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 […]

Piano and guitar - chords

3 Great Ways to Use a Flat-VI Chord In Your Major Key Progressions

A flat-VI chord is a major chord built on the lowered 6th degree of a major scale. In C major, the 6th degree is A. Lowering it gives you Ab, and a major chord built on that note gives you the 3-note chord Ab-C-Eb: the so-called flat-VI. In pop music genres, the flat-VI chord quite […]

Songwriter-Guitarist tuning

When All Your Songs Seem To Be In the Same Key

Because most songwriters are also instrumentalists, muscle memory plays a big role in key choice. If you’re a guitarist and you’re noodling around trying to create some ideas for songs, you’ll find your fingers wanting to move to the notes and patterns that you find the easiest to play. “Fix Your Songwriting Problems – NOW!” […]

Blake Shelton - Boys 'Round Here

The Role of Cleverness in Popular Songwriting

When we use the word “clever” in songwriting, we’re usually talking about lyrics. In that context, a clever lyric means any one of the following: There’s a double meaning going on that might not be immediately obvious. (i.e., the song isn’t about what it appears to be about) There are common words being used in […]

A Simple Way to Create Minor-Sounding Verses

It’s a common characteristic of many songs in the pop genres: a minor-sounding verse that moves to a major-sounding chorus. You might think that means you need to create two completely different progressions. But let’s say that you’ve worked out a good chorus hook, and now you’re trying to create a verse that partners well […]

Guitar and Piano

How Bridge Chords Work in Most Songs

A bridge (or middle-8) is the section that usually follows the second chorus of a song. Back in the earlier days of rock & roll, that bridge was likely to be strictly an 8-bar section, but these days the definition has allowed for a lot more creativity. In general, though, you can expect a bridge […]