Most songwriters dislike the word “formula” as it pertains to songwriting, because that word implies that there’s something about their music that’s predictable, something that’s been done so often before that we’ve been able to come up with a set of steps — a formula — that can guide you to the finished product.
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And of course, while in most cases following a set of steps to complete a song is likely not what you want to be doing, there is a case to be made for formulas that govern how we create chord progressions.
A song’s chord progression is analogous to a kind of sonic landscape upon which the more important bits — chiefly the melodies and lyrics — are placed. And since we certainly do want to have uniqueness and creativity in our melodies and lyrics, it turns out that using progressions that are more predictable and tonally strong is a good thing in most songs.
In that regard, the predictability that chord progression formulas offer can be a very useful tool in your songwriting.
A chord progression formula is any sequence of chords that a listener finds pleasing and musically satisfying. There is a strong characteristic of predictability in these kinds of progressions. Some common major key ones that you encounter in standard pop songs might be:
- I vi ii V I (C Am Dm G C)
- I ii IV V I (C Dm F G C)
- vi IV V I (Am F G C)
- I bVII bVI G (C Bb Ab G)
- IV I vi V (F C Am G)
As you can see, once you start any of those progressions, the final chord of the sequence becomes more predictable the further on in the sequence you go.
If you’d like to experiment with some chord progressions, check out my eBook “Chord Progression Formulas“, which shows you not only some standard progressions, but gives you quick ways to modify those progressions. In effect, you can create dozens of potential progressions within a few moments.
If you find yourself getting stuck at the chord progression stage of songwriting, check out “Chord Progression Formulas.” Each formula listed in the eBook will give you the potential to quickly and easily create many powerful and useful chord sequences.