Michael Jackson’s music, while it’s loved by people of all ages, can be enormously complex. “Human Nature” provides a nice blend, however, of traditional verse/refrain structure, a well-thought out bridge and a fairly simple chord progression that makes it an excellent song for those who want to learn their first song by the King of Pop. Michael Jackson’s music was very much centered on his vocals. It may be easier to understand the chord progressions, their phrasing and the various periods of the song if you listen to it a few times first, just to refresh your memory.
Human Nature uses a 2-beat reggae form of strumming in these ukulele video lessons. This type of strumming shares a rhythmic characteristic with gospel, a good deal of jazz and quite a lot of soul music in the fact that the upstroke is emphasized, creating a feeling of movement through a syncopated style of strumming. This strum is very easy to do. Remember to add a bit of force to your upstroke so that the highest notes in the chord sound with a staccato, and rather sharp, tone. Your index finger works well for creating this sharp upstroke.
The chord progression for this song starts and ends on G. The full verse progression is G-A, which is played 6 times while the verse is sung over it. There is a short bridge played between verses and prior to the refrain which has the chord progression G-F# Minor-E Minor-A-G. If you need to transpose this to a different key, the verse progression is I-II and the bridge progression is I-vi-iv-II-i. Michael Jackson did have a tremendous vocal range, and it might be necessary for singers with a less-developed instrument to transpose this up or down to hit all the notes in tune.
The refrain, or chorus, in this song comes after the short bridge. The progression for the refrain part of the song is G-A-D-B Minor-G-A-E Minor-A-G-A. To get the strumming and the timing down, listen to the song or study these ukulele video lessons. Be aware that the guitar line in this song—which the ukulele is more or less emulating—is very subtle and may require very close listening to discern. You can pick up some of the cues for chord changes from the keyboard and vocal progressions, which are much more in the foreground of the mix for this song. The numerical version of the refrain progression is I-II-V-iii-I-II-vi-II-I-II.
This song can be played with embellishments. One of the most natural to add to the song is a fill during the verse and bridges. This can be done between the I-II progressions or during the bridge to add a bit of spice to the sound. You may want to consider adding what’s called a “grace note”. This is a very short note that, in formal notation, is written much smaller than other notes, similar to superscript or subscript. These notes act almost as a launching point to the chord and work well hammered-on or pulled-off.
There is a variation of the bridge during the song in these ukulele video lessons. Before the first verse, the bridge plays out with the progression G-A-D-B Minor-G-A-E Minor-A. The numerical progression is I-II-V-iii-I-II-vi-II. This progression does not resolve as do the rest of them. The resolution comes with the beginning of the first verse, where the A serves as the jumping-off point for the first G (I) of the verse progression. The phrase sung over this part of the song is “I like living this way. I like loving this way.”, and it immediately precedes the fourth and final verse of the song.
“Human Nature” certainly does have its complexity. It is a soft and subtle song and shouldn’t be played with a strong sound. The reggae strum, though it is usually associated with driving dance beats, can be very soft, as well. This will require attention to your dynamics and a great deal of attention given to how you address the strings with your index finger. The more nail you use, the louder this strum will be, so using your finger pad in preference may afford you the more subtle and soft sound that fits along with this popular song.
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