Written by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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- Chords usually act as a backdrop for something more interesting. So an unassuming chord progression may be important to maintain. Think of it this way: a wall in a house is usually painted a rather plain colour, and this works well by not drawing attention away from a more vibrant work of art that may be hanging on that wall.
- To substitute one chord for another, it’s best if the substituted chord has at least one of the same notes as the original chord. By keeping the melody notes the same, this is usually assured.
- A chord substitution usually creates a surprise to the listener, so use substitutions sparingly. As mentioned earlier, a listener needs predictability as much or more than innovation.
- Changing the last chord of a verse or chorus creates what is called a “deceptive cadence.” This can work well especially when connecting a chorus to a bridge.
My advice, however, is to use chord substitutions sparingly. Remember that most songs need a strong dose of predictability to work well. Substitutions should be used to freshen up a progression, particularly in the latter half of a song.
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