The baseball piano game is an easy way for kids to understand chord progressions, which are groups of chords moving from one to another.
C Am F and G. That’s a chord progression. (C, A minor, F and G.)
All kids understand baseball, and additionally grasp the idea of “home base” from many games.
Baseball is the only game I know of where the object is to end up where you started (home base) and this just happens to be the objective of classical harmony and chord progressions.
In music, we start and end on a C chord (in the simplest beginner’s explanation) just as we start and end on home base in baseball.
The similarities of music to baseball are very curious:
- C chord is home base.
- Am chord is first base.
- F chord is second base.
- G chord is third base.
In baseball you run through the sequence of bases, but must follow the order, Home, first, second, third.
You don’t skip bases in baseball unless you want to make the umpire really mad.
In music, it is exactly the same, you run through the sequence of chords. C Am F and G. In this case, four chords.
But music is infinitely more flexible than baseball: you are allowed to skip bases (chords) and can even omit bases (chords) if you want.
Take, for example, the song Mary Had A Litttle Lamb:
Here’s the melody:
3 2 1 2 3 3 3 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 2 1 2 3 3 3 3 2 2 3 2 1
But guess what the chords are:
C C G C C C G C
Notice, the song uses only two chords, C and G. Countless songs are constructed with two or three chords, making the child’s job much easier.
There are many ways to make this into a piano game:
GO AROUND THE BASES
Teach the child four chords, C Am F and G. They are all white keys and the child can use two fingers to play the lower two members of the chords.
Now have them play the chords in order. After a while, ask that they spend exactly four beats on each chord. This requires more skill.
I usually play HEART AND SOUL while they play these chords.
I get the child to just play two chords, say, C and G.
Now I have them play them in pairs, like this:
- C G C (pause)
- C G C (pause) Repeat several times.
Then try other combinations:
- C F C (pause)
- F G F (pause)
Repeat each one a few times so they start to build the visual habit of anticipating the next chord.
Kids love the baseball game, and I increase the speed as time goes on.
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