#1
I have been working on learning the function of various chords in a given key (Tonic, Pre-dominant, dominant) and what chords can be substituted where.

However, I find my chord progressions tend to be kinda short (usually like 3-4 chords) and also boring.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can expand progressions? For example, in D minor,I could use a progression such as:

D minor7, E minor7 (substituting the half-diminshed to a minor), A9

OR

D minor, G minor, A Major

etc.


These all just feel kinda boring and even adding 7ths and such doesnt add much. I was hoping I could get some advice on bringing outside chords into progressions to spice it up!

Thanks
#2
Well, the most common way to add chords is borrowing from the parallel major or minor.

So, for example, in C major, you could add Eb major, Ab major, and Bb major, which are all chords from C minor.

Another common trick is to use secondary dominants.

The easiest secondary dominant to use is the V of V. So, for example, in C major, you might take a C F G and turn it into C F D G, where D is the V of V, which resolves you to G, which pushes you back to C. But you can use secondary dominants for any chord. Secondary dominants are easiest to use when paired with the chord they resole to, of course, but they can be used in other ways as well.

Another trick is to add internal movement to your chords. Eg, the chord progression F, Bb, G, C has an ascending INTERNAL melodic line to it: There's an A in the F, a Bb in the Bb, a B in the G, and a C in the C, so if you play that chord progression you get (in addition to the secondary dominant G > C relationship) a rising chromatic line.

That being said, I suspect that probably your problems stem from thinkings of chords as the "thing" of the song when, in reality, the melody should be the "thing" of the song. So start with a melody and pick chords to support it. People generally don't listen to chord progressions - they listen to songs - and a song is its melody more than it is any other part. It's HARD for a chord progression to sound original and compelling because chords are the supporting elements. It's like looking at a picture and focusing on the frame.

Once you have a melody, you want to look for chords which support the journey of the melody, while using harmonic devices like these to add interest.
#3
Think more about voice-leading and melody. For instance, try and create a chord progression that uses a descending chromatic bass line or uses dissonant passing notes or decorations to create a more interesting melodic contour. Think about voicings and where you're putting notes to create both a compelling bassline and interesting top note line.

For less interesting, more plug n play solutions, use a bVI and III in major or bII and IV in minor.
#4
For longer progressions, you could use a circle progression and change chords or insert new ones to make a new progression. The form with a major chord as the tonic is: I IV vii iii vi ii V I.
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#5
There are a number of devises you can use that will make things interesting - like secondary dominants and tritone subs. And, as mentioned, borrowing from the parallel major or minor is quite useful too.

At a more basic level though, I'd suggest exploring voice-leading much in the way that jazz_rock_feel suggests, even within the limits of normal diatonic chords. The way to make a "chord progression" really sound good is to find nice-sounding chord voicings that transition smoothley to each other, or building it off of some melodic manuevers that lend themselves to something smooth sounding. This can start as simply as taking a chord and moving around one note from it. But then as you progress more in this direction, "the chords" are really emergent from melody.
Last edited by Brainpolice2 at Apr 6, 2012,
#6
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Think more about voice-leading and melody. For instance, try and create a chord progression that uses a descending chromatic bass line or uses dissonant passing notes or decorations to create a more interesting melodic contour. Think about voicings and where you're putting notes to create both a compelling bassline and interesting top note line.



This.

Get some suspensions up in that b****
#7
Quote by dvm25
These all just feel kinda boring and even adding 7ths and such doesnt add much. I was hoping I could get some advice on bringing outside chords into progressions to spice it up!

Thanks

Do you understand chord families? If you know the families, then you can apply common tone substitution, and chromatic substitution.

I = iii = vi
ii = IV
V = vii

The same applies in a minor key. The RN's will just be different.


You also have the SD's for the chords, along with the TTS's for those SD's...

... now apply voice leading to all that...

...there's so much you can do...
Last edited by mdc at Apr 6, 2012,