Insert your custom message here. close ×

How to write chord progressions a pro would love, Part 5: The process

The act of creation

Making stuff  involves organization and experimentation.  At the end of the last post I outlined one way to do it, but some people like to break it down.
First: organization. Choose from a pool of chords to make your song. The pool we’ve been looking at so far is the chords in the key of C. Don’t us them all, but include them all as possible choices. This allows for experimentation.
So we have our possible chords: C  Dm  Em  F  G  Am  Bdim. But which ones do we use?

Time to Experiment

Try this. Take the C chord and place it at the beginning of the first bar. In the next bar, place a G chord. Like it? Now do the same thing, but use an Am chord in the second bar. Do this with every chord: go from the C major chord to the F major chord, E minor chord, D minor chord and B diminished chord. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that you have a different emotional reaction to each pairing. Write down those reactions in a journal.
C major - 2 chords
You’ll be tempted to fill in those empty bars at the end of each line. Resist this impulse.
Now change the harmonic rhythm. Same thing: pay attention and see how each chord pairing makes you feel. What you’re doing here is getting your personal reactions to what the possibilities are. This connects the feeling in the music to feelings in the lyrics.
C major - 2 chords2
Now try putting the second chord on the 4th beat instead of the 3rd. Maybe wait until the 2nd beat of the 2nd bar. There are quite a few possibilities and we’ve only used two chords in two bars. Just think of the fun you can have. Remember: write every new idea down.


This takes discipline. But if you stick with it through all the possibilities (and it won’t take that long), then when you add that third chord, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a new world. Make sure you write down how you feel about that.
Of course, you can just write down some words, and then hammer out some chords while saying those words…

So far…

We’ve talked about chords in the key of C, and we’ve talked about harmonic rhythm. We’ve talked about a process of discovering how to use these two things. We haven’t talked about  lyrics. For that I’m referring you to Sheila Davis’s books. She’s better at that than I am.
Here’s a couple:
The Craft of Lyric Writing
TheSongwriters Idea Book
And another one by Pat Pattison:
Writing Better Lyrics
Next post: song form! You get a container to put all this stuff into!
Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus