Monday, June 24, 2019

5 More Tips for Writing Better Chord Progressions

 Last time we talked about five tips for writing better chord progressions, and in this article we will take a look at a few more tips to help your chord progressions become much better.

1. Don't be afraid to change keys - All of the great songwriters have experimented (and in Brian Wilson's case mastered) changing keys within a song. There are hundreds of ways to do so, and as a budding songwriter you should give it a shot too. Don't worry if it doesn't sound good when you are done, the nice thing about a key change is they are easy to get rid of if you don't like them.

2. Try changing keys modally - The simplest form of a modal change is going from major to minor, or from minor to major. But you can also go from major to Dorian, or to any of the other modes. Changing a song modally is a really good way of introducing some exotic flavor to your sound.

3. Consecutive Key Changes - You might find that one key change just isn't enough. Maybe your song needs to work upwards or downwards through a series of key changes. This is one of the things that makes "Good Vibrations" such a classic. Brian Wilson wasn't content to just repeat "Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations" but with each repeat the song shifted up to a new key. It was a great way of making the song build.

4. Colorful Chords - Use more colorful chords to decorate a more simple progression. Try using sus2 or sus4 chords. Or instead of just playing a V make it a V7. If you really want to branch out start teaching yourself how to make some of the more jazzy sounding chords like 9, 11, or 13 chords. Then use the added notes to guide you to new chords that use those included notes.

5. Cadences - Finally, try various cadences for ending phrases. If you have a basic progression, try experimenting with the sound of your chord progression by tweaking the way the phrases end. Does it go straight from V to I. Perhaps try a cadence where you go V IV to I. Or V iii I. Anyway to expand or tweak the cadence might make it sound a little more appealing to your ear.

So there are a few more ideas to help improve your songs. If you found these tips helpful, you can find out more about songwriting tips and tricks in my new book: "Lyrics and Music: Music Theory for Aspiring Songwriters" available now at, or with several additional Appendices at Barnes and Noble..

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