How to Create Awesome Chord Progressions for Songwriting

chord progressions [image]Guess How You Can Write Chord Progressions the will ALWAYS SOUND GREAT with your Melody, and make listeners feel TOTALLY CONNECTED to the song.

How? It’s Simple: DON’T GUESS!

Many songwriters simply guess which chords to use with their melodies; they try a variety of different ones until something sounds right.

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There is nothing wrong with using your ear to find good sounds, but just guessing which chords might work with a melody is like trying to find a new car to for sale by driving up and down every street in the city looking for one, rather than simply going to the new car lots. You might eventually find a good one, but you would be really doing things THE HARD WAY.

For Songs, the big car-lot of chords that will ALWAYS SOUND GREAT with your melody will come from the Same Scale. When car shopping, if you want a Chevy you go to a Chevy dealer, if you want a Ford you go to a Ford car lot. It is no different in songwriting. If your melody comes from a D major scale, a G minor scale, or a Bb Blues scale, you need to know the chords in that key to write chord progressions.

This works the other way around also. If you begin with the chord progressions, your melody should come from the same scale that the chords come from.

HOW DO YOU FIND THESE MYSTERIOUS CHORDS?

Let’s quickly go over major keys, and stick to triads (3-note chords) for now to keep this simple. In any major key, which will contain 7 notes, the chords follow the scale tones in this order: I is major, ii is minor, iii is minor, IV is major, V is major, vi is minor, and vii is diminished.

So in the key of C here are the chords: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim.

And in the key of D we get these chords: D Em F#m G A Bm C#dim.

The order of major, minor, and diminished chords will always be the same, no matter what major key you are using.

Here is the BLUEPRINT: If you begin with a melody, determine what scale you are using, know what chords are in that key, and choose from them.

You can also do this the other way around: chords first, melody second. If you begin with the chords, determine what scale they belong to and create your melody from that scale.

This takes less than a minute to figure out, and Everything will match up LIKE MAGIC.

You can always choose a chord or two from outside of the key for Interesting Flavors, but most of the chords and melody notes need to come from the same scale, or the song will taste like a Pizza with Tuna and Peanut Butter toppings.

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  • Herman Holtzhausen

    Just a tip…try using a minor 7th flated 5th in place of your diminished on the VII chord of the scales? Regards from South Africa- Herman H

    Reply
    • Kevin Thomas

      That is a good tip Herman, and to expand upon that, you can put 7ths on any of the chords in the key to create a more complex harmony. Just beware that on the I and IV chords they will be major sevenths, but all the other chords in the key get flat 7ths.

      Reply
  • John Wicks

    Thanks. Cool article. Speaking personally, although I studied music theory in the past – as a songwriter, I prefer to be guided by my imagination – letting my ears be the judge of where that imagination is taking me, as opposed to consciously applying music theory.
    I find the latter to be too akin to mathematics. I will admit, sometimes this approach may take me a little longer to accomplish the goal of bringing a song to completion, but it’s always worked very well for me.

    Reply
    • Kevin Thomas

      John, that is great, it is always good to be guided by your creative imagination, your heart, and your inner ear.

      But when you get stuck, which usually happens somewhere, that is the best time to apply your brain as well by simply asking yourself “What key am I writing in, and what are the chords in that key, and what chords from other chord families will work with my melody in that key?” Knowing what you are doing can resolve a problem in seconds that might otherwise just keep you stuck.

      But yes, your approach is the best way to start in my opinion.
      Kevin

      Reply
      • John Wicks

        Thanks, Kevin!
        Fristly, I’m so glad to know we are not like our presidential candidates! Haha.
        Secondly, yes, you make a very valid point, and one with which I totally concur. Suffice to say, I do very often get stuck, so it is most definitely something I will fall back on, going forward. Thanks again. 🙂
        John

        Reply
  • wlambo

    Good lesson!
    It makes things much simpler.
    Thank you Kevin!

    Wlambo

    Reply

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