Chord Progressions means you play 2 or more chords in a certain order.
In this blog I will give you tips to start your creative flow with maybe some on-orthodox suggestions on how to create a chord.
How to use these in a real song, might even be more strange at first. You might not really get a song when you only use these tips, but we are still building up to get a song at the end.
I have never heard an artist saying:
'Well I started this song with 3 chords that became my verse, and the same 3 chords became my chorus and I made a bridge from the same 3 chords in the same order, played in the same rhythm in the whole song. I just started writing them down, added some melody parts and lyrics, choose a genre and some emotional feel, picked these instruments and we can now play and record this hit.
Tip 1 on Chord Progressions: The simple start
Just start with what you know and how to use it. If you find yourself without any knowledge of music theory, you can still make music with Lyrics and Melodies.
Using an app or a DAW can help you to find more suitable ways.
To be able to use 1 note, for example a C and the software can add the rest of the notes for you. It adds an E and a G. It makes the music sound more complete with a quick way to add instruments to your song.
For the exercise of all the tips in this blog, please stick to only 3 notes in each chord. So it will be the root note, the third and the fifth of a chord.
In the example, I have used midi in Cubase. I use the piano roll to see where the root note is. On the left side, you can see what kind of 3-note chords/triads you can vary with. The selected White block with 'maj' is now representing the black lines on the right. The chosen chord is .....?
You can answer it in the comments below.
Below those are the more diverse 4-note chords. After clicking on a note in the grid, it automatically adds 2 more notes from the traid.
I clicked on F2 and the A2 and C3 where added by Cubase.
After that I can press play and it start playing the first chord and the next I have looped in Cubase. In this example, I can change the last chord to one of the 5 other chord possibility's, (min - sus4 - sus2 - dim - aug) by just clicking on the knobs on the left side. I can instantly hear the change to the new chord. When I loop the play, the first chords will be followed by the changed one. Now I can decide what chord is the best to follow the first one.
If you do not have a D.A.W. You can go to the website HookTheory https://www.hooktheory.com/
These guys have a free midi player that lets you work with chord progressions and melody's. Like in any D.A.W., you need a bit of time to find out how it works. It has a few very cool features. And very usable for writing down quick idea's. Very handy when you do not have money for a 'real' D.A.W. yet. But there are more apps, if you search further.
Tip 2 on Chord Progressions: Stacking melodies
When you have a few melody lines from my last blog. And you know what notes they have, you can write them down on a piece of paper. Put them right underneath each other and when you have two or three lines, you can figure out chords.
First example: These are notes in 1 bar that need a chord.
First melody: g g g g b g
Second melody: b d d b d d
Third Melody: g g d g
When you take a look at the first 3 notes that are under each other, you see g-b-g. The second column it is g-d-g, the third is only g-d. I would write them down. I also know a B and a D are in one of the melodies. And add all missing notes with the notes I know like this:
G – A – B – C – D – E (– F# - G).
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 ( – 7 – 8).
So the first chord is a G. (3-note/triad) When I look at the other notes in the melodies, they are also conforming the scale of G. The 3rd and 5th note make this complete to a chord.
First melody: g g bes g bes g
Second melody: bes d d b d d
Third Melody: g f d g
When I write down all the notes I have in my melodies.
g – bes – d – f
And add the notes that I am missing to the line, it will become:
g – a – bes – c – d – e – f – g
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8
(bes is called bflat in some parts of the world)
So again we figure out what are the most used notes and see if 3 of these make up a chord. When using the numbers you see it's first, third and fifth of a chord. G – Bes – D
For a major we have had a major third through the b (see first example) Now we have a bes, which is a half step lower note than a B on the scale.
(Probably why some parts of the world call it 'flat' and when it is higher, sharp)
But it makes my chord become minor and has a less cheerful sound to it.
When you find these techniques difficult, or need help with other chord progression questions for your songs?!? Feel free to schedule a
Free Co Creation Call with me.
For every part of the song and each chord you can use this method.
It can be a slow and long process at first. And after a while you might not need to do this anymore. When you discover which works all the time in your songs, you can probably make it work much quicker. Take your time to build on your skill set.
You now know how to play them simultaneously on an instrument. And know when changes are coming, you can play chords and by changing them, when the melody line changes, you'll get a chord progression.
For now, it can help you decide what chords and in what order to play along with the vocal melody or other melody parts. It is a puzzle, but you can learn a lot from it. See if you can find 3-note chords with the root, third and fifth first. You match these in your melody. Do watch out, not all notes of your melody have to be in the chord. Find the most used notes that match a chord you can find.
On a later time, you might want to find inversions of these notes in the melody. For example, the fifth might be lower than the root note.
Tip 3 on Chord Progressions: Tacking up musical theory
Yes, I went there... I said it. You need to learn the basics of theory, or learn how the basics of an instrument that plays chords work. Transferring these chords and sounds will also help you in a later stadium of your progress on writing more interesting songs. There is a big difference between a C chord on a piano and a C chord on the guitar. Even when it is played in the same frequency of the tonal range.
And in the long run, you'll have an advantage. Instead of figuring out what next chord could be played best, by playing all chords one by one. You learned what they do, and know which to choose, because of the theory. And I'm not saying you must learn theory.
I love Gracie Terzian on this channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/GracieTerzian
for her way of explaining, in dept on how a chord is made and all the theory that goes along with it.
Tip 4 on Chord Progressions: Limited chords challenge
Challenge yourself to only use 2 chords for a song. In all the sections of your song. Make it more interesting by playing them differently and use different melodies in the parts. You can also play in different tonal ranges. Now start to play ideas on with which instrument will play in a rhythmic way and which one will only lay a chord 'layer of sound' in that part. Change this throughout the different parts. I encourage you to use inversions of the chords and use octave changes in the different parts of the song.
I now hear you say: But you said, 'never let anyone stop your creativity?1?'. Yes, that is right. But this is an exercise. When you know how to do this, you have more techniques that work for you, instead of losing yourself in the chaos of possibility's. It's fascinating to find out. You will open the door to new possibilities by choosing a limitation. You will never hear me saying you can't do that. I am just challenging you to learn and use this technique, to get an advantage later. But feel free to skip it. 6 other tips to chose from.
Or........ Book a Free Co Creation Call with me. Use the button below.
Tip 5 on Chord Progressions: famously repeated
Use the most famous chord progressions from at least 1 song of your choosing and make this song sound really different by just using the chords, not a melody or the lyrics. For example: change the rhythm, feel, sounds, story you want to bring across. Notice how people will start to 'recognize' this song as, 'potentially one of your best you have written so far'.
When you like this, you can start using it in 2 ways:
Tip 6 on Chord Progressions: Use 3 chords only
Like the limited chords from tip 4, but now explore your creativity using 3 chords. The challenge will be to not change the tonal range, or invert the chords, but to change the order of the chords in the different sections.
Also, use all other things you already have available in your skill set. Use only major chords, or only 3 minor chords. Or 2 major and 1 minor, or 2 minor and 1 major. Or go crazy on a Major - minor – diminished chord progression. ;-)
Can you even do 2 or 3 diminished chords in a chord progression?!? Let me know in the comments.
'Experimental fused chord drama schwing'.
Tip 7 on Chord Progressions: Mix it up
Now it's time to combine all the steps you have taken:
It is only to learn and get to know chords and progressions. And what they bring. Expect to write less than average songs at first, and have fun with that. Make the coolest plot-twists you can think of and write it as your best music for now. When time passes, you have found the strangest creative chord progressions that your brain could come up with, and you probably won't use them again. Because you know what it brings, and that is not what you need for the next song you are creating. And you even didn't need any kind of drugs to get there, with all kinds of after and side effects of the drugs along the way. That is a healthy approach on the side line too.
Bonus tip: tonal range
You now would probably have stayed clear of very difficult chords, with 7 in them, or 9, augmented or sus2, and the many more chords that are available. And if you are more familiar with music, or you do play an instrument and have more knowledge of musical theory, you can use all my tips with all kinds of exotic chords and intervals. Do not forget 4-note chords.
I am curious what you can create with all of that. Better yet, with all the knowledge you have, can you make something interesting with all the limitations of my tips?
Let me know what you created. If you take the time to create something with 1 or more of my tips, please let me listen. Put a link below in a comment, so all of us can have a listen to your 'Expressional Tonal Art Nouveau'. And give it a cool name along the way!
Thanks for taking the time to read all my tips. When you feel a bit overwhelmed (and I understand it can be much) do not hesitate to book your Free Co Creation Call with me. We can dive in what makes it hard for you at this time, to write your song(s) and I'll do my best to help you find your way to get past that point. In to the point of......
Finishing another song.
(When you now thought I would write 'no return', you really should book this Free Co Creation Call) LOL
Talk to you soon.
Peter - Perfect Sounds Unleashed
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Just a few moments from my musical life, put into words.