How To Write Chord Progressions - Songwriting Basics 

Quick example in G (with split measure) 08:25- General chord writing advice 11:03- The next steps from here Videos that build off this one- Writing in Minor - https://youtu.be/j-j4g0ktPGw Secondary Dominants: https://youtu.be/py4HaueW50Q Borrowed Chords: https://youtu.be/7IdttvJSedg https://www.twitter.com/signals_music https://www.facebook.com/signalsmusic... https://www.signalsmusicstudio.com Free online guitar lessons for beginners, intermediate, and advanced players. Located in Crystal Lake, Jake Lizzio provides free jam tracks and video lessons for guitar players, as well as music theory videos and other music education content.


 Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors.  However, I do hope you find it helpful.   

Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

For a very long time. I thought that writing music was one of those things you're either born with or you're not and I was convinced that I was not born with it that I could not write music. I mean, it was so hard for me to just learn songs much less write them.

But then I learned about by diatonic chords more specifically I learned how to use my diatonic chords. So that's what I want to teach you in this video in this very short video by the end of this you will be able to write chord progressions that sound wonderful that will work that you can give to your band to play and actually start writing verse sections and This has now this will be fairly limited were only going to be working in major keys today, but most of the music we hear on a daily basis is in the major key. So this is really tackling like almost like 60 to 70% of western music is going to be described just in this video.

So even if you're already familiar with diatonic chords, I still suggest you watch this because I'm going to be putting some very funny restrictions on are playing and that'll actually help us get better sounding progressions easier now at the very end of this video I do want to talk about how can we make things more complicated? Dated, how can we add in more Theory?

And also how can we get rid of the theory to just kind of let let ourselves right intuitively instead of through these mechanical processes.

I don't want to waste any time. I just like to get right into it by starting to write some chord progressions in our C major scale to do that. We need to start on the Note C from there. We have a formula of whole steps and half steps that will build us any major scale it goes whole whole half whole whole whole half. So a whole step is two Frets and a half step is one friend, and if I I do that sequence of half steps and whole steps it gives me my C major scale and it gives me these notes cdefgab.

Now in music. What we do is we give every single one of those notes its own number and we don't just write it as a normal number. We write it as a Roman numeral one, two, three, four, five six seven after that. We give every single one of those notes its own cord. So the first note there gets its own chord. We give it a major chord. All right major chords will get an upper case Roman numeral, but the second note we're going to give it a minus. Cord, and that means we're going to flip that Roman numeral to be a lower case Roman numeral. So the second note gets a minor chord the third note gets a minor chord the fourth and fifth note both get major chords the sixth note gets a minor chord and the 7th note gets a diminished chord. Now in this video. I'm going to completely skip the diminished chord. I don't even want to talk about diminished in this video. That's a really deep topic that goes way past just writing cool poppy chord progressions. So for our purposes today, we're really only using the six chords of the key of C, and we're going to ignore that 7th chord those six chords are Our C Major D Minor E minor F major G major and a minor and you can hear those sounds fantastic together.

But here's where the real magic comes in. If I want to write a chord progression in the key of C.

Here are the three simple rules that I want to place on you to write a chord progression number one, make sure that we're writing for measures of music I think four is a great place to start. I don't want to start with five measures. It's kind of hard to write a five measure progression.

But if we just stick with for we'll be in pretty good shape our next rule. Is to make sure that we're starting on the 1 chord today, that would be C major. We're in the key of C. That is my 1 chord. So I have to start on my 1 chord. The last rule is that the very last measure needs to be either my four chord or my five chord. That would be either an F chord or a G chord and with those simple rules. I can literally just guess at anything and get a great sounding chord progression.

Here's what I mean. I'm starting on one pick any note between one and six. I'm going to pick three.

Okay, my three chord you can see is a E minor so if I'm going to go from C, I'm going to go to an E minor.

Let's pick another chord I'll go to to is D minor and now I have to do a four or five at the end and let's try the for first the F. Okay. So let's play that chord progression again. I had see I had E minor I had D minor and then I had F and I think that sounds pretty nice. If I give it a strumming pattern now, let's take a listen.

Yeah, I think that sounds great. So what if I did the five chord at the end instead? All right. So let's do the exact same thing. But this time instead of ending on an F chord. I'll have a G major at the end instead of an F major. Okay.

Here's the one three to five dear. That sounds a little bit brighter a little bit bolder.

That's why I want you to use the four chord or the five chord at the end going from the four chord to the one chord is called a Cadence. You can hear going from four to one kind of gives you the soft Landing back to my 1 chord and going from 5 to 1 gives you this really strong Landing back to my 1 chord.

So by putting a 4 Chord or a 5 quart at the end of my measure it kind of makes you want to come back to repeat the chord progression on one again. So by making sure you starting on 1 and ending on four or five you'll always Be setting up this kind of infinite chord progression Loop and literally we can do anything in between those two chords. Let's try something different. I'm starting on C again.

And this time I'll go to the 6 chord which is a minor.

I'll go to the five chord and then maybe just stay on the 5 chord. All right. I said, I mean there's no rule against doing a court twice in a row. So let's do this again. I had one six and five stay on five Against One.

And the six and then the five and then maybe the for all right, and I'm literally just guessing numbers out of random out of thin air and the cord I pick between one and six would work out.

Now to make sure we really got the grasp of this. Let's just do it all over again really quickly in the key of G. I'm going to start on a gnote and I'm going to build my scale. I do a whole step whole step half step whole step whole step whole step half step and that gives me the notes g a b c d e f sharp and G then I'm just going to write in my Roman numeral formula. Eat the scale and it tells me what chords I'm allowed to play. Once again that uppercase Roman numeral means I'm allowed to play a G major that lowercase Roman numerals means I'm allowed to play an A Minor for my 2 chord and then a B minor C Major D major and an E minor and we are going to skip the F sharp diminished just in case you were curious. We actually have to play it as an F sharp half diminished and it would sound like that and it does actually resolve to the one chord but like I said advanced stuff, we'll talk about that in another video actually. Already have a video on diminished chords. If you'd like to know a little bit more about the theory of just those so let's follow our rules again. Let's set up for measures will start with G will make sure that we're ending with either C or D.

And the only thing that I want to maybe spice up a little bit today is I want to do a split measure. I want to take one of these measures and not just do one chord for the whole measure actually want to divide it in half. So we get like a quick change between two different chords. Okay. So let's start on G major and we'll do a full measure 1 2 3 4 from Are let's try going to the four chord 2 3 4 and then let's go to the two chord and then I'm going to split that measure with the 6 chord just so just two strums on each one. So two strums have been a minor. That's my 2 chord two strums of an E minor. That's my six chord.

Then I want to end with my five chord one, two three.

So here's my full progression. I'm going to go one for Two six five.

Alright now, let's give it a strumming pattern that works pretty good.

Also, you don't have to strum these things. What if I arpeggiator tumor did like a picking pattern through each one. So here's my G and the C A minor e d.

Alright, obviously think about this outside of your guitar. with the sound like on a piano sounds like music. This is the kind of thing. That was always elusive to me. I never knew how do you just write stuff? That sounds good. Well, you do it like this you find out what your key is you write some chords in that key and you make sure that it kind of tails off at the end with a four or five chord to keep the whole thing looping and boom you're sounding musical. Now if I wanted to do something on top of this like sing or play a guitar solo. You can probably guess the notes. I would sing or the notes I would play for a guitar solo Come From This scale G major when we were writing and see I would obviously be playing and singing in the c major scale. So that's Really what it means to play or to write in one key now. Like I said, this is very limiting. This is very restricting. I'm putting these three rules on you saying you have to start here you have to end on this and that's you don't really want to be writing your own Soulful emotional music with these kind of rules in place, but I really do think this is a good place to start at least getting something that's musical ultimately in a perfect world you go sit down with your guitar and your emotions just pour out and that your message comes out through your music, but you can't count on Tan that that's not something you can rely on and when those moments don't happen when you don't find that inspiration and when things don't just click in place, you kind of have to just brute force your way through things and to just write something whether you like it or not. Just get something out there and then maybe later on that will actually inspire something or maybe that's where the idea starts and you change it and modify it from there. But you really have to expect that song writing isn't going to always be this natural process where you know, the the waves come to you and see the music and it just expresses itself instantly through I mean that does happen and those are magical moments and that's those are probably going to be your best songs when it's effortless, but that's like in my for me personally that's like five percent of my songwriting just as that effortless thoughtless process 95% of the other parts of it is just brute forcing my way through things that I think might work and then finding something that kind of works and then later on the ice, the idea really strikes and the inspiration strikes and I can just throw away all my mechanics and my rules and I can just do what I'm hearing and and do what I really want to do. So there's the very basics of it. Hopefully you get the idea that this is simple stuff. I mean you really don't need to know much Theory to start writing songs in different Keys. What I suggest you do is write in every key write a song Annie today write a song and F tomorrow write a song and F sharp the following day just so you really get an idea of you know, what each one of those keys looks like on your guitar what they look like on your piano. If you're a piano player if you do EDM or if you're interested in writing music on the computer tried taking the same stuff and programming in these chords as Strings or synthesizers.

It's very important to practice the stuff by using it by writing with it. I mean it should go without saying that's how you get better at writing music is by writing more music. Now a lot of my favorite songs go way past this bread and butter diatonic chords only six chord choices. A lot of my favorite songs leave the key and they do interesting things that break the rules but a lot of times when you break the rules, there's even rules for how you break the rules.

So the next step for you if you want to take this to the next level is to start exploring secondary dominant chords, And those records that are outside of the key, but they will take you to chords that are in your key. And you can also start looking into borrowed chords, which are chords that come from the parallel modes of the key that you're in so you would want to know about your modes before you dive into that. But that will give you access to way more chords than just the six that I stuck you with today.

Also keep in mind that songs can change keys. So you don't have to just write a song and in the key of C major and keep it there forever. You're allowed to change Keys. You are allowed to modulate in the middle of a song.

So just some ideas. Of taking this past this very very restrictive rules that I've given you here today. So I hope you enjoyed this video and more importantly. I hope you realize that songwriting is actually something that anyone can do. They just have to learn the rules and practice a little bit then once you've learned those rules and practiced you're free to go crazy and put your own spin on things put your own style on things and really make it yours. If you like this video, please subscribe like all that good stuff and I will plan on seeing you soon.


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