Band in rehearsal

Getting Chords to Support the Mood of the Lyric

As a songwriter you likely already know the importance of having a strong partnership between the melodies you write and chords underneath them. That partnership between melody and chords is a crucial one.

But don’t forget that lyrics are an important member of that partnership. And in that regard, the chords you choose can have a big role to play in the mood that the lyrics are meant to portray.

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If you’re not sure that your songs’ chords are supporting the meaning of your lyrics, here are two activities that will help troubleshoot that important relationship, and develop a stronger sense of control over lyrics and chords:

  1. Play through chord progressions of songs you know, and get a sense of how the mood of a progression changes from one phrase to another. Most progressions use a mixture of major and minor chords, and this is a powerful contributor to how the mood modifies over time. Also, notice how added tones within a chord (Cadd9, Gsus4, F13, for example) all affect the mood of the music.
  2. Analyze lyrics to determine how the mood changes. Just as combinations of chord types affect the mood, certain combinations of words will make your listeners feel various emotions more strongly. Sometimes an entire verse is meant to convey a certain mood. But when you really put the magnifying glass on the lyric, you may notice that the mood actually changes slightly throughout the verse, in ways you hadn’t noticed before.

Start With the Pros

The more you do those two activities, the better control you’ll get over how to use chords to enhance the mood of your lyrics. Start those activities by listening to and analyzing your favourite hit songs from your chosen genre before moving on to your own songs.

By starting with the music of other professional songwriters, you’re better able to look at the relationship between chords and lyrics with a strong sense of objectivity. With each song that you analyze, you become better able to control the mood of your own songs.

Once you feel that you’ve got a good grasp of these two activities, do the same thing with your own songs. You may find ways in which the mood you thought you were portraying actually might have missed the mark.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Hooks and RiffsThere’s more to a song hook than meets the ear… a lot more. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” is a vital manual for any serious songwriter.

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