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Three Unexpected and Powerful Life Lessons from the G7 Chord

Have you ever learned information that had you rethinking everything you thought you knew? In life, as in music, new knowledge offers the possibility for growth and expansion while informing the past and widening the area in which we find home and grounding.

“Now I’m rethinking everything about what I thought I knew.”

After just a few months of weekly piano lessons, the student before me (let’s call him Harry) had mastered the C position notes, where the lowest finger in each hand starts on C and each finger has its own assigned key. The previous piano lesson introduced the idea of the blocked C Major chord. This is where a pianist plays three notes at a time, C, E, and G, with the thumb, middle finger, and pinky. Over the past week, the student practiced and learned this skill quickly.

The next lesson introduced the G7 chord, which requires the student to read a new note on the staff and to extend their fingers outside the previously known C hand position. With notes being played in unfamiliar combinations, the G7 chord demanded the student to step outside their comfort zone and the bounds of all they had previously known.

I explained and demonstrated the new chord to Harry. I instructed him to practice alternating between it and the already familiar C Major chord. Switching between C Major and G7 requires one finger in each hand to be responsible for two keys on the piano.

Harry tried his hand, or should I say fingers, at the assigned task with both hesitation and success. We then looked at the application of this new chord in a piece of music in which both hands played, with the right hand carrying the melody while the left hand reinforced the harmonic structure.

That’s when Harry said, “Now I’m rethinking everything about what I thought I knew.”

What an interesting statement, I thought. With the introduction of new material, Harry began to question what he previously thought he knew. The information clarified his understanding of the previous chord by bringing a fresh perspective to his past knowledge.

No longer limited to the flat piano terrains of the C Major chord, he now had access to the hills of the G7 chord that added richness, diversity, and a change of scenery to the musical landscape. The C Major chord would never be the same.

As I reflected on this profound statement from my student, my mind flashed to the many times I’ve experienced this same epiphany in my non-musical life.

“Now I’m rethinking everything about what I thought I knew.”

From significant life milestones, like becoming a mother, grieving a 2nd-trimester miscarriage, walking through a divorce, and witnessing my children struggle with major medical crises - to lesser events - like finally correctly cooking bacon, delighting in a new ice cream brand, or learning a keyboard short-cut - in all these areas, with new knowledge comes a new perspective. Both the epic and the “mundane” life experiences bring awareness of what the past held and its meaning now in light of today’s knowledge.

Reminder: Retrospectives like this are not intended to bring shame, criticism, or judgment to the past. They might even bring comfort! For example, C Major is a perfectly pleasant chord. With the knowledge of the G7 chord, the value of C Major does not diminish in light. In fact, C Major now contains more nuances, understanding, and strength as a grounding force in the music and as a pianist.

The same is true with our lives. Though our past is nuanced by our new knowledge, the past was required to build and prepare us for today.

The cycle of gaining new knowledge that informs past musical understanding will continue as my students progress in their musical studies. The music will grow richer, more harmonically diverse, melodically complicated, and perhaps even atonal, or lacking a tonal center. Yet, even in that “chaos” of atonal uncenteredness, there is grounding in understanding what tonality feels like. The felt contrast between the two can bring peace, calm, and appreciation for the beauty of music and the joy of playing it.

The cycle will continue in my life as well. Tomorrow’s lessons will inform my perspective of today and enrich the landscape of my life. There will be days when the day's lessons feel overwhelming and uncentering. In those moments, I can always return to my roots, my home base, my C Major chord, to find stability, understanding, and clarity in my atonal journey.

“Now I’m rethinking everything about what I thought I knew.”


Food For Thought:

What’s one way you can create space for expansion and reflection as you gain new knowledge and skills today?

Envision how it would feel like to expand your comfort zone by learning a new skill.

I encourage you to think about what skills you might want to pick up next. Then, find an instructor, a video series, or an old-fashioned book and begin the journey! You never know what insights on your past, present, and future you might glean from the process.


If learning the piano is on your list (or the list of someone you know), I would be honored to help in the journey.

I delight in bringing the joy of music into hearts and homes through personalized remote piano lessons that will leave you feeling accomplished and supported.

The process is simple:

1. Schedule a call to talk about your goals.

2. Select a lesson time.

3. Take your first lesson!


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