Songwriting 101: One Simple Trick to Writing Great Chord Progressions
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
A question I get from every beginning songwriter is “how do I know what chords sound good together?” - and the answer is shockingly simple.
Many teachers will dive into music theory and talk about major one chords and four chords and minor six chords. All of that information is true and important to learn, but it also complicates the issue more than necessary for the beginning songwriter.
If you’ve been around music very long, chances are you’ve seen this:
This is the circle of 5ths, and it is the master key to music. From this simple chart, we can figure out every major and minor key, understand how the different keys relate to each other, and so much more.
How does this help with creating chord progressions that will always sound good together?
Using the circle of 5ths to create chord progressions
Pick any major or minor key on this chart, and that chord plus the five chords surrounding it will sound good together.
Yes. It’s really that simple.
If I pick C Major, the 6 chords I can use are: C, F, G, Am, Dm, Em
If you want to write your melody in C major, you’ll probably be using some combination of C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, and A minor. Play around with the order and different rhythms, and pretty quickly you’ll have the bones of a new song.
It can’t be that simple?
It is. Of course, there are a million things you can learn to put together more advanced chord progressions and ways you can refine and develop your process. Songwriting and music theory is a wonderfully complex world that can take years to learn all the nuances. In the meantime, this simple trick will is a fail-safe way to get your process kickstarted!
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