How To Write An Original Chord Progression

A basic idea of how you can write unique and original chord progressions. Either simple 3 chord patterns, or complex 8-9 chord shifts in one movement of a song.

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So, I've been looking at some of these lessons in songwriting for a while, and noticed there are almost none about composing the music for your songs. Mainly only lyrics. Here is what I do, and I write the music for songs quite often. Where to start? In my honest opinion, never try writing a song on an electric guitar. There are too many sonic capabilities while using one that could really distract you at the core of your writing. Its also much harder to get inspired, because an electric guitar is a much less intimate instrument. You will not feel as connected to your song, so it probably won't turn out as well. (There are some exceptions to this, i.e. writing a riff, writing a metal song, writing anything electronic (house, techno, dubstep), and if you really feel like using an electric, go ahead. I just prefer not to. Where to go? So you have your instrument. Next, just learn plenty of songs to be able to play on command. Its easiest to come up with an original chord progression if you know chords that sound decent in certain orders. Try to learn chords in the same key, or transpose the songs to the same key. Start trying to come up with combinations of these chord progressions, put the chords in different orders. Try some new things. Where to pause? Don't force your songs. If you are having trouble coming up with a second part of a song, write down or record what you have, and just do something else. It happens all too often to me that I will come up with another part for a song I'm writing while trying to write a different one. Where to restart? Restart whenever you feel inspired. How to improve? Try using different tunings? I'm not going to say which ones, because I really only know what one is called, and that is drop D. Come up with your own tunings. Just experiment really. Next try using something that will change the lowest note on your guitar aka a capo. Though some might not seem like it, moving your song up a couple of frets on the fretboard can completely change the sound and feel of your song. Another thing I like to do is alter fingerings of chords, leaving some strings open in a G or a C chord. Maybe moving the chord patterns up a fret or two. Anything that will make it sound different. You can also do this with barre chords. Only bar the root and the octave of a bar chord. Just try something new. To finish? Your song is finished whenever you are totally satisfied with it. If you are like me, you might then try multiple arrangements for it. I don't know. Hope this helps. If it doesnt, oh well.

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    Slash_is_a_God
    Very nice. I particularly agree with writing acoustically and then transferring to electric if necessary. I do this because it forces me to use something other than power chords to determine a mood that my chord progression carries. I switch back to power chords on the electric, but for my leads / melodies, I play the chords that my power chord progression is 'missing' from my acoustic progression.
    SkepsisMetal
    Try using different tunings? I'm not going to say which ones, because I really only know what one is called, and that is drop D. Come up with your own tunings. Just experiment really.
    No. No. No. Don't do this, ever. Tunings are set up the way they are for a reason. Someone didn't just pick up a guitar and figure out how the chords would go. Just google alternate tunings, and read up on how they would work. You need to know how to use them, or you'll majorly frustrate yourself when a riff that sounds good in standard, sounds like shite in open G.
    moocowII
    Thanks for sharing this, as it is what I came here to find, and I do agree with some of the constructive criticism here. Any tips on how to "lock in" what you have created thus far if you cannot read music? Should I just record riffs and patch them together? .. I'm a noob but I really want to create a song of my own. Call it a bucket list item
    schniepel89x
    open G is also cool, Keith Richards uses this a lot. then again, in the wise words of Marty Schwartz, "It's hard NOT to sound like the Stones when playing in Open G" so if you wanna be original you might wanna avoid it. but it does give a nice blues/R&B vibe
    krypticguitar87
    not bad.... but I think some examples would be nice..... I wouldn't nesecarily say only play acoustic, but I would say to play on a clean chanel..... I rarely write any progressions with distortion on.... also I must say that you should have done a bit of research first.... that way you could tell us more tunings... I mean almost everyone knows standard and drop d (and for those that dont it would be EADGBE and DADGBE respectively).... but you could have given a list like: double drop D (DADGBD) Open C (CGCGCE) Baritone (BEADF#B) Open D5 (DADDAD or DADADD) Open C minor (CGCGCEb) Nashville (EADGBE [the 3rd 4th 5th & 6th strings are all tuned one octave higher]) there are plenty of others but just doing a google search for alternate tunings can get you plenty of them..... also instead of saying "learn songs to find out what sounds good" you could talk about how to construct a chord progression... for example you could explain circle progressions and common progressions (like I IV V).... these things can be enough to help inspire... plus it gives guidelines for someone who may find themselves stuck somewhere..... I mean I don't think I'm the only person who used to, or still does in some cases, start a progression then get to a chord and not know where to go..... with these tools you have a chart to guide you if you find yourself in that predicament.... just some suggestions, but thank you for not just giving us another "how to write lyrics" article.
    zennbass
    krypticguitar87, i would give more examples, but i really dont know much about theory. i learned how to play bass first, then transfered to guitar. i know that means i should know some, but i never learned theory until i started taking piano lessons last year, which has not been going very good for me. im glad you thought it was a decent lesson. idk, just a lot of my guitar playing friends say they cant write music for shit, and for me, its one of the easiest things in the world. i try to explain to them, and after i do, it comes more naturally to them, but, w/e. this is how i do it, and i find it to work perfectly.