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Are there any golden rules, guidelines or tips when it comes to creating a chordprogression?

I'm trying to write my first song at the moment, I've done lots of lyrics before, but I have never created a melody and music all on my own. Therefore I go by feeling only when I try to write a good chord progression, but it would be helpful to know some general guidelines :)

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C, Am, F, G

In the 1960's thousands of songs were written with those chords. Use progressions from songs you like. There is plenty of theory you can learn but if it sounds good it's probably already been used on many songs. Choose your genre and copy the hits, no guicker way to start. Once you learn the popular progressions, you will naturally progress to more original stuff.

Keep writing,

Don

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I listened to a Van Morrison concert on the Tv the other night. He's a great three chord man (occasionally 4) - mostly feeling and grunting.

If you want a list of good two chord songs I have some.

And a one chord song or two.

The knack is the song NOT the chord progression. The REALLY clever bit is when you realise someone has written a song with a chord progression you know and have played a million times before (eg C Am F G) and it's different. Now that's clever.

How many chords has Karma Chameleon got? First time I heard that I thought "that is so catchy"..

Clever stuff.

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Say I've got the scale and the chords, and I'm working on the "order", when the chord changes are supposed to be and so on.

E A D G B E

- - - - - -

E - 0 2 2 1 0 0

Aadd9 - 0 0 2 2 0 0

C#m7 - x 4 6 6 0 0

Bmsus - x 2 4 4 0 0

C2 - x 3 5 5 0 0

F#msus - 2 4 4 3 0 0

A2 - 5 7 7 6 0 0

(the reason I added how to play the chord is that I'm not sure what they are called, I found them on a tab but nowhere else)

Does it matter in what order I play them, or could I just go by feeling?

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Very erudite Steve but perhaps a bit confusing on the 7th front. The chord referred to as C2 is a Cmaj7 rather than a C7. And when you say "there is no V in the progression so clearly the chords are not meant to be viewed in a straightforward major context" what is the B chord other than a fifth?

Boff

Here's a wee Youtube clip to spot some of the shapes you are playing -

Or you could play Luka by Suzane Vega which has similar stuff

Or Fields of Gold by Sting you can play with a lot of those chords

Or have a look at John McGann's Canyon Moonrise. It's a favourite tune I play with a friend and the chord voicings and progression I think is lovely. One of it's nicer aspects is the ambiguity between major and minor.

Doesn't much matter what they are called does it?

Edited by Nick
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The reason I "picked" these chords is that I know several awesome songs with them, I love the feeling, so I wanted to write a song with the same chords. One of the songs is this one:

(Horrible video, don't watch it)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJDjuKjHEvM

I didn't understand most of that theoretical stuff, I'm not very good at that, but I did get the point. It does matter in what order you play the chords, but mostly you can still go by feeling.

I'm pretty sure it's an A# and not an A in that chord. As I said I picked the chords from a tab, I know how to play them but I didn't know the names so..

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  • 9 months later...

I have a question, if anyone can help.

Specifically, I am curious about this ‘add9’ idea.

How would Cadd9 be different from C9 ?

I don’t get it yet.

Also, as unfortunately I don’t follow tab, I can’t make sense of those note spellings in the same way Steve and Nick can, but it seems I might still be interpreting standard shorthand chord spellings a little differently.

A written suspension, as I understand it, tells us how the writer wishes us to ‘voice’ the chord in question:

Csus means that with the root C staying at the bottom the rest of the chord tones are built from the 4th upwards.

Similarly, C2 means that the chord tones get stacked on top of the root from the 9th upwards.

Otherwise, we might just as well call it a C9, no?

Boff – yes, there are indeed useful ‘golden rules’ and guidelines for making chord progressions work.

But they are real tough to talk about through these media and when we are so unsure about whether we speak the same theoretical musical language and can understand each other. To make real headway, my opinion is that one way or another you are going to have to figure out effective ways of making sense of the theory side. And I think the quickest bestest way is to get some face-to-face teaching based on where you’re at. That way, ambiguities and misunderstandings can be sorted out on the spot. It all helps.

.

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My understanding is that "C9" and "Cadd9" would indeed be equivalent.

The "suspension" term comes from the notion that the note (2nd or 4th) is going to move ... it has to move ... (say) to the 3rd. It's a dissonance that adds spice or tension, then relieves it directly.

One of the best books on chord progressions that I found was a chapter in Jimmy Webb's definitive Tunesmith, but that is a book where it literally took me a week to read :-[one chapter through.

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Specifically, I am curious about this ‘add9’ idea.

How would Cadd9 be different from C9 ?

I don’t get it yet.

As you may have noticed, Lazz, us rock'n'rollers tend to be a little sloppier with terminology than legit cats, but for those of us who care about the details, a C9 would imply a dominant chord extended to the ninth degree (C-E-G-Bb-D), while Cadd9 would simply be a triad with an added ninth (C-E-G-D). The latter would usually turn up as a sub for the root or 4th when you wouldn't want a sound as definitive as the basic triad, but the maj7 would clash somehow.

Edited by Retrosaurus Rex
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C9 would imply a dominant chord extended to the ninth degree (C-E-G-Bb-D), while Cadd9 would simply be a triad with an added ninth (C-E-G-D).
That makes some sense.

Does it make the same sense to all of us ?

Aaah...

My understanding is that "C9" and "Cadd9" would indeed be equivalent.
So maybe not.

The "suspension" term comes from the notion that the note (2nd or 4th) is going to move ... it has to move ... (say) to the 3rd.
I didn't know that.

The picture in my own head has been about the 4th 'hanging' there unsupported by the 3rd - and hence the 'suspension' notion.

I'm ready for your interpretation if mine is off-beam, but that's what I've been blindly taking for granted without ever thinking to question, ... plus my own thoughts on progressions is that voice-leading is always what it's all about - so I'd never given the sus4 any particular special status in that regard.

I don't hear dissonance much there either, to tell the truth, but then I am a big fan of fourths anyway.

Jimmy Webb's definitive Tunesmith, ... where it literally took me a week to read one chapter through.
Great book!

.

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Obviously, "I didn't know that, either." Thanks, Retro! :)

You learn something new every day. Now, what's the real scoop on suspensions? ???

No more clarity on the metaphor of suspension, I fear.

But we have another 'hold on just a minute!' for this nonsense with the 9.

I took a brief swing through the land of google (gee - I thought I'd trained myself not to do that - it contains an absolutely un-mediated mine-field of contradictory info) and found confident opinion that 'add9' is used to signify the addition of the 9th to an extant four-note chord - making it the same once again as Retro's C9 as a dominant extended to the 9th degree (C E G Bb D).

Confusion is back.

There has to be a better answer.

I mean, who the hell would bother with a five note chord ?

I don't personally know anyone who would choose to voice the 5th.

That, along with the root, would be bass-player's business, surely.

So our C9 is defined by three notes only (E Bb and D).

And if, as seems likely, that 9th is happening in the melody, then you'd only need the 3rd and 7th.

It is sounding a bit fishy to me.

Anyone have a light ?

.

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Whether it's right or wrong this is what I understood by the various different chords

C9 - C E G Bb D with the 7th being crucial

C add 9 - C E G C D with the D falling above the octave of the root rather than

C add 2 - C D E G C with the D falling below the octave of the root

No hint of the 7th and no way your ears could confuse the two with the C9 because of the distinctiveness of the Bb

C sus 4 - C F G C with no third

C sus 2 - C D G C with no third

Imagine is a good example of a C add 9 (C add 9 - C - C add 9 - C - Cmaj7 - Fmaj7)

Play it as it is wrote and listen and then substitute a C9 and play it again. Then come back and say they are the same.

Roxanne by the Police is a good example (to my ears) of interesting use of sus chords - especially that the Gsus4 DOESN'T resolve because it doesn't have to.

As a complete aside but slightly relevant... I played 'Crazy' by Gnarls Barkley recently a few times which ends on a Vsus4. The rest of the band desperately wanted to resolve it but as the last word of the song is 'possibly' the sus chord seemed so much better to finish on - a little musical joke. It would end with the singer improvising over the unresolved chord dying away... but never once managing to leave it unresolved :) Nearly changed by name to Gnick as well but thought it a little silly

Badge is another nice example but this time ending on a Bm add9 - rather than a Bm9

Little Wing Hendrix slides using Gadd9 --> Aadd9 --> Gadd9 --> Fadd9 - very distinctive sound

Where would Steely Dan have been without the add2 or add9 chord curiously christened a 'mu' chord here and there and even has its own wikipedia page - Mu chord article - Fagen and Becker

But you knew that already.

Edited by Nick
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The 9 - chord, as I hear, is very common in jazz music.

So is 11 even, which is even more ****ed up.

Frank Zappa, who (as I understand it) was not well-loved in jazz circles, said the fun doesn't start until you get to the 11th...

Lazz's rhetorical question, "who the hell would bother with a five note chord?" regards traditional voice-leading & orchestration, wherein there are typically only 4 voices active at any instant, even when the theoretical harmony is extended to "****ed up" chords with 9ths & 11ths, not mention altered 5ths... I've probably already said more about this subject than I'm qualified to, so I'll leave details to Lazz if he checks back in on this thread. I for one could stand to learn the finer points of voice leading...

Nick pretty much got to the heart of the question from a rock guitar standpoint, which was where the whole thing started anyway. So, the same question arises... "who the hell would bother with a five note chord?" The guitar has six strings, but in many chord grips at least one string is muted, and even when all the strings are sounded one or more notes are doubled, sometimes tripled, so there are still usually only 4 voices active, even tho I can guarantee you very few rock guitarists are thinking about "voice-leading" when choosing grips. Plus, the more distortion you use the worse those additional notes sound, which is why the "power chord" (which is really just the root & perfect 5th, sometimes with one note or the other doubled) is so popular in metal; most of those guys use so much amp distortion even the major or minor 3rd becomes too dissonant...

Edited by Retrosaurus Rex
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Well, here is where I would love to be able to see the exact combination of notes you are talking about, Nick, because I can't quite visualize what you mean by:

C add 9 - C E G C D with the D falling above the octave of the root rather than

C add 2 - C D E G C with the D falling below the octave of the root

To quote Victor Borge ... (sigh, R.I.P., my good man) ... "where the hell is C?" :) Or in this case, "D?"

It sounds to me like one of the points you are making is that the effective distinction between a "2" chord and a "9" chord is the voicing, "open" vs. "closed," since of course they are the same note, e.g. "D."

:-[Whew! Music theory in the early morning. Time for another cuppa joe.

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Plus, the more distortion you use the worse those additional notes sound, which is why the "power chord" (which is really just the root & perfect 5th, sometimes with one note or the other doubled) is so popular in metal; most of those guys use so much amp distortion even the major or minor 3rd becomes too dissonant...

That's an interesting idea ... the "fuzz boxes" as a musical instrument. They do transform the notes being played and thus alter the notes' true values and their relationship to one another. (I've heard it referred to as "bending the notes on the staff," as one bends or pushes the strings around on the fretboard. Or maybe, "if I smash this guitar to pieces on the stage, what note is played?) I wonder if anyone has actually figured out what notes are actually coming out of the speaker, vs. being sounded on the guitar itself? Those rock-guitar chords obviously aren't being sounded as-writ, when all the electronics are finished doing what they do.

Edited by MikeRobinson
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Lazz's rhetorical question, "who the hell would bother with a five note chord?"

Well-spotted, Retro.

Thanks.

And how could a thirteenth exist? …….. You can't play a thirteenth on a guitar unless you have a seven string but you get away with it because you work out what to leave out ……………

What is the essence of a chord?

The essentials up from the root are the third and the seventh – these tones tell you whether it’s major or minor or dominant or half-diminished (or diminished) – and are the essence of their ‘shell’ voicings.

Pat Smith has a neat intro to the concept in his

Lenny learned ‘shell’ essentials from Albertan pianist Bob Erlandson (I know I’ve mis-spelled it), who picked it up, like everyone else, from Bill Evans.

It means if you’re working with a bass-player that you don’t even need to worry about playing the root.

Then you just add the extension to the shell – you don’t need 7 strings at all.

You might, for instance, choose to voice a 13th chord from the seventh, heading upwards, to the third, and then the thirteenth – so you have a nice little stack of McCoy Tyner-ish fourths – I am fond of the sound of fourths – but you really have enormous choice and flexibility with the shell.

The strange bit is does melody imply harmony? Which harmony - the one that you know or the one that you don't?

Does melody imply harmony? – yes, I think so – it always does to me anyway.

Which one? – all those you can hear contextually inside your head.

I think I'd write a melody and if you want the harmony to be a certain thing then tell people. When someone then goes and harmonises it differently (and it' either better or worse or just different) and it works then you have a great TUNE... which is a much better place to be

Yup – I think so, too.

I'll leave details to Lazz if he checks back in on this thread. I for one could stand to learn the finer points of voice leading...

Bear in mind that I don’t play anything worth speaking of – especially guitar – too damn hard to figure out all this theoretical mumbo-jumbo – unlike the handily diagrammatic and graphically laid-out piano keyboard, that’s for sure – which helped me get to grips with ways of ‘seeing’ harmonic relationships.

As a singer, I want to be able communicate with other musicians - that's why I had to get to grips with it.

As a tyro wannabe arranger, I want to follow as much as I can and be able to decode chord spellings in order to misrepresent them (smile, please).

As a late and constant learner, those ‘finer points of voice leading’ to my ears involve the shell of 3rds and 7ths moving nicely in graceful baby-steps.

For Example:

The standard II-V-I turnaround in C – being Dm7 – G7 – CMajor7:

The 3rd of Dm7 is F, and the 7th of Dm7 is C

For G7, the F becomes the 7th, and the C drops down a half-tone to B – becoming the 3rd.

That B then easily becomes the defining 7th of CMaj7, while the F drops a half-step to its 3rd, E.

That’s why it sounds so sweet and natural, I think.

Plus, maybe instead of the bass movement describing the roots D to G to C, you may even choose baby-steps there, too – having picked up on Pat Smith’s passing reference to tri-tone substitutions in the video above.

(The tri-tone substitution rule says that any dominant chord can be substituted by another dominant chord whose root is a b5th away (a ‘tri-tone’ in distance) – which happens very nicely because the 7th and the 3rd of the chords simply swap their functions around. In our example, it means the G7 can be substituted by Db7 so that B, the 3rd of G7, becomes the 7th for Db7, while F, the 7th of G7, becomes the 3rd of Db7.)

The tiny but effective result is that the bass/root movement, instead of D to G to C, can make the little baby-steps D to Db to C.

Hope that helps someone out there instead of adding to being "****ed up"

.

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