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Thread: Confused Newbie Struggling With Chord Progression

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    Question Confused Newbie Struggling With Chord Progression

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    When you're picking up your acoustic guitar to write a song, do you always know the right chords to use?
    I mean, you start the song with, for example, an Em. Then you move to an Am, a G and so and so...but, since I'm a newbie, I find it a little confusing sometimes and I tend get lost on the melody, not knowing the next chord to choose. And a lot of times it becomes messy and I completely forget what I was trying to do in the first place. How do you know when to use a Dm7? Or an Asus4? Or an Fmaj7? Pluse, whenever I use the standard Am, C and Em sequence(in that order) I remember the melody to U2's New Year's Day and I can't shake it off!! Does that happen to any of you?
    Can you guys give me any tips? Or is this a stupid, stupid question?

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    Yeah, I know what you're talking about. With the familiar melodies thing (eg. New Year's day) you can start forcing yourself out of it by mixing it up. Try an F instead of the C or A, for example. Also alter the ryhthm and timing?

    And I don't always know the chords to go to. Its easy enough to find "A" chord that works, but its frequently not really the best one. Usually its in the I, IV, V pattern somewhere- one of them will work. If that's too boring or not quite the right flavor for my melody, I'll find the weak link and sing that note of the melody over the rest of the chords in the scale until I find one I like better. Then sometimes I'll take the NOTE of the chord that makes it work with that part of the melody and try chords OUT of the scale that have that note in it.

    As far as being messy and forgeting what you're trying to do... I (try to) beat that by playing each section through from the beginning when I make a change later on. Repetition helps iron out the feeling of getting lost- and you can't really go on and build on something if you don't have it down. If that makes any sense...

    Take care,
    Chris

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    Rocha, just like anything, it takes time. Concentrate on writing a simple progression. In fact, it might help to start with a chorus section. Make it simple, G to D, to em to G. VERY simple, now put some simple words and melody to it.

    For the verse you might just alternate between Em and D, again with a simple melody and words.

    My point is that songwriting is not a waterfall of wonderful creative juices flowing down from the loins of a Muse, it's a craft. It's like making a pie. The pie will taste bad if the ingredients are wrong. It'll taste great if the combination of ingredients are correct and it's cooked well.

    Songwriting is learned and it is learned over time. I believe that everyone could write a song if they spent the time.

    As for knowing what chord to use, it's not a question of right and wrong. If you're vocal melody leads you to use Dm7, then you'll use it. If your vocal melody is totally upbeat and major, minor chords might not fit, although in some cases, they will provide a nice dissonance.

    The more you practice and write songs, the more you will see a song as a puzzle. You just have to figure out the esscence of the song, and put the puzzle together.

    Which brings me to my final point. NO MATTER HOW GOOD OR BAD YOU THINK YOUR SONG MIGHT TURN OUT TO BE, ALWAYS FINISH IT. No matter what. Nothing is worse than great chord changes with no lyrics. or vice versa. Finish that M*F'er. That's my opinion.

    I think Chris is right, play the whole section and then make a change, getting too many ideas flowing at once can bring the songwriting session to a grinding halt.
    many people come to me and they say hey.......

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    I would like to suggest "Uncle Tim's First Year" to you...you can find it on the net....when I first picked up the guitar I must have bought every book under the sun...I found this one to be the most helpful and easiest to understand.....hang in there, it gets easier.
    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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    Often if you understand the basic key you're in and understand the basic major & minor scales there is a good chance that the chord progression will involve the I, IV and V often the II and the IV. After that it is a matter of determining if the chord should be a major, minor or embellished with a 6th, 7th, etc. The melody should nornally dictate the chord - but as was already said - there is no right or wrong.

    As already indicated it does get easier with practise - but a basic understanding of key signatures and the basic scales (major, minor, blues minor, pentatonic) can make the process so much easier.

    Learning songs that you like by artists that you like is a great way to start to understand how chord progressions work (obviously, starting with simpler songs is not a bad idea). There are hundreds of 3 chord songs (I - IV -V) and hundreds of 4 chord songs (I - VIm - IV -V) to use as learning references.
    Last edited by mikeh; 05-02-2006 at 15:08.

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    hey

    a personal favorite progression of mine....

    its used by ani difranco in the song "both hands" really good by the way...

    C-G-Am-G

    and u just keep repeating it.

    Listen to that song, and take out the words, and put your own in. You will have fun with it and keep rockin. it gets better

    C G Am

    x 3 2 0 1 0 3 2 0 0 0 3 x 0 2 2 1 0
    =========== =========== ===========
    | | | | o | | | | | | | | | | | o |
    fret 1 ----------- ----------- -----------
    | | o | | | | o | | | | | | o o | |
    fret 2 ----------- ----------- -----------
    | o | | | | o | | | | o | | | | | |
    fret 3 ----------- ----------- -----------
    | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

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    whoops

    sorry the tab didnt show up right. u know what they are tho , enjoy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocha06
    When you're picking up your acoustic guitar to write a song, do you always know the right chords to use?
    I mean, you start the song with, for example, an Em. Then you move to an Am, a G and so and so...but, since I'm a newbie, I find it a little confusing sometimes and I tend get lost on the melody, not knowing the next chord to choose. And a lot of times it becomes messy and I completely forget what I was trying to do in the first place. How do you know when to use a Dm7? Or an Asus4? Or an Fmaj7? Pluse, whenever I use the standard Am, C and Em sequence(in that order) I remember the melody to U2's New Year's Day and I can't shake it off!! Does that happen to any of you?
    Can you guys give me any tips? Or is this a stupid, stupid question?
    Sometimes I will write the lyrics to the song and I will have a melody in my mind that I want to use. What I will do is record a rough track on cassette of JUST VOCALS with no music at all. Then I play along with it on the guitar and get the major chord pattern for the song without losing the melody...I always keep the first track as a reference unitl I get really comfortable and record with both guitar and vocals. I find the key you end up in is sometimes a bit odd (like F#) but it allows you to find a comfortable key that you're not struggling to match on the guitar.

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    Also, for some stuff, you can strum along with just power chords, to find the right chord root, then go back and decide if they should be minor or major (90%) or augmented or diminished (rarely, for most styles). Then you can explore other extended chords, 7th, 9th, 11th, etc.

    Might not work always, but it's one thing to maybe try.

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    Thumbs up Harmonic support

    Try coming up with a melody first, without any chords. After you get a melody that you like and is easy to remember and sing, put some words to it, unless you have already written a lyric. Once you are satisfied with these, then harmonize by adding chords. Lots of people don't realize that the chords are there to support the lyric. You can develop a sensitivity to this by doing a lot of writing. Sometimes, when a lyric doesn't seem to work , its not the words, its the way the melody turns or the lack of appropriate harmony to support the meaning.


    writeon....
    chazba

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