Some surprising chord/lyric relationships

Have you ever noticed how the chords to some songs seem to be related to the lyrics?

In Adele’s “Hello,” the same four chords repeat over and over, in an almost hypnotic rhythm. Until the word “difference” when they be come, well… different.

Lennon and McCartney did did the same thing in “With A Little Help From My Friends.” The lyrics start out posing a series of questions over a simple set of chords that stay in the tonic key. Then, as if on cue, new chords enter from outside the key when the lyrics mention the singer’s “friends.” The “friends” are the new chords (in a way).

Lately, I’ve been having a great time playing Cyndi Lauper’s classic pop ballad “True Colors.” I’ve become fascinated by how the chord progressions mirror the lyrics in a subtle yet definite way. The lyrics in the verse start off by painting a picture of someone with “sad eyes” who’s “discouraged.” And just like this person, the chords meander around a minor key, never really going anywhere. Then they gain strength as positive advice and support is given with the lyrics: “If this world makes you crazy… just call me up…” Finally, the true message of the song, that “I see your true colors shining through” is underlined by powerful I, IV and V chords in a major key.

The chords support and comment on the lyrics. Look for other songs like this; you may be surprised by what you find!

If you want to learn how to play piano from chord sheets, check out my piano improv video course.

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