konalavadome

SongWriterSelect Episode 4 - Chord Theory

  • 28 Replies
  • 9321 Views

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

MartiMedia

  • *
  • Solo Gig
  • ***
  • Posts: 349
    • MartiMedia
« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2015, 11:26:45 PM »
Thanks guys

One of the "reserved" posts I have made is there to share my biggest "nugget" of info relating to music theory

To keep the podcast to a reasonable length we consciously stuck to a single key ( C )

For my next trick I will show you the easiest way in the world to learn all the chords in all the keys, learn how many sharps & flats are in each key, and the order in which they appear!

When return from my hols I will post it here and see if my fellow "podcastites" want to include a discussion around it in a future podcast...
Happy holidays Boydie and can't wait for the next chapter! MM
https://soundcloud.com/martimedia/tracks
https://www.facebook.com/MartiMedia

Most recent collab (October 2015): Never Mine To Keep - Jambrains and Martimedia
http://www.songwriterforum.co.uk/song-reviews/never-mine-to-keep-(jambrains-martimedia-collab)/

My 'best' track (Winning track of this board's 'Dreams' 2015 summer competition):
https://soundcloud.com/martimedia/dreams

mickeytwonames

  • *
  • Solo Gig
  • ***
  • Posts: 261
  • me, my mistress and my dog
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2015, 03:06:31 PM »
A great refresher and good to have irt all in one place - may thanks#
Mickeytwonames
Practice like you live forever.
Play like you die tonight,

arteg

  • *
  • Busker
  • *
  • Posts: 21
    • Creative Songwriting
« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2016, 04:13:58 PM »
Very useful information, good explanation! I'd like to say more about VII in major chord scale:

I'd add bVII degree (Bb in C major scale), instead of VII, because it is widely used in pop/rock music. For example: A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles (G-C-G-F-G, I-IV-I- bVII-I), All Right Now by Free (chorus) (A-G-D-A, I- bVII-IV-I), Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen (D-G-C-G, I-IV- bVII-IV).

Jenna

  • *
  • Solo Gig
  • ***
  • Posts: 344
« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2017, 07:51:48 PM »
Slowly working my way through this and the podcast. Thank you for the time you spent on it.

Aelumag

  • *
  • Busker
  • *
  • Posts: 3
« Reply #19 on: November 23, 2017, 02:19:50 PM »
Thank you, this was very helpful and I have actually gone all the way to determining all the major keys.

Now, what I don't understand:

Everyone keeps saying that if you know the key of a song you can determine its chords. I understand how and that this is based exactly on this above. But my question is: can there be no exceptions? Can there be a song out there that simply uses let's say additional chords in it, that are outside its key? Can there be a situation when even if you know the key of a song, that you don't necessarily find all the chords used in it?

I am just trying to understand if there are exceptions to this rule and if there aren't, why is that? Why can there be no exceptions?

With that said, if I want to compose a song in the key of G for example:

G
Am
Bm
C
D

Em
F#m

Let's say I start using the majors, G, C and D; and I get a nice progression; then, I want to throw in something different for the chorus. Can I throw in a chord that is not in this key? For example an A Major? Even if the A in this key is minor?

And if the answers is yes, then how can we determine precisely what chords a song uses knowing the key if there are exceptions and songwriters can throw in borrowed chords all the time?

Thanks!

Boydie

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Stadium Tour
  • *****
  • Posts: 3547
« Reply #20 on: November 23, 2017, 05:00:55 PM »
The answer is a resounding YES

You can put any chord anywhere and as long as it "sounds right" you are fine

The best way to learn what "works" is to throw the theory book out of the window and just experiment - or listen to other songs that do this and work out why it works

Sometimes it will be a "modulation" (change of key) and sometimes it will just be a "wrong" (non-chord scale) chord

Using your example a "wrong" chord that I often hear in the key of G Major is the chord Cm

Try this section of a progression in G Major:

 | G | G7 | C | Cm | G | D | G ||

Quote
And if the answers is yes, then how can we determine precisely what chords a song uses knowing the key if there are exceptions and songwriters can throw in borrowed chords all the time?

You gotta use those flappy things on the side of your head!!!!  ;D

If you want to work out the chords to a song finding the "key" (tonal centre) will help you narrow down your search to the likely chords (ie the ones in the chord scale)

You will eventually be able to hear (and even anticipate) what chords are being used - then when a more unusual chord appears you should be able to hear it and then find out what it is

Music theory is "the map" not "the journey"

ALWAYS use your ear!!!
To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic

Wicked Deeds

  • *
  • Platinum Album
  • ****
  • Posts: 902
    • http://cdbaby.com/cd/paulvasey
« Reply #21 on: November 23, 2017, 05:33:57 PM »
The answer is a resounding YES

You can put any chord anywhere and as long as it "sounds right" you are fine

The best way to learn what "works" is to throw the theory book out of the window and just experiment - or listen to other songs that do this and work out why it works

Sometimes it will be a "modulation" (change of key) and sometimes it will just be a "wrong" (non-chord scale) chord

Using your example a "wrong" chord that I often hear in the key of G Major is the chord Cm

Try this section of a progression in G Major:

 | G | G7 | C | Cm | G | D | G ||

Quote
And if the answers is yes, then how can we determine precisely what chords a song uses knowing the key if there are exceptions and songwriters can throw in borrowed chords all the time?

You gotta use those flappy things on the side of your head!!!!  ;D

If you want to work out the chords to a song finding the "key" (tonal centre) will help you narrow down your search to the likely chords (ie the ones in the chord scale)

You will eventually be able to hear (and even anticipate) what chords are being used - then when a more unusual chord appears you should be able to hear it and then find out what it is

Music theory is "the map" not "the journey"

ALWAYS use your ear!!!

Well said!

Paul
" I'm the thief who stole the riches in the night."

http://cdbaby.com/cd/paulvasey

www.soundcloud.com/wicked-deeds

Aelumag

  • *
  • Busker
  • *
  • Posts: 3
« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2017, 06:34:07 PM »
Fair enough, thank you, that makes sense.

What if a song only uses these 3 chords: Am Dm and C; no other chords in the whole except these.

How can we tell if it's in the C key or in the F key since these chords are in both keys?

Thank

Boydie

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Stadium Tour
  • *****
  • Posts: 3547
« Reply #23 on: January 07, 2018, 11:19:36 AM »
The "key" is the "tonal centre" so it would depend on how the chords are arranged and what key the melody

As this particular chord sequences includes a C Major chord I would immediately suspect the key C rather than F

However, if the melody contained a Bb and melodic phrases kept pulling towards F (e.g. the not F was used at the end of phrases) then it is possible that the "tonal centre" of the song could be F Major
To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic

montydog

  • *
  • Stadium Tour
  • *****
  • Posts: 2015
  • http://i60.photobucket.com/albums/h40/montydog1/Me
    • Reverbnation
« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2018, 02:18:41 AM »
Boydie,

Very useful info and much appreciated. If I could just put my limited experience to bear, I would just say that although this is a very informative and fundamentally accurate portrayal of the building blocks of songwriting, it is useful to bear in mind that this can all be completely ignored and you can still write a killer song with no reference to this at all.

In my own experience, the most important thing is to find a key which suits your voice. Everyone's voice has a sweet spot between sounding too comfortable and sounding strained. It should be a key where you can stretch but not overextend your voice and where you are comfortable but not too comfortable. Once you have established this, you can use Boydie's basic building blocks to guide you. There are a lot of chords in each key (and outside it) which don't fit into the "rules" that Boydie has outlined but when used carefully can create magic.

My method is to hold a melody in my head and then play all the chords I know (which are mainly open chords on the guitar) until I find a sequence that fits that melody. Don't be restricted to the common chords - try holding down one or two strings of a chord shape or move it from it's original spot to somewhere else on the fret board. Sometimes all you need is two complementary chords and the whole song can be told there. Also, if you come across a chord change by just experimenting which sounds great, then bend the song to fit it, Just messing around on the guitar is a great way to spark ideas. Sometimes they fit the classic formula and sometimes they don't.

What I'm trying to say is that "the rules" are a useful slave but a terrible master.

Thanks once again to Boydie

Alan

Boydie

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Stadium Tour
  • *****
  • Posts: 3547
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2018, 08:08:07 AM »
I couldn't agree more ALAN

I was very keen to point this out in the original post:

Quote
Using this knowledge of the “rules” one of my favourite “songwriting tricks” is to break the rules and use a "non-chord scale" chord

The bottom line is if it sounds how you want it go for it

Music theory will ALWAYS be able to explain the "why" something sounds like it does, whether it be an interesting "clash" or notes or something that sounds "right"

I love:
Quote
"the rules" are a useful slave but a terrible master.

My personal "mantra" regarding music theory, which I think fits with what ALAN is saying is:

"Music theory is the map, not the journey"

A knowledge of music theory WILL enable you to find quick ways to right songs, and contrary to popular belief a knowledge of music theory does NOT mean you can't come up with interesting songs

However, like a journey it can sometimes be beneficial to not follow the map and see where it takes you

You may find a "hidden" forest, a beautiful lake, some scenic views to make the journey more interesting

BUT - all of these things were still on the map and you can find them after your journey - if you knew what you were looking for you could have still found them on the map and got to them quicker

I think this analogy works really well for songwriting / music theory

The point is that it doesn't matter how you get there - as long as you get there!!!

To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic

man of simple pleasures

  • *
  • Platinum Album
  • ****
  • Posts: 973
  • power to the people
    • soundcloud
« Reply #26 on: February 26, 2018, 10:31:27 AM »
need to check this podcast out, only quickly scrolled through stuff but sounds pretty good to look into and study up up on things! nice work Boydie!

Martinswede

  • *
  • Platinum Album
  • ****
  • Posts: 553
« Reply #27 on: March 11, 2018, 08:39:58 PM »
Hi Boydie!
It's always great to refresh the old theory!

Firstly I must say that I haven't listened to the whole podcast so it might be mentioned there. At the moment I can't get the link to work it just sends me to the start page.

What I want to point out is the relationship of thirds that seems to go unmentioned. The major chord is a stack (3) of thirds and the 7th chord is an added third to a 'regular' chord. 9 and 11 chords follow the same pattern.

Also the diminished chord ie Bdim is much like a G7 without the root note. A G7 without the first third.

Martin

Bobby Burrows

  • *
  • Busker
  • *
  • Posts: 6
« Reply #28 on: July 13, 2018, 12:07:26 PM »
Hi All

This post should be read in conjunction with Episode 4 of the SongWriterSelect Podcast, which can be found here:
http://www.songwriterforum.co.uk/the-bar/songwriter-select-podcast-episode-4/

In this episode we delve in to some music theory and how it can be directly applied to songwriting

The topic for this discussion was how to choose the right chords to form the foundation of your song

To keep things simple we will be sticking to the key of C Major

C Major is a very special scale as if you played it on a piano/keyboard and started on a C note you would play a C Major scale if you just played all of the white notes as the C Major scale does not contain any Sharps (#) or Flats (b)

This will also help understand some of the more complex chords where certain notes in the chord are changed

Roman Numerals are often used to describe the chords to make it easier to play songs in a different key (which we will not worry about for now)


CHORD SCALES

The chords that "fit together" in the key of C MAJOR are:

MAJOR CHORD SCALE

Degree of scale          Roman Numeral          Chord

1                              I                                C

2                              ii                                Dm   

3                              iii                               Em       

4                              IV                              F

5                              V                               G

6                              vi                              Am

7                              vii                             Bdim


If you were new to songwriting, or looking for inspiration, this gives you a "palette" of chords to choose from

For now we will ignore the B Diminished chord as we will be looking at Diminished and Augmented chords a little later


If you experiment with playing these chords it is likely you will find some sequences that go particularly well together

Here are some examples of some common progressions:

I        IV    V           -    “3 chord trick”        12 bar blues        Rock n Roll

I        vi    IV    V    -     “Rock n Roll ballad” - Teenager In Love, Earth Angel etc.

I        V    vi    IV    -     This is the “4 chord trick” that covers a whole raft of songs and parts of songs: Don’t Stop Believing, With Or Without You, Let It Be, Poker Face, Its My Life, Auld Lang Syne etc. etc.

For a fun example of just how many songs use this  I        V    vi    IV sequence (and to hear how it sounds) check out this excellent video by the AXIS OF AWESOME:



There is a very special relationship between the I chord and the vi chord - the vi chord is known as the RELATIVE MINOR

The RELATIVE MINOR uses exactly the same chords as its respective Major scale but by using the MINOR chord as the "tonal centre" the chord progression will have a different feel   

The "tonal centre" is the chord that the progression wants to "resolve" to, which also indicates the Key of the progression


MINOR CHORD SCALE

Degree of scale          Roman Numeral          Chord

1                              vi                               Am

2                              vii                              Bdim
   
3                              I                                C

4                              ii                                Dm   

5                              iii                               Em       

6                              IV                              F

7                              V                               G


This then gives 2 options for a palette of chords in a MAJOR and a MINOR key

Major keys often give happier sounding songs and Minor keys often give a more "melancholic" feel


The MAJOR and RELATIVE MINOR keys can also be mixed together in a single song

eg - The song could be in a MAJOR key but then in the BRIDGE section it might move to the RELATIVE MINOR to make it sound a little different for this section before returning to the MAJOR key


THE IV MINOR TRICK

Using this knowledge of the “rules” one of my favourite “songwriting tricks” is to break the rules and use a "non-chord scale" chord

e.g  In the chorus of the Beatles song “I Saw Her Standing There” this little run of chords is played for a bar each:   

C    C7    F    Fm

The Fm shouldn't “fit” very well, but it becomes a “stand out” moment of the song for me, emphasised by the high pitch “wooh”

The choice of these chords creates an interesting descending run of notes within the chords (C-Bb-A-Ab) as a counter the the vocal, which is going up:

C           - the root note of C Major   
Bb         - the Dominant 7th (b7) note of C7
A           - the Major 3rd note of F Major
Ab         - the b3 (Minor 3rd) of F Minor

I used this “trick” in the chorus of my own song “Edge Of Never”

The chord sequence for the chorus is:

C        C Maj 7    F     F
C        C Maj 7    F     Fm    (resolving to C)


It is important to note that "chord progressions" are not subject to copyright so you are free to "borrow" chord progressions from your favourite songs - just be sure to completely change the melody and lyrics  ;)

This can be a great way to explore and understand chord sequences, key changes and other songwriting techniques
Fantastic post.