Caaarrl94
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#1
Lately i've been practicing my fingerpicking when I started coming up with some great little folky melodies all based around one chord, just using hammer ons and such.

Some examples are
e---------------------------------------------------
B--------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------
D----------11--12--11--------11--12---------------
A-----12------------------12--------------12---------
E--10--10--10--10--10--10--10--10---------

e---------------------------------------------------
B----10-------------------10---------12--10---------
G----------11--12-------------11--------------------
D---------------------12------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------------
E--10--10--10--10--10--10--10--10------

Anyway it got me thinking, using little variations like this, is it possible for a song to be completely based around one chord?

thanks
"I think the most important thing about music is the sense of escape." - Thom Yorke
Last edited by Caaarrl94 at Dec 23, 2012,
NegiTom
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#2
Michael Gira (Swans, The Angels of Light, etc) has wrote numerous songs with just one chord, not even fingerpicking either. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UkctuGlOug Here's an example of him playing the song "Promise of Water" except with just one chord.

I think it's much less to do with the chord, but what you do with it and how it's played, good luck though!
Absolmaster
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#3
The idea of building a song by using one chord is not a bad idea. I mean in any chord you're going to have at least 2 notes ('5' chords) or you could have a chord with 4 or more notes (Maj7 etc). So yeah you possibly could. To keep it interesting I would suggest a tempo changes, changes in rhythm and switching up the techinques used. Hope this helps
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#4
Bo Diddley did a whole heap of songs with just one chord! Open tunings and drones are a blast as well, playing around with little melodies while bashing open strings.
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#5
Quote by NegiTom
Michael Gira (Swans, The Angels of Light, etc) has wrote numerous songs with just one chord, not even fingerpicking either. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UkctuGlOug Here's an example of him playing the song "Promise of Water" except with just one chord.

I think it's much less to do with the chord, but what you do with it and how it's played, good luck though!


I clearly hear two chords.


EDIT:

You certainly can, but, why would you? We have such a wonderful harmonic language.
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Last edited by Artemis Entreri at Dec 23, 2012,
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#7
A couple of the songs Bob Dylan covers on his first album are all D.
Si
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#8
Quote by Caaarrl94
Lately i've been practicing my fingerpicking when I started coming up with some great little folky melodies all based around one chord, just using hammer ons and such.

Some examples are
e---------------------------------------------------
B--------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------
D----------11--12--11--------11--12---------------
A-----12------------------12--------------12---------
E--10--10--10--10--10--10--10--10---------

e---------------------------------------------------
B----10-------------------10---------12--10---------
G----------11--12-------------11--------------------
D---------------------12------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------------
E--10--10--10--10--10--10--10--10------

Anyway it got me thinking, using little variations like this, is it possible for a song to be completely based around one chord?

thanks

Of course it is possible. But if you just pedal that D note, it doesn't necessarily mean you are only using one chord. And of course you can have one chord and play whatever notes over it (not just the chord tones). It's just hard to remain interesting with only one chord. But that could be an epic intro for a song.

Do what sounds good to you.
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#9
You can do any thing you want in any song you want. You don't need to ask
poisonousmetal
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#10
I think you could also implement Pitch Axir theory in this. Having a Dmaj sound while another guitar(or the melody) shifting through Major, Lydian & Mixolydian(as basics), because you really don't have one chord(depending on your analysis) if you think that's a straight Dmaj, or if you think you have a Dmaj7add11(which would be most of those notes, excludin B, which is a 6th, and almost impossible to play on one guitar I think. But it's all up to you. In my beliefs that's just a D pedal point, being ornamented with notes in Dmaj scale.
Last edited by poisonousmetal at Dec 24, 2012,
food1010
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#11
Quote by Artemis Entreri
You certainly can, but, why would you? We have such a wonderful harmonic language.
If a song only needs one chord, it only needs one chord. Not every song needs to be harmonically intricate. You have to do what's appropriate for the song, and sometimes that means just one chord.

Now if you're talking one voicing of one chord for a whole song, that's pretty whack. You can do a lot on one chord, when speaking of the chord as just the base chord, not the specific voicing.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
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Last edited by food1010 at Dec 24, 2012,
Artemis Entreri
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#12
I can't think of a single song which NEEDS one chord. Unfortunately I can think of a few which use only one though. The essential concept of music is movement through time. I'm not claiming it needs to be intricate but let's get some dominant-tonic movement at the very least.
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#13
There's a lot of funk music that doesn't need any more than one chord. It's not necessarily that it needs just one chord, but you can certainly make an interesting song based off of one chord.

http://grooveshark.com/s/Grimace/4mWhr?src=5
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food1010
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#15
Quote by Artemis Entreri
That is not one chord....
It's all based around an Em chord. Sure there isn't a single straight E minor triad played, but you'd be misunderstanding me if you thought that's what I was saying.

There's that chord that lands on G at the end of the unison lick into the turnaround, that's definitely not an Em, but it happens what, like twice in the whole song? I realize that turnaround is one of the most important parts of the song, but my point is that you have 90% of the song on an E minor and it's not boring harmonically.
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#16
To begin with, the bass is outlining two different chords. So that's two right there. The guitar is an extension of both in the into. The turn around obviously isn't one chord but a huge set of unexpected harmonic changes but you mentioned that.

I don't see how you don't hear that the main riff is two chords. Like, go play it on your guitar. It's two partial barre chords a step apart. Even so, I find it pretty boring without anything else going on. No vocals? No lead line? That's just me of course but I find it very boring until something happens.
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#18
Quote by Artemis Entreri
To begin with, the bass is outlining two different chords. So that's two right there. The guitar is an extension of both in the into. The turn around obviously isn't one chord but a huge set of unexpected harmonic changes but you mentioned that.

I don't see how you don't hear that the main riff is two chords. Like, go play it on your guitar. It's two partial barre chords a step apart. Even so, I find it pretty boring without anything else going on. No vocals? No lead line? That's just me of course but I find it very boring until something happens.
I'm not sure what you're hearing there. I get what you're saying about the bass line changing the chord, but they're definitely not a step apart. The notes are E A D B, E G D B so I guess you could call it a Bm to Em, but I don't think the bass line definitively suggests a Bm. I think it could just be an Em11, considering the bass note is still an E. So yeah, there are different extensions on the chord, but it's still the same chord fundamentally.

Part of the reason I'm hesitant to call the first chord a Bm is because of the guitar part. It's like an Em9#11 or Emadd9add#11 if you don't account for the 7th. Either way, that's all semantics. What's important is that it's an E minor chord in function. I get the same impression from the bass line too. It's just suggesting an Em with embellishment.

As for the "chorus" or so to speak, the guitar does the E7 D#7 E7, but the D#7 is really just a tension on the E7 chord, considering the bass still implies an E chord.

So I guess you could call E7 a different chord than Em, but really in a blues or funk setting, the two are interchangeable. I just see this as ornamentation and tensions. I guess that's where our opinions conflict. When I think of the "chord progression" of a song, I think of the bare bones of the progression. For example, you might have a song that goes Am7b13 D7b9#5 Gmaj9#11, but the "progression" is just Am D G.

I feel like we could argue about this for days and never get any closer to agreeing. I just want you to get a feel for the way I understand it.

And I guess the fact that you thought the song was boring without a "melody" just proves that we aren't going to see eye to eye... Who says you need a part that's specifically a melody line? There's plenty of melody, it's just not assigned to one part.

Anyway, that's a discussion for another day, I don't even know why I brought that up.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
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Last edited by food1010 at Dec 25, 2012,
Artemis Entreri
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#19
I see what you're saying. And I 100% disagree. But I see what you're saying.

As for the "boring" statement. I don't need a specific melody line but I need more than a riff which has been used a hundred times. Hell, I even used it in a song like 5 years ago. Love the rest of the song when something is actually happening though.

But, we have agreed to disagree so that's that.
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#20
Quote by Artemis Entreri
I see what you're saying. And I 100% disagree. But I see what you're saying.

As for the "boring" statement. I don't need a specific melody line but I need more than a riff which has been used a hundred times. Hell, I even used it in a song like 5 years ago. Love the rest of the song when something is actually happening though.

But, we have agreed to disagree so that's that.
I can respect that. I mean it's a simple pentatonic riff, I can say that I have a song that uses a pretty similar riff. I think what I enjoy about it the most is how it's executed. That E7/D#7 lick is super common too. You could probably find 20 songs that use that, pretty easily. I just think the way all of the riffs are arranged and timed. Plus Mike Einziger's tone is sexy as hell. His solo is pretty sick too.

Also, to be clear; I don't think the embellishments/tensions are any less important than the base triad, I just choose to not specifically label them.
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#21
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#22
I agree with food1010. Even though the bassline has many notes, there's only one chord (they are just notes from the pentatonic scale and I can't hear the "Bm" as a functioning chord). I don't feel any chord changes in the bassline. The song is mainly one chord. Only some of those licks end on a different chord. And I didn't find the song boring, it was groovy and I think that's the main point of the song.
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#23
Well on the contrary I completely hear it as a functioning chord. And while he hears the slide from the D# to E as an embellishment I hear it as a faux dominant movement. You may be content with "groove" but I need substance. And I love it when it has substance but that "verse" area leaves me wanting.
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#24
Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love is pretty much one chord (and riff). Again, I don't consider the B-D-B-D before the E5 as functioning chords (also B and D are Em7 chord tones).

And "American Woman" is another "one chord" song. Again it has those B and D chords but they don't really have a function.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Dec 27, 2012,
IbanezMan989
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#25
Oh yes you can make a one chord song work. Im guessing you are singing? When we are playing with anyone else with a instrument ( Vocals included ), you both can play stuff that makes your one chord sound different with the back ground chord or note changes. Try it out, Hum a 1 4 5 Major Key progression, and keep playing the Root major chord of your choosing .