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How to write chord progressions a pro would love, part 4: Writing down the chords

Let’s take a look at some of those chords from part 2.

harmonic rhythm 4 bars slash

First, those diagonal lines. Those are called hash marks.

Hash Marks

Diagonal marks that show the beats in the bar.
A chord at the beginning of the bar always starts on beat 1. If you place a chord over the third hash mark (like our example above) it’s played on the third beat. Place it over the second hash mark and it’s played on the second beat.
I  hear you saying, “Didn’t he say that we’d be writing 8 bar verses? All I’ve seen is 4 bar examples.”
Good point. Here’s 8 bars.
8 bars blank slash
So if you’ve printed off a couple of sheets of staff paper like I asked you to, you’ll see 8 staves with nothing in them. No hash marks, no bar lines, no treble clef.

Go ahead and put some hash marks in those blank bars to get the image above. Then put in some chords from the key of C. Be aware of where you’re placing your chords. Are they mostly on the 1st and 3rd beats? Experiment by placing them randomly without worrying what it’ll sound like. Then play what you’ve got, and decide what you like.

Bar Lines

The vertical lines on the staff that separate hash marks into groups of four.

Treble Clef

The thing with all the curves at the beginning of each staff. Don’t worry about this. It’s used for figuring out notes. We’re only talking about chords right now. I’ll deal with notes in another post.

How to put in chords

The first thing you want to do is draw bar lines. Draw in five on the first staff. One at the beginning of the staff, one at the end, and three in the middle. Do the same on the staff below it. Then draw in the hash marks. Use the example above as a model.
Now you need the chords. Remember the chords in the key of C from part 1? Taking those, write in one chord per bar. It doesn’t matter which ones go where for now. Just put in some chords. You can always change them later. Once you have the chords written down, play what you’ve got. Pay attention to what you like and what you don’t. Change the harmonic rhythm if you feel it needs that.
It’s easy to say all that. It’s not as easy to do it. Part 5 and 6 will outline the process in detail.
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