John Lenno - George Harrison

Using the Diminished Seventh Chord in Your Progressions

Take a look at the chords in pop music today, and you don’t see the diminished chord being used much. It’s an extremely versatile chord, but it’s possible that songwriters might be a bit confused as to how to use it. And by “use it”, I think many just don’t know how to approach the […]

Elton John

Sometimes Principles Confuse Us

Lately it seems that I’ve been getting a lot of comments, both through email and in the comments section at the ends of various posts, questioning some of the various songwriting principles I write about. Mainly, a comment will go something like this: “You say that chorus progressions are shorter than verse progressions, but I […]

Finding Alternatives to the Standard I-IV-V-I Progression

The typical 3-chord song has been the workhorse of early rock and roll. Go back to the 50s, and it’s the mainstay of most songs. By 3-chord songs, we’re talking usually about this progression: I  IV  V7  I  (C  F  G7  C) And then, of course, the writer might throw something else in, particularly in […]

How to Improvise Your Next Song

I wrote recently about the difference between theory and practice (“What’s Most Important: Theory or Practice?“) The best songwriters are the ones that know a bit of the theory behind what they do, and then spend a good amount of time “practicing” their art. The practical side of songwriting is the actual doing side. In pop […]

Transcribing Songs: The Best Ear Training a Songwriter Can Do

When I was a teenager, I had a somewhat limited knowledge of music theory and how it worked. I think that’s typical for most young people. I played trumpet and a bit of piano, so I could read notes in the treble and bass clef, but I had a very rudimentary understanding of what chords […]

Paul Simon

Giving Your Songs A Noticeable Point of Focus

When you look at paintings, you’ll notice that most of them have a noticeable point of focus — the area of the canvas that your eye gets drawn toward. Music is not much different; in most songs, you’ll notice that there’s a point of focus. The only difference is that in songs, you usually have […]