by Black Pumas • Lesson #396 • Oct 21, 2021

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hey, friends! I had the pleasure of going to the Austin City Limits fest a few weekends back – and without doubt, the band that left the biggest impression on me was the Black Pumas. I’ve had them on repeat most of the past week, and it’s their hit song COLORS (from their debut 2019 album) I’d like to share with you today. Straight up –– give this song a listen! It sounds both old and modern, packing some retro/soul/gospel flavors on top of grooving rock foundation.

Video timestamps:

  • 0:00 Lesson Overview
  • 2:32 Chords Used (no capo, Key of F#m)
  • 3:56 Chords Used (capo 2, Key of Em)
  • 7:10 Strumming Patterns (4 options)
  • 11:15 Jangly Intro Riff (w/ tab)

Musically, this song uses an 8 measure chord progression that repeats the entire time. The fact that it never gets old (and they’re able to pull so much out of it) is a real testament to the musical brains behind the band. I’ll be using a capo 2nd fret to simplify to avoid barre chords and make it more strum-friendly.

It’s the diminished chord in particular that provides the real magic in this song. It creates a bass-line walkup between the final three chords of the progression (from D to D#dim7 to the Em) – which is incredibly effective at grabbing the listeners ear. As I note in my video, I very much recommend you check out Michael Palmisano’s Guitar Teacher REACTS video where he dives into this song, giving a solid breakdown of all the music theory concepts at play – especially around the diminished chord. Note, I’m adding the 7th tone to the D#dim chord just to make it easier to play.

Other songs that use this same diminished chord

When learning this song, I realized that this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this diminish chord shape (D#dim7). Here’s the other lesson I’ve made that use the D#dim7 – and in all cases, it’s following the D-major chord – which creates that walk-up sound.

I hope y’all enjoy! Remember to give Colors a listen, and check out Michael Palmisano’s reaction video if you want a intermediate/advanced breakdown of the theory. Thanks all, and enjoy!

Watch the Black Pumas perform this live in studio

Watch Michael Palmisano’s reaction video to this song

His music theory knowledge is amazing, especially seeing how quickly he can pick this song up and identify what’s going on.

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