Written by Gary Ewer
Follow Gary on Twitter
First, let me start by saying that most songwriters worry too much about their chord progressions. It’s actually not as important to get an interesting chord progression as it is to get one that actually works. But if you are looking for ways to get a bit of spice into an otherwisemundane progression, there are things you can easily do.
Try some of these ideas:
1) Use pedal bass. This means placing a note in the bass (or the lowest sounding instrument), and keep that note there no matter what the chords do above it. It can change a boring progression into something much more interesting.
For example: C F G C could become C F/C G/C C.
2) Use chord inversions. Otherwise known as slash chords, an inverted chord places a note other than the root in the bass. This changes the sound of a chord in very subtle ways.
For example: C G Am F C Dm C could become C G/B Am F C/E Dm C. These inversions allow the bass to move in a more melodic fashion, creating a second line of interest.
3) Use added tones. An added tone simply means that you add a non-chord-tone to a basic triad.
For example: C F G C could become Cadd9 Fadd9 G Cadd6. This will require experimentation to make it suit your song, but added tones are a great way to add an air of sophistication to your chord progression.
(If you’d like more chord progression ideas (modal mixtures, secondary dominants, etc.), try “Essential Chord Progressions“, “More Essential Chord Progressions“, or “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting – Chord Progression Formulas.”)
And as a final comment, I just want to clarify what I said at the beginning of this article. Many songwriters look for ways to make their progressions more interesting, when what’s really going on is that their progressions as is just don’t really work. My advice is to make sure that your progressions in their basic form are working before you go looking for ways to make them interesting.
The analogy that works best here is: Don’t go looking for a really great new colour of paint for your house if it’s got structural problems. Fix the structure first, then look for paint.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” shows you how to write great songs. It’s just one of a suite of 6 songwriting e-books written by Gary Ewer. (His newest e-book, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting- Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered for free when you purchase any other of his songwriting e-books.) Let these six e-books show you every aspect of how to write great songs! Read more..