Chord Progressions, and the Strong-Fragile Concept

Last week I received an email from a blog reader, with a question regarding chord progressions. It’s similar to one that I receive a lot, and so I thought perhaps I would post it here, along with my answer [slightly edited in spots for clarity], and hope that it might be helpful for those of […]


Making Use of Musical Ambiguity in Your Songwriting

There is a pattern you’ll notice in most pop songs, which is that as they move along, they alternate between sections that are ambiguous in nature and sections that are much clearer and easy to understand. I like using the terms “fragile” and “strong”: In many songs, that “fragile-strong” labelling is synonymous with “verse-chorus” structure. […]

Finding Good Chords Starts With Tapping Your Foot

Looking for an easy way to discover the chords that could potentially go with a melody? It’s not a random process; it really depends mainly on what notes are happening on strong beats. There is a bit of instinct involved, particularly with regard to how often you should change chords. You’ll notice that most songs, if you […]

Guitarist - Songwriter

6 Easy Steps For Melody-First Songwriting

When I write music, I like starting with melody first. But melody-first writing means also thinking about chords. That’s because the musical part of our brain is always assembling melody notes and coming up with chords. If you want to see how this works, click to listen to this melody: A simple enough melody. Play it […]

Making Best Use of a “Fragile” Songwriting Idea

To describe a musical idea as “fragile” means that there is a certain measure of ambiguity. I like to use the term especially when describing chord progressions. A fragile progression is one in which any of the following are true: The chords do not strongly indicate the key. For example, moving back and forth from Am […]

Fleetwood Mac - Don't Stop

Song Melodies: Thinking About Your Starting Note

Because good songwriting usually starts with improvising ideas based on your instincts, you may not have given much thought to what note your tunes start on. The chord you choose, in most circumstances anyway, limits your choices to 3 notes: the root, the 3rd or the 5th. Understandably, there’s no rule that governs what the […]