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Music Theory through Piano Pop Songs

Piano Pop Songs – Musical Analysis and Theory

It is so important, whether your are a pianist, organist or vocalist, or any other instrument for that matter, to create improvisations that are memorable. This usually means finding a particular musical characteristic to ‘colour’ each section. If you are improvising on an existing tune or piece of music, then you should analyse it first to discover its most interesting features of harmony (chords), melody or scales.

Here are some examples:

Pentatonic Scale in Piano Pop Songs

Roar by Katy Perry is Pentatonic. Here’s a lesson:

Limited Number of Chords in Piano Pop Songs

Budapest by George Ezra begins with an introduction that uses only one chord, as does most of the verse (with one chord exception).

Here’s a lesson on just how versatile a chord can be:

Natural Minor Scale and Major Seventh Chords in Piano Pop Songs

The perfect song to explore these is Head and Heart.

Consecutive Fifths in Piano Pop Songs

It’s interesting that these were ‘banned’ in Baroque harmony and the days of Bach. Every student is punished for using them and yet in Medieval Organum they have a very soothing effect. They are equally great in Duncan Laurence’s Arcade:

Major thirds, minor thirds and the Blues Scale in Piano Pop Songs

When learning the difference between major and minor thirds it is great to integrate them into the Blues Scale. Rock around the Clock is perfect for this:


Arpeggios are based as a left hand accompaniment. They can create a very soothing atmosphere. I particularly like them in My Heart Will Go On (originally sung by Celine Dion in the Titanic movie):

Transposition and Keys via Piano Pop Song Studies

As you begin to understand keys, it’s great to find short melodies that don’t use too many different notes. It’s therefore much easier to transpose them and to improvise around them. Here’s some 4 note melodies that might inspire you:

Minor Chords in Piano Pop Songs

Rasputin is the perfect avenue into learning about minor chords because it really showcases their fantastic colour.

Dr Robin Harrison, the Maestro Online is an experienced vocal coach, classical-pop-jazz pianist and organist who has taught for 30 years. He teaches online and in person and can be found at:

Celebrity Pop Piano Masterclasses

Visit the Music Course Library to access digital courses, including pop-rock celebrity piano masterclasses including by the likes of Marcus Brown, keyboardist to Madonna and James Morrison.

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