but I'm still interested in people's opinions on this altered system. Do you think it sounds better to change it up as they have? Have you ever heard of musicians doing this ALL the time, effectively killing the iii and vii?

    Should the WISE writer of praise and worship music keep things as simple as possible and never use ANY less typical chords like sus, 9ths, 2nd inversions? Would you say that contemporary Christian writing is a better place to experiment around with more contemporary sounds? It seems like a shame to have to invoke KISS like that, such that the musicians come ahead of the music.

    I'm not an experienced pianist, so I'm also wondering - when songwriters write, and when pianists improvise, and they decide to use first inversion chords, are these the two places in a major key where they are most likely to use them? I don't have time to study sheet music for years, keeping a running tally on what they're most likely to do. I know that knowledge of theory and voicing comes with time as a person learns piano over the years, but I don't have 10 years to do that either.

    The changes described herein are not required for guitarists in my church. They teach a completely different system of alternate fingerings intended to simplify chords typically used in praise and worship songs, also working through all scale steps of all keys. It's more complicated than just slapping on a capo to change keys, as seems to be the case with all other church guitarists I've seen.

    P.S. - I'm new to learning this system, which seems a daunting task, considering that 12 keys times 7 chords each is already 84 chords to learn, both hands, and we haven't even gotten into 7th chords, other inversions, arpeggios, improvisation, etc. that the most skilled keyboardists are able to do. We just lost a keyboard player with a classical piano background who was the most amazing thing I've seen in any contemporary service. I don't know if it was all by ear, or if he memorized the progressions to every song, but he used tons of rhythmic improvisation in both hands, and never, ever, had to look down at the keyboard. He told me he was lucky that he had a piano teacher that emphasized chords and arpeggios, but where one goes to learn the rhythmic improv stuff, I have no idea, unless you buy some pop and R & B songbooks and figure out how to transfer the styles(?).
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
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