Bored with I-IV-V-I Progressions? Spice things Up with These Suggestions

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by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:

If you find yourself using the same boring chords in every song you write, it’s time to expand your chord vocabulary. Here are some suggestions for making things more interesting:

1) Modal Mixtures. A modal mixture chord is one that comes from the “opposite mode”. For example, a C major progression might be:
C  F  G  C
Instead of using F, try the chord you’d find in C minor instead: Fm. That would give you:
C  Fm  G  C

Here are some other progressions that use modal mixtures:
C  Eb  Ab  Bb  C
C  Ddim/F  G  C

2) Secondary Dominants. A secondary dominant fools the ear into believing that it is the V-chord of a new key. In short, almost every time you make a chord that is usually minor in your chosen key into major, you’ve created a secondary dominant.In C major, for example, you’d usually use Dm. But using D (major) adds a new flavour to the music that you might like. So try these sample progressions:
C  D  G  Am
C  F  E7  A
C  G/B  A7  D7  G7  C

3) Pedal Tones. Take an otherwise ordinary progression, but keep the same note in the bass no matter what the chord choices are. It’s good to start with something “safe”, like keeping the tonic note in the bass. But try some others (Remember, with the slash chords (inversions) shown below, the first letter is the chord name; the second letter is the bass note:
C  F/C  G/C  C
C/A  F/A  Em/A  Am
C/F  F  G/F  C/F

My advice to you is to get chord progression books, and start expanding your chord progression choices. And because chord progressions are not protected by copyright as such, feel free to experiment, modify and manipulate the progressions you find there. You’ll find that expanding your chord vocabulary has a way of making you feel inspired to get writing!

Posted in Chord Progressions, songwriting and tagged , , , .

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