This blog post shows how the duet chords in I Love Coffee, I Love Tea can help you understand the Circle of Fifths and learn about the most powerful chord progression possible in music: II-V-I.
This is Part IV of the I Love Coffee, I Love Tea blog series. Before you try this at home, make sure you’ve covered this step:
If you can check YES, now it’s time to focus on how the lower duet of I Love Coffee, I Love Tea and ‘Knuckles’ can introduce you to the Circle of Fifths and teach you the II-V-I chord progression.
Most western music is built with chords. Simply put, chords are three stacked tones that sound good together. In their most basic form, chords look like this:
On the piano:
In written music:
In music, a chord progression is a series of chords that sound good in succession, one after the other.
The strongest chord progression is from chord V to chord I. That’s chord “five” to chord “one.”
Before we cover the II – V – I chord progression, let’s review a little about chords, how chords are named, and how they work in a key.
We’ll cover everything in the key of C to start, just to keep it simple.
Then we’ll transfer what we know about chords and chord progressions to G-flat, because that’s the key that I Love Coffee, I Love Tea is in.
This tutorial video teaches the II – V – I chord progression and the Circle of Fifths through I Love Coffee, I Love Tea:
How to name chords built on scale notes
In any key, a chord can be built on each and every note. Here is the C scale, made of the notes of the key of C.
You can build a chord on each note, or scale degree.
The chord built on the first note is called ‘chord one’ (identified with a Roman numeral I). This continues up the scale, with each chord taking its name and number from the scale degree on which it is built.
Action: Play the chords up the C scale, saying the chord names aloud.
I Love Coffee, I Love Tea is in the key of G-flat major.
The key of G-flat has six flats but don’t let that worry you.
Here’s a really simple way of remembering the pattern of black and white keys for the key of G-flat: it’s made of five black keys and two white keys (C-flat is a white key — how cool is that?).
The real G-flat scale would begin on the G-flat black key, but this is a simplified overview of the key pattern.
Notice that G-flat Major uses:
- All five black keys.
- The two white keys on either side of the set of three black keys.
- The set of two black keys. These are on their own, with none of the surrounding white keys in use.
Let’s play chords in the Key of G-flat
Here are the chords built on the notes of the G-flat major scale. Play them, keeping in mind the above pattern of black and white.
If you mess up, don’t worry! Sometimes things get messy before they get better.
Action: Play the chords up the G-flat scale, saying the chord names aloud.
I Love Coffee, I Love Tea Chords in G-flat.
In the first example, you have the ii – V – I chord progression.
In the second example, chord II is major because of the C-natural. This is the II – V – I progression.
Click to Print a FREE Sheet!
For a sheet that supports this tutorial and blog post, go to my Printables page and print one for FREE! It has an interesting challenge not mentioned in this post!
The Chords in I Love Coffee, I Love Tea
Here are the chords written in Roman numerals:
Chord one, chord two*, chord five, chord one. *Chord two is normally minor in a Major key, but in this duet, chord two is major, the true “five of five”, the strongest way to lead to chord five.
Here is the duet notated in music:
There’s more to discover when you’re ready!
Major and minor chords
When you build chords on scale degrees, notice that chords I, IV and V (upper case Roman numerals) have a bright, happy sound — these chords are major.
Chords ii, iii, vi (lower case Roman numerals) have a sad or creepy sound — these chords are minor.
Chords I and V are major, and chord ii is minor. These are the basis of the featured chord progression from I Love Coffee, I Love Tea.
But wait! In the intro to this blog post, the chord progression was written II – V – I. The ‘two’ chord was the upper case II, not the lower case ii.
Major and minor chords are characterized by the middle note — if it’s a major 3rd above the lowest note of the chord, the chord is major. If it’s a minor third above the lowest note, the chord is minor.
You can turn any major chord into minor by lowering the middle note by a half step (semitone).
You can also turn any minor chord into major by raising the middle note by a half step.
And in I Love Coffee, I Love Tea, chord ii has been turned into a major chord by raising its middle note a half step, changing C-flat to C-natural, making the chord II.
V – I chord progression in C
V – I is the strongest chord progression in music. In the key of C, this is chord G (V, dominant) to C (I, tonic).
This strong V – I effect can be extended into a longer, stronger chord progression by circling around a series of chords known as the Circle of Fifths.
The Circle of Fifths usually refers to a chain of similar key signatures. But the same flow can also be used in musical compositions to create very strong chord progressions.
Chord progression in C
Let’s begin with chords V – I moving from the G chord to C chord.
What would happen if we added a chord before the G chord that’s a fifth above it?
That would be d minor to G, then to C. It sounds really strong! Why? Because, the d minor chord acts like a type of dominant to the G chord. After all, it’s a fifth above.
In the key of C, the ii – V – I progression is d minor – G – C (chord two – chord five – chord one).
But there’s a way to make this chord progression even stronger!
If you change the d minor chord to D Major (by playing F sharp), this is the true dominant of G. So this progression would look like II – V – I, D – G – C. (Cool fact: musicians would say, “Five of five – five – one” — because the D chord is the fifth chord of the fifth chord).
This is why it’s called a circle of fifths chord progression! You take the strongest chord progression and just repeat it down a whole line of chords whose root notes are a fifth apart. It’s okay for some minor chords to be in there, but sometimes it’s fun to turn one into a major chord (a ‘secondary dominant’) because it sounds so strong!
And…this leads us to the reason the chord progression of I Love Coffee, I Love Tea sounds so strong. Chord ii has been turned into a major II chord, and is a true “five of five”!
This blog post is part of a series. Not only will you learn the various parts of I Love Coffee, I Love Tea, but you’ll learn how to teach them to a family member. Then, play the duet together or with the ‘Play-along’ videos included in the series.
Ready for more?
Are you a piano teacher? To unlock this amazing series on I Love Coffee, I Love Tea, start here: Piano play-along duet: I Love Coffee I Love Tea and Knuckles [Teacher intro]
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Video of the Week
You Better Run, Late Elementary, Level 2. Have you ever felt the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Or, the chill of fear slowly creep up your spine? If so, You Better Run captures that moment of fight, freeze or flight, and in this case you RUN! The tempo marking says with adrenaline, so play the running eighth fifths with a quiet, thrilling energy. This fifth pattern is varied with syncopated rhythms, and then the music gets really scary with descending chromatic passages. Hope you get away! Want this piece? Here’s the link to get the You Better Run sheet music!