#1
How do I make chords out of riffs? For example, I would like to play Van Halen - Top of the world on my acoustic but how do I choose the right chords?

This song goes in the key of E, so would it be theoreticly correct if I messed around with the chords E, B, C#m and A since they contain all the notes in the E major scale? Or will that sound wrong with the notes the singer sings?
#2
I am not familiar with the song, but you can take a clue from what notes the bass is playing. If you aren't good with figuring out chords just try to hum along with the bass part, you should be able to find what note feels like the root in each chord.
#3
Quote by hollow1928years
I am not familiar with the song, but you can take a clue from what notes the bass is playing. If you aren't good with figuring out chords just try to hum along with the bass part, you should be able to find what note feels like the root in each chord.
Yeah, the bass pretty much outlines the chord progressions. The chords used are pretty much just E A B C#m and D.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
#4
You can typically look at the vocal melody, and see if it does any arpeggios. If you see a vocal melody that goes C E C G, its pretty clear that a C chord should go under it. If you see a melody like C D E D C, its a little confusing, since that doesn't fit nicely into most chords (you could use a Cadd9, but that won't always sound good), so you could play one chord for each note, which you normally wouldn't do, since it just doesn't sound right for the singer-songwriter-acoustic vibe. What most people would do is just play a C, and then let the D's be passing tones between the C and E. Try and analyze the vocal melody, to find chords in it. Typically you'll want a harmonic tempo of half a bar, one bar, or two bars (as in the chords change that often) for most acoustic songs. Another thing you can do is look at the bass and electric guitar parts and try to analyze them in the same way to find the chords.

Sometimes you'll find that there's a guitar or bass melody, that is really important to the song, so you can try and incorporate that into the chords, or you can just play that melody by itself. Often you'll find a bassline that descends chromatically, so you'll want to play those notes as the lowest notes in your chord. So if you analyze the vocals to work over a C F Am G progression, and the bass is going C B A E D C, you might play C - C/B - F/A - Am/E - G/D - C.

Another thing to do is, just guess. If you know chord construction, you'll know how to find the chords that fit into a key. It looks like you already know that, so you can just try random chords and make note of what sounds right, and eventually you should come up with something that works. It takes a while at the beginning, but eventually you'll be able to hear in your head what chord to go to next, and you'll be able to figure out the progression quite quickly.

Occasionally, you'll have chords that don't fit in the key. Its fairly common to find chords that are borrowed from the parallel key. This is the major or minor key built on the same note. So you could experiment with those chords, if the chords from the key don't fit. The odd time, there will be a chord that's not from the key or the parallel key, and those are usually pretty hard to understand, without going quite in depth with theory.
#5
Depends on the context. Some riffs are based around the harmony of chords, while others could simply be based around the tonic. A lot of riffs you'll notice the bass note will change while the melody remains the same, usually something along the lines of I - I - IV - V
#6
Quote by hollow1928years
I am not familiar with the song, but you can take a clue from what notes the bass is playing. If you aren't good with figuring out chords just try to hum along with the bass part, you should be able to find what note feels like the root in each chord.


Works like a charm.