Using Chord Leading in Songwriting

author: daniel.kPL date: 10/21/2013 category: songwriting & lyrics
rating: 8.7 / votes: 26 
Using Chord Leading in Songwriting
You can create a chord progression using any combination of chords that sound good to your ears. Music theory, in all, isn't just math. Although, some of the chords naturally lead to other chords, which can be descried by theory. This is called "chord leading" (quite obvious, isn't it?). This concept is very useful, when you are stuck in songwriting, or you just want to practice some progressions that you are not familiar with. Anyway, the rules are ridiculously simple, let's go. For the sake of convenience, we will use the key that everybody is familiar with - C major. Play a C major chord, which is a I chord in the C major scale. To learn which chord lead where, check this table:
This chord          Leads here           
________________________________________
I                 | any                 
ii                | IV,V,vii*           
iii               | ii,VI,vi            
IV                | I,iii,V,vii*        
V                 | I                   
vi                | ii,IV,V,I           
vii*              | I,iii               
----------------------------------------
How to use this table? Example: That said, when you play a C chord, you can move to any chord. Let's pick a iii chord, which is a E minor chord. Looking at this table, iii chord leads either to ii, IV or vi. Let's pick IV, which is a F chord. IV leads to I, iii, V or vii*. Let's pick V - G chord. G leads only to I, so after playing G, we get back to I chord, and our progression is over, and looks like this: I-iii-IV-V C-e-F-G Pretty easy, isn't it? If you had problems knowing which chord is which one in that key - check this table below, and read the example again. I - C major ii - D minor iii - E minor IV - F major V - G major vi - A minor vii* - B dim You can try also working backward from the final chord. Usually, the final chord is the I chord, so if you want, you can try doing this in reverse, like this: if the last chord is I, check which chords lead to I. These are: IV, V and vii*. Let's pick IV. To IV lead ii, iii and vi chords. Let's pick vi. As the I chord leads anywhere, let's go to I, and the progression is over. It looks like this: I-vi-IV-I C-a-F-C Using this method, you can create infinite number of chord progressions. Then, you can do with them whatever you want. Use them as a framework, or leave them as they are. Whatever fits you. Keep in mind, that you don't have to finish every progression at the first I chord, you can continue this as long as you wish. Here are some ideas to have a party with chordleading. Remember, that music theory should be only a guide. Important guide, but still only a guide. Don't be afraid to experiment, and here are some points that you can start with. Not all of them will sound good at first, but it may lead to some good discoveries. Keep an open mind! Create a chord progression using chordleading and... 1. Change all chords to powerchords. 2. Play every chord as a bar chord, then let the notes ring freely, or play every note stacatto. 3. Play every chord sweep picked, turning them to arpeggios if you can. If you can't, maybe it's a good idea to start practicing sweeping? 4. Change progression - play it backwards. 5. Tap every chord on one string, instead of playing it. 6. Change every chord quality to 7th chord and solo over it using blues scale. 7. Change every minor chord to major, and every major to minor. (results may be very weird). 8. Re-harmonize chords, adding extensions and alternate some notes. 9. Break the rules completely, and use a random chord in the middle of your progression. If it sounds really bad, try adding more chords before this one, untill it sounds ok for you. 10. Play the chords only on the three low strings, in the lowest position possible. 11. Play the chords only on the three high strings, in the highest position possible. 12. Play all the chords using the same bass note, to cluster the harmony on one tone - try placing every chord root on the A string, playing always an open E string. Then solo over this progression, focusing on E note... or avoid E note. Whatever you do, be creative - try to do extraordinary things! About the Author: By Daniel Kaczmarczyk. As always... Mostly have fun, and don't forget to like my Facebook page.
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