Piano and guitar - mixolydian mode

The Beauty of Chord Progressions in the Mixolydian Mode

A modal scale, for the purposes of what you’ll need to know for good songwriting, is one that starts and finishes on the non-tonic note of a major scale. That may seem like a mouthful, but here’s all it means: If you play a C major scale, you’re playing the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. But let’s say […]

Neil Young

Songwriting: Pivoting Between Major and Minor

When writing a song, it seems logical to assume that it will be either in a major or minor key, and you simply have to choose which one. But there is another option, which is to allow the song to start minor, switch quickly to major, then back to minor, and so on. You’d be […]

Singer-Songwriter

Manipulating the Tonic Chord For a More Effective Verse

It’s usually not hard to know that a song we’re listening to has reached the chorus. We’ll notice that the chord progression will get shorter and simpler, and target the tonic chord more. The melody of a chorus is often made up of short, catchy, hooky bits that get repeated over and over, and the […]

Sting - Every Breath You Take

After Verse and Chorus Chords, What To Do About the Bridge?

Most pop songs, and all the related genres such as folk, country, etc., use simple, strong chord progressions. In fact, when you go back and look at complex prog rock tunes from the early to mid-seventies, you might be surprised to see that chord choice is not nearly as adventurous as you might think. Complex […]

John Legend

Using Opposite Approaches For Your Verse and Chorus

As listeners of music, we like to hear contrasting ideas as a song progresses, even if we’re not consciously aware of it. In songwriting, a contrasting idea might mean something like this: one part of a melody that’s harmonized mainly with minor chords, followed by a section harmonized with mostly major ones. Contrast in a […]

Lady Gaga

When a Verse and Chorus Are In Different Keys

Having the verse and chorus in different keys is not rare if you consider the number of songs where the verse is mainly in minor, and then the chorus switches to the relative major. Sometimes the minor-major relationship is a different one, like Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” (Stefani Germanotta, Rob Fusari), which has a verse in […]