Introduction to the Organ by Gene Roberson

Are you ready to learn everything you need to know about the ORGAN? This comprehensive post about all things ORGAN applies to:

  • Church Pipe Organs 
  • Digital Church Organs
  • Theater Pipe Organs 
  • Home Console Organs
  • Hammond  Tonewheel  Organs

In other words, ANY organ! Let’s get started…

American Classic Pipe Organ

The classic pipe organ has been the primary musical instrument of the church for many years. Even with the use of piano, guitars, drums and other orchestral instruments, the organ remains the best musical instrument for most church worship services.  Lets get started.

The basic pipe organ has two keyboards with 61 keys on each manual. The standard American Guild of Organist Pedal board has 32 pedals mounted in a CONCAVE design.

The basic groups of ORGAN SOUND (Pipe types) are the following

Principal or Diapason.  These pipes will have different names and are usually chosen by the organ builder.

Flute     Builders also use different names based on the timbre of sound coming from the pipe, including the volume or voicing of the pipe rank. (Row of pipes).

String –  The most popular string pipe is the Viole and Viole Celeste. These stops are sometime combined as one. There are also different names in the string family such as Dulciana, and Salicional.  Again, named for the volume and the timbre, or brightness.

Reed – These are the Trumpet – Oboe, Clarinet stops on the organ and usually have  RED printing on the stops.  This is also considered the BRASS section of the organ.

Principal Mixtures .  These are the very high pitched stops on the organ, related to the Principal family. They provide brilliance and help with the broad spectrum of the organ, mainly for full organ use.

Does your organ have more than 2 manuals?

Some larger pipe organs have up to six manuals. The standard is three. The bottom keyboard is the extra one called the Choir or Positiv.  If it is a choir manual, there will be more softer stops like the swell, which is the top manual, the GREAT manual would be in the middle. If it is a Positiv manual, the sounds would be more Baroque and the pipes are usually located in a special place in the building. Other manuals (more than just three) are Solo Manuals and other special functioning manuals and are located above the Swell manual.


This is the most important subject when learning the pipe organ!  Some pipe organs have all the pipes (usually not displayed to be seen) in a specially built sound chamber. They use organ SHUTTERS to muffle the sound. This is a slight volume change based on the quality of the shutters and where the pipes are located in relation to the console (Control desk with stops and keyboards)

Pipe organs that include displays of organ pipes usually only display the GREAT pipes. The Swell and Choir pipes are in two different chambers. So the main issue here is to determine the loudness of each set (rank) of the GREAT pipes. Remember, they will sound at the volume that the organ builder or your pipe organ tuner has voiced them at.  Also, some of the pedal pipes will be included in this UN-ENCLOSED group of pipes.  It is the duty of the ORGANIST to learn how to use a set volume of sound (both one rank at a time or with a combination of Great pipes)

IN CONTRAST to the Swell or Choir pipes which can be softened in volume. The way we change the volume is with the EXPRESSION pedals controlled with normally the Right foot. These pedals are located in the middle just up from the pedal board. 

NOTE!! The pedal on the far RIGHT is NOT a volume pedal, rather it is called the CRESCENDO pedal. It incorporated usually 90% of ALL the stops on it and you can hold a chord and increase the pedal from soft stops to loud by pressing it all the way down. There is usually a green light on the console to tell you that this pedal is in use. The light is usually next to the RED Tutti  light which is a piston (button between the manuals) that will play a FULL ORGAN (All the pipes) instantly.

The first lesson I teach for learning to play with expression is:  On the SWELL, put on the Viole Celeste stop(s) and the Flute 8 Stop on the Great.  Also, one 16’ Pedal stop like the Bourdon. (Find the softest pedal stop).  Using your LEFT hand on the SWELL, play a chord and pedal. Then play a one note solo melody on the GREAT using the FLUTE stop. Have your right foot on the Swell expression pedal starting with it closed. Then practice opening the pedal while playing a simple melody. Using this simple method, you can learn to play the pipe organ well.

LASTLY,  Learn to play hymns with a Principal chorus on the GREAT manual. Using the Principal 8 – 4  – 2 and a Mixture stop.  Start learning to play with just manuals before adding the pedals.  The technique of playing is not covered in this lecture. Learning to play manuals and pedals are covered in other publications. I do have a Pedal Method available at my shop on Sheet Music Plus here.

General and Divisional Pistons.  These are the round buttons in between the manuals.

These are similar to your car radio instant channel finder buttons. There are two basic sections. General: These set up ALL the keyboards and pedals and Divisional: These are located under the middle keys below the manuals. They control your settings for the manual above the buttons.  You simply pull out the stops you want to use and hold the SET button (LOWER LEFT below the bottom keyboard) and then push the preset key desired. Some older organs use different methods such as: Hold the piston and then pull out the stop. Most operate the first way I mentioned.

COUPLERS:  These are the stops that make sounds transfer to another division. Great to Pedal, Swell to Pedal, these couplers allow the sounds of that division to be played in the pedals.  Swell to Great brings the pipes from the Swell down to the Great. Same with the Choir or Positiv to Great.

I trust you will find these notes helpful to you as you start your journey on the pipe organ.


For many years, American organ manufacturers like Allen, Rodgers, Walker, and others have build wonderful electronic and digitally sampled pipe organs, many found in our churches today. Most are similar and follow basic guidelines set by the American Guild of Organists as well as more pipe organ builders. The manuals and pedalboards are the same. The only exception is that they do not include wind blown organ pipes. There are exceptions to that also. Some are called HYBRID organs which include a certain amount of real pipes. The Rodgers organ I play is interfaced with 15 ranks of Ruffatti (Italian manufacturer) organ pipes. Most hybrid installations use the real pipes on the Great manual so there is usually no expression.  (Read the expression notes above).

Most digital organs include the option of the Great sounds to be under expression using the foot expression pedal for the Great (or Great and Choir – You can look down at the expression pedals and there is usually a plaque with the division name on it.)  Playing a digital organ is very similar to playing a real pipe organ, so it is important to listen to each stop on the organ and follow most of the system written for the pipe organ (above).

Other feature of the Digital organs are: 

Various Tremolo features
Piston Next  (Changes the General pistons in order)

Manual Pedal – This stop brings the Pedals to the Great manual for those organist who never play the pedals. The bottom key of the chord will play the pedal.

Different Speaker Systems like the Antiphonal Speakers mounted in the back of the church.

Midi  Couplers. This allows the ability to add more sounds using computers and sounds modules even made by different manufactures to be added to the organ.

Theater Organs

The Mighty Wurlitzer – the Robert Morton Theater organs were very popular back in the 1920’s and primarily were installed in movie theaters to accompany Silent Films.

There were also church models made my these companies and many churches and funeral homes bought these organs.

The main difference between the Classic organ and the Theater organs is: The foundation sound (Stops) of the Theater organ is the TIBIA. It is a loud Wood Flute pipe stop that is usually played with throbbing Tremolo for a very spectacular effect. Adding Brilliant String stops and Sassy Reeds give the Theater organ a more Orchestral sound than the traditional classic pipe organ sound.  A large Theater organ sometimes will include Classic pipes and can achieve a good classic organ sound.

The music played on the Theater organ is usually popular tunes, Broadway and show tunes and even Classical orchestral music such as the William Tell Overture to beautiful melodies such as: The Swan.

Theater organs usually have a nice array of solo Reeds like: Post Horn, Tuba, Kinure (a nasty sounding reed) to vox humana (Choir sounds) oboe and clarinet. The Pedal division usually features a scary 16 Reed some are called “The Serpent!”

Theater organs use color coded stops. Red for the Reeds and Yellow for the Stings. The Tibias and Diapasons are White. The other difference from the Classic organ is that most divisions (Swell -Great – Accompaniment – Solo – Pedal use the same stops in each division. The console for a 15 rank theater organ will have as many as 60 stop tabs arranged on different levels on what we call a “Horseshoe” Rail. The basic idea is “Any Sound – Played Anywhere”.

Electronic –Digital Theater Organs

Since the 1960’s  I have played on many different electronic Theater organs build by Allen, Baldwin, Conn, Rodgers, Gulbransen, Thomas and the list goes on and on.

These organs were made for the home and some of the larger models were installed in churches and small theaters and even concert halls.

Today, with digital technology, computers and such, the Theater organ sounds can be enjoyed anywhere. Some companies like Allen and Walker build huge 5 and 6 manual Theater organs for even “Beginner Level” hobby organists who have a lot of money to spend. Upwards to a half million dollars!!  Yes! This is true.

For those looking for an organ for home, there a many of these available for free. Some still in excellent condition.

 Home Digital Organs

There are so many brands of home digital organs, too many to list. But the top of the line organs from the 1990’s  sold in the USA were the Technics and the Roland Atelier instruments. These were primarily purchased for the home by hobby organists as well as professional organists and organ teachers. Some even made their way into churches and concert halls.

I taught people to play (and also sold) the Technics organ in 1985. Many of my students played the Hammond and Conn organs from the 1970s.  The Technics organ are set up a little differently than the standard organ. They are Conductor based organs. This means that all the sounds are put together in sections and controlled by a group of buttons that can be used individually or together by pressing one or more at the same time. Then the sound groups are stored in traditional presets much like the pipe organ. Ultimately, the preset sounds can be stored on a computer disc and saved for use later. They even include a playback system. I have recorded hundreds of songs for people to just sit back and listen to their instrument play by itself. I also have recorded many hymns for churches with these instruments to sing with when they do not have an organist.

The Roland Atelier is similar to the Technics. Except that the Roland does NOT use the Conductor system found on the Technics. They are basically an on-off  button system. Roland, like the Technics features many more sounds found within the organ using the “OTHERS” button in each sound section. For ex. There are many variations on the piano sounds instead of just one basic piano. Virtually, every sound in the orchestra, plus sounds of the Hammond Organ, Classical and Theater organs can be found on these organs. These organs have built in speakers and in many cases, can fill an auditorium with sound with just the speakers installed within the organ console.

They also have head-phone jacks to use in small areas such as apartments. Only the player can hear the sounds.

Hammond Vintage Tone Wheel Organs

The Hammond B-3 has become a household term! The most famous of all vintage organs since the old pump organ and the traditional pipe organ, classic or Theater.

Created in 1935, Laurens Hammond introduced a revolutionary musical instrument that even had to go to court in able to called an organ! This amazing “organ” became a must have musical instrument for home organists, mainly the hobby organist. However, the church model (C-3) became very popular in the small churches around the world that could not afford a large pipe organ. My first Hammond was purchased for me in 1963. I learned to play all kinds of music from Back to Rock!

Playing the Hammond was the same when it came to the keyboards and pedals. We bought a 25 note pedal organ and then traded to the 32 note board when I was in high school learning more complicated classics. The main difference is in the controls.

The switches turning the organ on, uses two switches. First hold the Start switch on for 10 seconds, then keeping the start switch on, add the RUN switch and count to 5. Then let go. The organ is now ready to be played.

The organ uses four sets of Tone bars (also called Drawbars). The main sound that is generated is the FLUTE (Sine Wave) sound. Played at all the different octave pitches, from 16, to 1”  (Low range – mid range and high range, plus other organ related pitches like the 2 and 2/3, 1 and 1/3 , 1 and 3’5 plus the 5 and 1/3, you are able to get some familiar instrumental sounds like the clarinet, oboe, and others.  The sounds are achieved by pulling these tone bars in and out at 8 degrees of volume each! But for those who would rather just touch a button and instantly get sounds, there is that feature. On the left side of each manual, there are Reversed Colored Keys called Presets. Some people used to put the stickers on each key with the name of the sound like Trumpet (Upper G#) Oboe (Upper F#)  Clarinet (Lower D#0  Tibia (Lower G#0 Diapason 8 (Lower F#)   Full Organ (Lower A)  You use the A# and B preset keys to use the sets of drawbars.  The Middle Two drawbars are for the 16 and 8 foot pedal sounds. There are also Vibrato Controls with six types of vibrato including a manual split feature. You can have vibrato off on the lower while the upper is on. On the 3 series (C-3 B-3 RT-3 – A-100) series there is a knob that gives you six variations of vibrato depth. The Chorus feature on the same know give you half off and half on. The four tabs on the right side of the drawbars are percussion effects when the Upper B Preset key is engaged.  The Second is a 4 foot bell and the 3rd is the 2 and 2/3rd  is used with the 16- 51/3 8 and 4 Drawbars (pulled all the way out) with NO vibrato, giving you the famous Jazz Organ effect.

Don’t be afraid of the Tone Bars!!

First of all, do not pay attention to the 8 numbers on the bar. These are simply volume levels. Secondly, there are four sets of NINE tone bars and they are all the same. So you only have to think about nine pitch levels. The pure octave tones start from the LEFT first BROWN bar and is the 16 level. The WHITE bars from left to right are: 8 – 4 – 2 and 1.  The second brown is the 5 1/3 tone, The BLACKS are the 2 2/3, 1/35 – and the 1 1/3 harmonic tones.  Here are a few quick ways to get some usable sound combinations:  Pull the bars out all the way quickly, they wont break!!

Pull out ALL the tone bars and then push the second brown (5 1/3) and the three black bars in a little (like to level 6).  This is a FULL ORGAN setting. Play full chord in the upper range on either the upper or lower keyboard. Push in all the black and 2nd brown bars to have a pure Flute chorus.

Pull the 16 – 8 – 2 2/3 and 1 3/5 bard out all the way for a nice Bass Clarinet. Push in the 16 for a nice 8’ Clarinet,

For Jazz Solo, pull out the 1st FOUR bars. No Vibrato for sharp tone and with vibrato, play sustained Trombone- like solos.

Pull the 5 1/3 – 8 – 4-  1 3/5 – 1 1/3 for the Ethel Smith solo sound when she played the song “Nola”. No Vibrato.

Pull out the last four bars, vibrato on V-3 and in the upper range, TAP all your fingers on five to six white keys at the same time. This is the  SLEIGH-BELL effect. Play Jingle Bells  on the other keyboard. You can also have a friend play the Sleigh Bells while you play the song!

 In Conclusion

A lot of organ music includes Hammond registrations using the numbers from 1 thru 8 on each tone bar. This is another way to set the organ. There are also books written on the subject as well as using the owners manual for the Hammond organ.  Just have fun with the Hammond and treat it just like all other musical instruments.


Hammond Organs sound especially wonderful with the addition of a Leslie Speaker.  The Leslie uses a special Tremolo system with fast and slow moving hors on top of the speaker and well as a moving drum for the lower sounds.

The Hammond organ has met the musical needs of so many keyboard musicians from composers to professional and church organists. It was never meant to replace the traditional pipe organ, but rather add a new sound to the World of Music. The Hammond is here to stay! I mean, I will never get rid of my wonderful Hammond B-3 and Leslie Speaker!!

Easter Sunday Global Bell Ringing Play-A-Long!


Easter/Resurrection Sunday- April 12!
10:00 a.m. Pacific Time (USA)


1. DOWNLOAD and PRACTICE this music: Alleluia, Christ Is Risen (Bethoven’s 9th Theme)
*Tempo Quarter=88

2. WATCH the Presbyterian Church of the Master Livestream Service on Easter Sunay at 10am (Pacific: USA) at this link:

*Prelude of the worship service will play for 5 minutes, then BELL RINGING CEREMONY will begin precisely at 10am (Pacific- USA)

3. RECORD YOUR PARTICIPATION! If you are able, connect the Livestream video to a loud stereo system, then PLAY A LONG with your bells, a keyboard on bells settings, or just ring your doorbell!

4. SHARE your video with us at !

Spread the Word!

Please send this plan to any musical leaders around the globe that you are friends with. Visit my Facebook page to Share on your timeline and in any music groups you are a part of!

Christ is Risen, Indeed!

New CD Shop!

Here are the covers of the CD’s I currently have available.

Select your desired CD title then click on the “Buy Now” button below. You do not need a PayPal account to process your order.

If you’d like multiple CD’s, please send me a message here and I will create a custom order for you. Multiple CD’s will receive a 10% discount.

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Keyboard Concepts: Introduction

Here is my “Commercial Chord System” for keyboard players, free for you to download and study. There are currently three chapters starting with basic major and minor chords, progressing into dominant 7th, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths.

The main purpose of this system is for keyboard players who would like to play in a group such as a worship band,  or accompany singers and instrumentalists.

Be sure to visit my growing library of instant sheet music downloads for piano, organ, instrumental solos.

Please contact me to let me know if you’ve enjoyed using this resource. I hope to receive a good response and continue offering more resources on this subject.


Keyboard Concepts Lesson 1

Keyboard Concepts Lesson 2

Keyboard Concepts Lesson 3

Circle of Fourths

       “The Power of the Circle of Fourths”

                  by Gene Roberson

If you have been using and/or teaching music students the CIRCLE of FIFTHS, that’s OK!!

However, if you REALLY want to advance as a composer, arranger, pianist, organist,  I suggest that you change direction immediately and take a look at all the great advantages of the “Musical Clock” aka. Circle of Fourths!

Rack Order:

  C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-(F#) B-E-A-D-G-C

Learn Key Signatures:  Key of C has NO sharps or flats.

Flats: F is at 1 O’Clock  1 flat which is Bb (Next door!)

Note: We add one flat at a time NEVER taking them away!

Bb is at 2 O’Clock. 2 Flats Bb and Eb (We add in order of the Fourths. Eb is at 3 O’Clock – 3 flats: Bb, Eb, Ab.

Ab is at 4 O’Clock – 4 flats: Bb Eb Ab Db.  Db is at 5 O’Clock. 5 flats: Bb Eb Ab Db Gb.  Gb is at 6 O’clock

6 flats: Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb (B).

SHARP KEYS:  Just like Bb is the “Starting Key” for the flats, F# (the note F is next to Bb, “very interesting”!) is the Starting key for the sharp keys. They are friends!

We start with Key of G. 1 sharp: F#  -(Counter clockwise) Key of D – 2 sharps F# and C# (keep going counter-clockwise) Key of A – 3 sharps  F# C# G# – Key of E –

F#, C#, G#, D#, – Key of B 5 sharps: F#, C#,G#,D#,A#

Key of F# 6 sharps: F# C# G# D# A# E#.  This is so much easier than the old way to learn the keys! (Find the added sharp and go up ½ step, or in the flats, go up a fifth from the last flat added! Forget that!!

BASIC to ADVANCED Chord Progressions.

All songs from popular, hymns, to classical compositions are supported by chord (Harmonic) changes or progressions.

When you are supporting a melody (or musical phrase) with the same harmony (Chord) you are not necessarily creating a chord change, rather just harmonic repetition. For Ex. Play a song like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in the Key of C. Support the melody with only a C chord (C-E-G) in the left hand. Your ear will tell you that by the THIRD measure, the chord needs to change! When you STEP BACK one letter on the CLOCK to G, you are NOW starting the progressive ACTION!! Once you change the chord to G, the Circle of Fourths progression steps into motion! This is because the 3rd tone (B) in the G chord is the leading tone in the C scale.

But what does this have to do with the Circle of Fourths vs. the Circle of Fifths? You can achieve this with the Circle of Fifths,  HOWEVER, you have to constantly think  of going   “COUNTER-CLOCKWISE!!”  No thank you! I own a Hammond Clock built in the 1930’s that you can spin to make the motor move the hands clock-wise and spin in reverse and the hands will move in reverse. Music progressions NEED to move clock-wise, just like normal life motion! More in using the Clock for chord changes:

Simple songs generally start with the tonic chord (key of origin) and change to the dominant (one back on the clock) however, when you want to move forward with more advanced changes, (in an orderly basis of learning) you simply add the next key back. (Starting with C, jump back to D, then move to G and onward to C). Note: The keys behind the Dominant (G in the key of C) can be played as Major or minor chords, depending on the melody notes or the strength in the chord you are looking for. If they are Major chords they will be much stronger in harmonic structure. If you choose to play them as minors or minor 7ths, the harmonic structure will be much softer and you will basically be harmonizing within the scale or key you are playing.

The further you jump back from the key you are in, the more sophisticated the harmonic changes will be within your composition or arrangement. For ex: C – B7 – E7 –A7 D7 G7 back to C.  Take a look at the song “Red Roses for a Blue Lady!. You certainly can’t play that song with just C and G7!

What about the sub-dominant or the F chord used in the key of C? The sub-dominant or “F” chord in C is a very soft form of the dominant. It contains the 7th, 9th and suspended 4th of the dominant. I like to think that it just goes along for the ride! We use it for the A-men when singing hymns. It is also used when playing Gospel music. For ex. A C chord in gospel playing is  C-F-C.  An F chord is F-Bb-F, and so on. (Read my lessons on Gospel piano playing and arranging.)

Lastly, I like to think of the Tonic as being inside my home. When I step outside the front door, it is like going to the dominant chord, and soon it gets cold outside, so I come back into the house. When I go further away from my home, it is like going further back on the Musical Clock, such as to E7 chord. I have to come back to the house (C chord) by way of the A7 –D7 and G7th chords. When I go outside into the back patio, this is like going to the sub-dominant (F chord) I’m still in my home, but not too far from the inside or the C chord. I also think of this when casting my fishing pole out into the ocean, but that is another story!

BACK to the Circle of Fourths – More uses:

ii – V7 – I  Changes: One of the most used chord change is the  ii – V7- I  progression. In the Key of C, this would be the chords: Dm7 to G7 to C(Major)  Please look at the Clock and see how these three chords are positioned next to each other in groups of three, no matter where you start. Dm is the ii chord in C with G being the V chord and C being the I chord. Just start with any key on the clock and call it the ii (played normally as a minor or minor 7th) move clockwise and the next key is the V with the next position being the I chord. It works in all 12 keys.

Suspended 4ths:  When you are learning Suspended chords, the most used suspension is the 4th resolving to the 3rd. The suspended chord adds “Tension” and tension needs relief! This is a must learn harmony lesson. We also use this chord with the (flatted) 7th tone. This type of chord is found in most Jazz tunes and Jazz improvisation!

Think of the Clock as a “SPELL – CHECK” SYSTEM!

The note for the suspended 4th is one tone away (clockwise)

And the 7th is always the very next tone or progression. So for a C7sus chord, just play C bass, with F and Bb. If you want to resolve the suspended 4th, simply lower that note ½ step (F down to E) This works in ALL the keys. If you are wanting to play like Herbie Hancock, just DON’T resolve the 4th.  Here is an exercise for piano or organ: In the right hand, play C-F-Bb-C (octave). Play the C (Root) in the left hand, or pedal (organ). Play all 12 of these Herbie Hancock Jazz chords Around the Clock.


Learning basic chords: Here is another way to learn basic MAJOR chords using the Circle of 4ths. Pick any note, add the note one back, then add the note to the right. That is the Suspended 4th . Simply resolve the 4th down ½ step and you will have the Major chord based on the first key you choose. For ex.  Play C, add G (note to the left) add F (note to the right or clockwise) “Listen to it, then move the F down to E.

If you want to turn it into a minor chord, lower the E ½ step down to Eb!  Try this in all 12 keys “Around the Clock.”

    6.  Learning Minor 7ths: Minor 7th chords are another very

popular and important chord to know, especially in Jazz, pop and Broadway style music. Burt Bacharach, the popular songwriter, uses minor 7ths chords in most of his songs. Look at “What the World Needs Now!” Now look at the clock; Play C, skip the next note and play the next two! Bb and Eb. The foundation for any minor 7th can be spell checked this way.

Another ex. Play B – add A&D. You are also playing the voicing that Jazz players uses. Yes, Bm7 is spelled: BDF#A

As the four note root position, however, a pro player will NOT play the chord that way most of the time.  So use the clock method for learning these wonderful chords!

Minor chord substitution: Any minor chord (triad) can be embellished (or substituted) with the 9th chord of the “Next Progression.” (We also use the term “Next Progression” when referring to going around the clock in fourths.) When playing a minor chord, simple play the 9th chord of the next progression instead. For ex. F minor becomes Bb9 – G minor becomes C9. This is mainly used in Major key harmonics rather than songs harmonized in the minor key. A sample progression would be: C – Fm – C,                         play instead: C – Bb9 –C.  Note: The minor chord is actually inside the 9th chord of the next progression. The minor chord notes are the 5th, 7th & 9th of that 9th chord! So, you can see that they are related. This is used a great deal in pop styles.

Relationships of Tonic Key Base to  all others on the clock:

It is important to know how all the eleven (other) chords relate to the key (Tonic) you are playing or composing in. Here is a chart for you to use: I will refer to the key of C as the Tonic for this reference chart. However it goes without saying that this is the same for all 12 keys of the Clock.

C chord to F chord –  F is the soft dominant (sub) and is used for Amen’s in hymns, Gospel chord styles, mainly used as a soft release change from the tonic in romantic style when the stronger dominant change is too much. Can be substituted for the dominant.  The F note is the 4th of C and is used mostly as the suspended 4th. It is also the extended 11th tone of the C scale and is played with the 11th chord. The easiest way to learn the 11th chord is to play the triad one whole step below the root key and play the key root in the bass. For ex. C11 = Bb-D-F with C in the bass. G11 is:

F-A-C with G bass. This is primarily used as an extended dominant and substituted for the dominant 7th, ie. G7

C to Bb –  Bb is a whole tone down from the tonic (C). It is the flatted 7th in the scale (also known as the 7th in commercial harmony) As a chord, the Bb Major, 6th, 7th 9th etc. is a contemporary Dominant. So in the key of C, we substitute the Bb chord for the G chord. This will change the way you arrange songs, especially hymns.

C to Eb – The Eb chord is based on the flatted 3rd which is also the note that turns the C Major into C minor. The 5th of C (G) is the common note in Eb (3rd) and can also be substituted for the dominant. Also used in Fanfares, Intros and endings such as C-Eb-D-Db and home to C.

C to Ab –  Ab is the flatted 6th and also enharmonic to the Augmented 5th tone of the scale. The C root is common to Ab as the 3rd of the Ab triad. Used also as a whole tone relation to C as well as a substitute for the sub-dominant (F) as well as the dominant (G). There is also a well kept secret about the (actual) note Ab or G#. Do you know the answer?

C to Db –  Db is ½ step up from C.  C is the Major 7th (not flatted) of the Db scale. Used as a penultimate chord in pop music as well as impressionistic period music. Common progression would be: C – F – DbMajor 7th – C.

C to Gb (F#) –  Gb (F#) is the flatted 5th an also the sharped 4th of C.  Gb shares the “Twin dominant” (3rd and 7th) tones of C which are: Bb and E.  When adding a C bass, the chord is a voicing of C7 common in commercial harmony. When the bass note is switched to Gb or F#, it becomes Gb7. That is why our teaching method refers to “only having to learn six 7th chord cores! Get more of this information in my GPS Piano System available at www.sheetmusicplus. Lesson # 7.

The flatted 5th triad is also known as the Petrusska chord when combined with the Root triad; C-E-G with Gb-Bb-Db sitting on top. (According to Leonard Bernstein). You will also hear this “Extreme French Pipe Organ Chord” in the improvisations of Olivier Latry, organist at Notre Dame in Paris.  Be sure to learn this powerful chord in all keys “Around the Clock!”

C to B –  B is the Major 7th of the C tonic harmony. It was very strange to find this note added to the C triad (C-E-G-B) until the Impressionistic Era. In the 1920’s the use of the secondary dominants (B7-E7-A7-D7) in relation to C tonic were mainly used. The Major 7th found its way into songs written in 1940 to this day with songs such as: Misty, Ebb Tide, Tenderly, Trombone Samba,  and many more. You can even add the 9th tone to the Maj. 7th. Some even add the Maj.7th to minor, diminished, and Augmented triads.

C to E – The E chord is based on the 3rd tone of the C triad. The 3rd of E is the Augmented 5th of C. The E Major chord resolves beautifully back to the C chord, using a bass line of E to D then to C. (Whole tone bass line).

C to A – A is the 6th tone of the C tonality. In my early days as a church pianist, I would hear pianists adding the 6th to the tonic. This became very bland when I discovered adding the 9th if the melody allowed! This is very common as a decoration of the tonic with harp-like broken chords. A is also added to the C diminished (C-Eb-Gb) triad as enharmonic to the double flatted 7th of C. Hence A= Bbb.

The A triad (A-C#-E) or the A7th is the second chord in the “We Want Cantor” pop music progression. It is important to learn the I –VI-II-V progression (C-A-D-G) or with added 7ths (C-A7-D7-G7) in all the keys around the Clock. Again, notice the progression starting with C, bouncing back to A, then progression back to C  by way of  D to G, then C.

This also works well with minor or minor 7th chord. For ex. C – Am7- Dm7-G7-C.  So many pop tunes are based on this progression. Again, learn in all the keys.

C to D – D is the 2nd tone of the C scale. The note D can be used as a suspended tone (For ex. C2) taking the place of the root (C) with the intention of resolving it to C. Some contemporary accompaniments do not resolve the 2, but rather keep it in place. A popular tune that uses this suspension is “Thru the Eyes of Love” or the theme song of “The Young and the Restless”.  The D Major (D-F#-A) triad can be used as another whole tone progression, especially since the flatted 7th tone of D is C.  I love using this progression as the ending of majestic hymns and carols such as “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and O Come All Ye Faithful!  The use of the D minor chord will be similar to the sub-dominant or the F chord.

C to G – Well here we are!! G is the fifth of C, the dominant of C and probably the most important chord (especially in Country Music) to our home tonic key of C!  Used without playing the C chord first, it is the most popular classical Fanfare!  Play the notes G (repeated in different rhythms) as the Fanfare to the Bride’s Processional, “Here Comes the Bride!” 

It’s time for the Sermon!

(If you are offended by this section, then please feel free to skip!)

How do I memorize the Musical Clock? I start at the very top of the clock with the 12 O’clock position. I remember that at the top is Christ, with God on the left and Father on the right. Then after the F which is at 1 O’clock, we have the word BEAD with flats. God the Father is at the 6 O’clock position with (again) the word BEAD. And this is an easy way to memorize the Circle of Fourths, know as the Musical Clock! I have even had students buy a regular inexpensive clock and remove the numbers, substituting them for the 12 tones of the chromatic scale.

In the 1970’s when I went into the piano and organ retail business, we had two famous music teachers that were hired by the famous Hammond and Conn organ companies to travel around the country, visiting organ dealers and teaching many instructors how to sell organs using a simple teaching method. They were Mildred Alexander and Eveylyn Terrell. Most of the customers were hobby organists, with a few professional organists attending seminars. One of the first items of their teaching program was to show the values of the Musical Clock, using the Circle of Fourths. Some teachers in most cities, resisted since they had already taught the Circle of Fifths. However, after seeing the difference (such as in most of the points in this article) all of the teachers changed. I have a list of over 300 teachers that use this exclusively. By the way, over Five Million Dollars worth of electronic organs, pianos and digital keyboards were sold as a result of their fine teaching. Other famous teachers, such as Dennis Awe, Dyanne Awe, Richard Bradley, LeRoy Davidson, Bill Thomson, used this Clock to teach commercial harmony.

I trust that you have been enlightened with this important information above and will join with the many instructors showing our future musicians how they can become composers, arrangers and professional musicians.

There are probably more uses for the Clock and I will add them as they become revealed.

This article was created and published by Gene Roberson: Composer, Arranger, Organist, Pianist.

The material herein may not be reproduced or published in part or in whole without express permission by Gene Roberson.

Copyright 2018