songwriter - guitarist

Transposing Simple Chord Progressions to Create Something More Interesting

Do you find yourself wishing that your chord progressions were just a little more interesting? Here’s a quick tip for taking something that’s basic and simple to come up with something that sounds more imaginative: transpose your progression. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say that you’ve been improvising on a simple progression like: C Dm […]

Derek and the Dominos

Using a Key Change as a Musical Surprise

In most songs, key changes happen for any one or more of the following reasons: It raises musical energy. The most typical example of this is the song that has a minor key verse, then switches to a major key chorus. That brightening of the key from minor to major increases musical momentum as it […]

Guitar and piano

Chord Theory Can Be Complicated, But These Two Things Top the List

There’s a lot you can study about chords — about the way they work, how to choose them, and how one progression relates to another. All of it comes under the large umbrella called chord theory, and it’s a very large umbrella. Some songwriters have a knack for it; it’s not something they have to consciously […]

Joni Mitchell

Controlling the Mood of a Song

Mood is one of the first things that’s conveyed by music. Listeners pick up the mood via the partnership of all the various song components, but mostly through: key choice (major versus minor); tempo; melodic shape; instrumental choices and effects; lyrics. I purposely placed lyrics at the bottom of that list, even though the lyrics […]

guitar - songwriting

From Wandering to Predictable – Comparing Verse and Chorus Progressions

There are lots of ways to categorize chord progressions, but the one way that will be most useful for pop songwriters is to think of them as being either fragile or strong. A fragile progression is one where the key is not necessarily clear and obvious. These can be very beautiful progressions, and are the kind that […]