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Music Theory
1 Feb 2011 21:10 | Quote
Joined: 01 Feb 2011
Alright I tend to ramble a lot, so I'm gonna try to keep this simple.

Recently, I started focusing primarily on acoustic guitar so I can write, play, and sing my own songs.


In a nutshell, the songs I write lack variety.
My lyrics are decent, it's when I try to add chords that everything falls apart.
I have a few totally complete songs with chords and all, but I'm never satisfied. I can only ever have like 3 songs at a time because I recycle the same basic chord progressions and use them with my newest lyrics.
Idk if any of that makes sense. :p

I guess if I had to sum it all up in question format I'd ask,
Is there some set way to know what chords sound good together and make decent chord progressions, or do I just have to experiment and figure it out myself?

Any suggestions are appreciated.
Even if I have to do a ridiculous amount of reading on musical theory stuff, I'm willing to learn.
1 Feb 2011 21:54 | Quote
Joined: 10 Feb 2008
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Learn theory... Thats all i can say.. Unless you have a certain melody to lyrics... However reyclying chord progressions isnt all bad. Most bands do it almost all the time. The key is instead of making the same chord progression sound the same, make it sound different.

For example, i can name about 20 phish songs with a 1-4-5 or some formation or a 1-4-5. How do they change it up? Over the 1-4-5 the tempo is different, the rhythm is different, the vocal melody is different, and the guitar isnt always playing chords... So dont make it odvious. Hide it in some cases

Like instead of doing a 1-4-5 in Amaj, A, D, E, And just playing the chords, find the inversions of the chords, such as doing the 2nd inversion of a (the d shape one where A is on the b string 10th fret.) then for D you could root on the 1st inversion, the 3rd of the chord, which would be the 9th fret, then have your first finger barring the chord on the 7th fret and have your pinky on the root d on the e string 10th fret. and for the e do the bar chord shape on the 12th fret but only do the 3rd 5th and root. So itd be 13 on the g, 12 on the b, 12 on the e. Or g#, b, e. I dont know your level so if your not understanding everything tell me what theory and guitar knowledge you have qand ill work with it...

However as i said many artists litterally use the same progression over and over, and to be honest unless its a thing where your chugging the root of the chord and doing power chords and chugging eigth notes in similar progressions people really wont notice... And even if they do, if the tempo and melody is different its not the same. Non musicians notice much less then musicians... Sometimes ill be suprised what people that arnt musically educated... Ill think holy crap the last 3 songs were a 2-5 repeated in Bmin. Wtf. Everyone loves it. Good example? Santana. Almost EVERY song was a 2-5 progression. I used to love covering his stuff, even if i didnt know the song, id be like whats the key? And theyd be like Amaj (i know that the 2 and 5 chords are Bmin and Emaj) and i go k. And most of the time it worked. (especially when i heard the song first... I didnt reallyt need to guess... Just knew it because it was the same)

My point, similar chord progressions arnt necesarily bad, as long as everything around it changes...

And hey, if you cant do that you could always put on a school uniform, get a high pitched male singer with ball hugging jeans and call yourself Ac/Dc...

1 Feb 2011 21:59 | Quote
Joined: 27 May 2008
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Well why are you not satisfied with your chord progressions? are the chords bland? do the chords not fit together or with the melody?

Yes, there probably is some set way to know what chords sound good together, but most early singer/songwriters just played what they thought sounded good, and know what? it did sound good.
One technique i use to find chords that fit a melody is when i want a chord change, i hum the note that the melody is playing during the chord change and then find every chord that note is in and use the one that sounds best.

i dunno if that made any sense
1 Feb 2011 22:00 | Quote
Joined: 05 Jun 2010
Karma: 22
EMB might have stated this. but i say know what key your in first. And the chords to that key.
1 Feb 2011 22:17 | Quote
Joined: 01 Feb 2011
I really have little to no knowledge on musical theory. I learned everything I know on my own. :/
1 Feb 2011 22:56 | Quote
Joined: 03 Sep 2010
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try playing new inversions of your tired old progressions
1 Feb 2011 22:58 | Quote
Joined: 26 Feb 2009
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I'm also completely self taught(though I am waiting for the glorious day I can learn from someone who knows what they are talking about and that I can pay for lessons)

I've learned all the theory I know by reading about it, listening to music and trying to analyze what they are doing in my mind and learning the riffs by ear, and applying both of the previously stated to making my own music.

Best way to do this would be to find a teacher, or if you are strapped for who to trust with your weekly payments or your might be strapped for cash(like me) read up all that you can on the most bare bones basic theory stuff like chords and the most basic steps for scales(start with minor pentatonic and then move up to learning the major, etc. etc.)

BUT there is a chord tool up above here that is FREE, and it is USEFUL. hehe

Look up random chords and learn as much as you can. You'll eventually find some chords that you really really like and from that will stem some unique and interesting chord progression that could compliment the song and possibly the vocal melody.

Lots of chords to use and many many ways to create music man.
1 Feb 2011 23:22 | Quote
Joined: 21 Jul 2009
United States
Karma: 7
here on this site you can see chord progressions per key. Pick one.

Then learn it inside and out.

Then learn the position of the corresponding scale inside and out. In doing this you will come up with more ideas then you can keep track of.


You say you have no knowledge of theory because you taught yourself. The same is true for me. It's not that hard to learn the very basics. IF you can apply yourself. Afterall this does take a little work.

good luck
2 Feb 2011 13:13 | Quote
Joined: 23 Jun 2008
Lessons: 4
Karma: 35
Also sometimes trick is not in the chords or chord progressions themselves, but In arrangement and that is the its own area with its own "theoretical approaches"

Say if you have cool lyrics that works, you get alone cool sounding chord progression, but you cant get them to work together then the trick is in the arrangement and melody.

But like EMB stated out, learn your theory m8. If its sounds like "Oh man! You cant be serious, theres too much information!!!" do not mind, you need only but dedication and time. Good luck m8.

2 Feb 2011 13:53 | Quote
Joined: 10 Jul 2010
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PapaHotel says:
I guess if I had to sum it all up in question format I'd ask,
Is there some set way to know what chords sound good together and make decent chord progressions, or do I just have to experiment and figure it out myself?

I would say the answer is both. Learn the basic chord progressions, find the ones that sound best to you, then experiment with inversions, variations on the chords..7th, Maj 7th, sus2, sus4, add9, add6...... The possibilities are endless.
2 Feb 2011 15:01 | Quote
Joined: 10 Feb 2008
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Yeah if you dont know your theory then me saying to make it in the 1st and 2nd inversions with the 3rd and 5th in the base would make no sense.

Heres a tip, learn all the triads up and down the neck, im gonna do some searching on this site and if its not there ill make the lesson.
2 Feb 2011 17:38 | Quote
Joined: 01 Feb 2011
Excellent, thank you all for your comments. I'll definitely start reading in to some theory, even if it means just getting the basics down.
2 Feb 2011 17:58 | Quote
Joined: way back
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