Chord progressions with more than Open/Power Chords

tomsy49

Member
Messages
400
I have been playing for many years and have basic theory knowledge but i am really struggling at creating chord progressions that don't just use open chords or power chords. What are some techniques, videos or courses that have helped you in creating interesting chord progressions. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
 

Flyin' Brian

Member
Messages
30,559
Can you play a simple diatonic scale using triads? Start with that, then add the fourth note.

1-3-5-7

Doing that; build major 7 chords, dominant 7 chords, minor 7 chords. You can get to the altered chords later.
Go up the fingerboard for the different inversions and using string groups 6-4-3-2, 5-4-3-2, 4-3-2-1

Don't use anything with open strings and don't have more than one of each note in the form.

For instance people often play a first position C7 C-E-Bb-C. Great but you have no 5 and you have 2 roots. So using string group 6-4-3-2 you'd play G-E-Bb-C. Using string group 5-4-3-2 you'd have C-G-Bb-E. Using string group 4-3-2-1 you'd have E-Bb-C-G.

Now go back and play the same thing with a natural 7 and you have major 7th chords.

Go back to the original 7th chord and flat all the thirds and you have minor 7ths.

Some of these forms will be unplayable as chords but you can use arpeggios.

Now do it all the way up to the 12th fret.

Now do it in all keys.


:)
 
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tomsy49

Member
Messages
400
Can you play a simple diatonic scale using triads? Start with that, then add the fourth note.

1-3-5-7

Doing that; build major 7 chords, dominant 7 chords, minor 7 chords. You can get to the altered chords later.
Go up the fingerboard for the different inversions and using string groups 6-4-3-2, 5-4-3-2, 4-3-2-1

Don't use anything with open strings and don't have more than one of each note in the form.

For instance people often play a first position C7 C-E-Bb-C. Great but you have no 5 and you have 2 roots. So using string group 6-4-3-2 you'd play G-E-Bb-C. Using string group 5-4-3-2 you'd have C-G-Bb-E. Using string group 4-3-2-1 you'd have E-Bb-C-G.

Now go back and play the same thing with a natural 7 and you have major 7th chords.

Go back to the original 7th chord and flat all the thirds and you have minor 7ths.

Some of these forms will be unplayable as chords but you can use arpeggios.

Now do it all the way up to the 12th fret.

Now do it in all keys.


:)

That looks like a great point to start at. One thing I struggle with is grabbing random notes on the fretboard without having to use a particular note that I do know somewhere on the fretboard, if that makes sense. What would be a good way to just grab a c-note from any spot on the fretboard? Just repetition?
 

dewey decibel

…no, but I play one on TGP
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,498
I have been playing for many years and have basic theory knowledge but i am really struggling at creating chord progressions that don't just use open chords or power chords. What are some techniques, videos or courses that have helped you in creating interesting chord progressions. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

Don't worry about the chord changes, think about the melody. Write a melody that has a maj7th, 6th, 9th, etc in it, and the chords will follow.
 

stevel

Member
Messages
15,799
Not trying to be condescending, but

MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC.

Learn to play some music that uses these things.

Learn them ACCURATELY, from the written music, or at least tablature, or at the very least, from video lessons.

Learning songs that use more than just basic or power chords, and that have interesting chord progressions will teach you exactly these things.

Go to The Beatles - they pretty much have everything under the sun.

Or, go to Maple Baby's YT page (ToneDr) - he's a TGP member and shows you how to play zillions of songs:

 

vivaoaxaca

Member
Messages
288
I have been playing for many years and have basic theory knowledge but i am really struggling at creating chord progressions that don't just use open chords or power chords. What are some techniques, videos or courses that have helped you in creating interesting chord progressions. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

For what purpose are you trying to create chord progressions? If you can answer that question you'll be miles closer to actually getting what you're looking for.

Beyond that I was curious about your choice of adjectives when describing what you're trying to achieve. You said you wanted 'interesting' chord progressions. Can you define 'interesting' in the context of your sentence? That's an important question to answer as well.
 

tomsy49

Member
Messages
400
For what purpose are you trying to create chord progressions? If you can answer that question you'll be miles closer to actually getting what you're looking for.

Beyond that I was curious about your choice of adjectives when describing what you're trying to achieve. You said you wanted 'interesting' chord progressions. Can you define 'interesting' in the context of your sentence? That's an important question to answer as well.

I mean interesting in the sense that they are pulled from other spots on the neck rather than open or standard barre chords. I want to be able to do more song writing with them and while you can get a lot of mileage from the basic chords im just trying to expand my playing.
 

Fretsalot

Member
Messages
1,820
Tomsy49,

I was where you are at, three years ago. I basically self-taught myself to play maj, min, diminished & augmented triads on one string set at a time, starting with the DGB string set. I played the chords within the diatonic major scale using (at first) the root triad, then 1st inversion, then 2nd inversion. Then I did the same on the other 3-string sets. After that I thought up a number of challenges to make reaching for a chord easier. for example... I would force myself to play the major chord scale in a key within a 5-6 fret boundary. I would play the scale ascending by chord, but descending the neck - vice versa. I wrote out the diatonic chords within the melodic minor & harmonic minor scales and did the same selfmade exercises and challenges. I would do chord pattern exercises much like someone might do for learning & playing scales. This is my longwinded way of echo'ing what Flyin'Brian wrote.

Using the 'circle of fifths', I would rechoose a different 'target key' each day to base my practicing on (as opposed to all studies in the scale of 'C' major for example). I still do that, but not too long ago, I began making myself name each note & diatonic chord in the target key scale for my first few exercises to start becoming familiar with the notes of that particular scale - this has helped keep away from pattern or form memory more and expand my musical knowledge. All of this indirectly taught me the notes on the fretboard as opposed to just mechanically & methodically 'learn the notes on the fretboard'.

Since I grew up on Beatles & Eagles music...This self taught knowledge of the fretboard has given me the ability to (pretty darn closely) be able to noodle out those songs just from music memory in just a few minutes. (Echoing SteveL's recommendation). I can also noodle out TV show & movie theme songs with similiar apptitude. Basically, if I can hear something in my head, I can translate it to chord forms on the guitar.

More importantly, the solid knowledge of triad playing is THE foundation of rhythm playing, as I see it. I'm more interested now in playing rhythm than being a lead player. I find rhythm playing more interesting now.

Just a summary of my experience. May seem daunting at first, but I found it to be a self-motivating experience. My skills on fretboard these 3-4 years later are many fold more than where they were. Note: It didn't take me that long to learn all that. I could see my improvements over weeks & months and the first year. I'm just saying where I was 3-4 years ago.

As of today, I'm addicted to the playing of diminished triads and their usage to move outside of the diatonic scale, and also using extended chords (7ths, etc) in a rock context (not jazz). Some of these colorful chords show up in rock (Beatles, Hendrix, SRV, etc) and are little prizes in the songs they appear.

Best wishes if you choose to start. SteveL wrote his music theory series in this forum about the time I was just ending my personal exploration & application of the subject matter. Had it been available to me from my start, it would have shaved off a little of my learning curve and some of the confusing moments I created for myself along the way.

Scott/Fretsalot
 
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vivaoaxaca

Member
Messages
288
I want to be able to do more song writing with them

I had a feeling we might get here. In that case I think I can help you.

If your aim is to write songs then, in my opinion, the chords are the wrong place to start. It's a very natural place for a guitar player to start, but it leads, as you're discovering, into a cul-de-sac.

Guitarists tend to learn to play by learning a small set of chords (usually including G, C, Em, D) which they then repeat until they either give up trying to learn to play or until they get to the point that they demand to learn more chords. That small set of chords is excellent for teaching a novice player because they're all relatively easy to play and, with a little practice, to switch between. On top of that you can play the accompaniment to literally thousands of songs in many different styles with just those four chords. At about the same time that some guitarists start to demand to learn more chords, they also start to think that this songwriting game doesn't seem too hard. All you need is a few chords after all. So they decide to try their hand at writing. And just like when they learned to play, they start with the chords. As I said, it's very natural.

The problem is that a chord progression is not a song. A melody is a song. No matter how interesting it is, the harmony is simply not the song. The melody is the song and the harmony only exists, assuming it exists at all, to help the melody.

If you have a melody, the chords will often be self-evident. You will not need to go looking for chords; you'll know what they should be because you're following the melody. To prove this to yourself try harmonizing a melody that you already know. I like to use Happy Birthday and Auld Lang Syne for this because everyone already knows those melodies. If you've never tried to harmonize a melody before it's a really good exercise and those two songs are a great place to start. And here's the real magic: A melody can be harmonized in as many different ways as there are musicians willing to play it. The fact that jazz exists proves this is true.

So, if songwriting is your aim, concentrate all of your attention and effort on the melody first. Once you've got a great melody, I promise the chords will follow. How interesting they are is entirely up to you.
 
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tomsy49

Member
Messages
400
Tomsy49,

I was where you are at, three years ago. I basically self-taught myself to play maj, min, diminished & augmented triads on one string set at a time, starting with the DGB string set. I played the chords within the diatonic major scale using (at first) the root triad, then 1st inversion, then 2nd inversion. Then I did the same on the other 3-string sets. After that I thought up a number of challenges to make reaching for a chord easier. for example... I would force myself to play the major chord scale in a key within a 5-6 fret boundary. I would play the scale ascending by chord, but descending the neck - vice versa. I wrote out the diatonic chords within the melodic minor & harmonic minor scales and did the same selfmade exercises and challenges. I would do chord pattern exercises much like someone might do for learning & playing scales. This is my longwinded way of echo'ing what Flyin'Brian wrote.

Using the 'circle of fifths', I would rechoose a different 'target key' each day to base my practicing on (as opposed to all studies in the scale of 'C' major for example). I still do that, but not too long ago, I began making myself name each note & diatonic chord in the target key scale for my first few exercises to start becoming familiar with the notes of that particular scale - this has helped keep away from pattern or form memory more and expand my musical knowledge. All of this indirectly taught me the notes on the fretboard as opposed to just mechanically & methodically 'learn the notes on the fretboard'.

Since I grew up on Beatles & Eagles music...This self taught knowledge of the fretboard has given me the ability to (pretty darn closely) be able to noodle out those songs just from music memory in just a few minutes. (Echoing SteveL's recommendation). I can also noodle out TV show & movie theme songs with similiar apptitude. Basically, if I can hear something in my head, I can translate it to chord forms on the guitar.

More importantly, the solid knowledge of triad playing is THE foundation of rhythm playing, as I see it. I'm more interested now in playing rhythm than being a lead player. I find rhythm playing more interesting now.

Just a summary of my experience. May seem daunting at first, but I found it to be a self-motivating experience. My skills on fretboard these 3-4 years later are many fold more than where they were. Note: It didn't take me that long to learn all that. I could see my improvements over weeks & months and the first year. I'm just saying where I was 3-4 years ago.

As of today, I'm addicted to the playing of diminished triads and their usage to move outside of the diatonic scale, and also using extended chords (7ths, etc) in a rock context (not jazz). Some of these colorful chords show up in rock (Beatles, Hendrix, SRV, etc) and are little prizes in the songs they appear.

Best wishes if you choose to start. SteveL wrote his music theory series in this forum about the time I was just ending my personal exploration & application of the subject matter. Had it been available to me from my start, it would have shaved off a little of my learning curve and some of the confusing moments I created for myself along the way.

Scott/Fretsalot

This sounds right up my alley! What you said mostly makes sense but if you could direct me as to a starting point that would be appreciated! I started learning the E-major scale in triads on the first three strings (g,b,e) a while back in a truefire lesson but I got busy (first child) and never got back to it. Can you maybe suggest a video or lesson that would get me started in learning triads (root, 1st & 2nd inversions) on 3 strings in a particular key that would get me rollling?
 

cubistguitar

Member
Messages
6,217
Brad Carlton has a buncha videos on chords at Truefire, just jump in at your level.

Sounds like you might do best with a teacher, you need to know that neck ( all the note names) and be able to spell chords like a motherf*****r.
 

stevel

Member
Messages
15,799
I started learning the E-major scale in triads on the first three strings (g,b,e) a while back in a truefire lesson but I got busy (first child) and never got back to it.

This is useless.

Okay, it's not totally useless in the sense that any knowledge and playing experience can be worthwhile.

What SONGS can you play?


Can you maybe suggest a video or lesson that would get me started in learning triads (root, 1st & 2nd inversions) on 3 strings in a particular key that would get me rollling?

I'm telling you man, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Triads are very very useful. However, I think two things have happened - 1. not enough people understand them, and 2. because of that, an over-emphasis has seemed to be placed on them and as a result people think they have to learn them first, or to the exclusion of all else, etc. etc.

Let me ask you this, can you play this chord:

0
2
2
2
0
x

Or, this chord:

5
7
7
7
5
x

?

If you can, you already know the triads. They are SUBSETS of these shapes.

This is a D chord (which IS a Triad, just with duplicate notes):

5
7
7
7
5
x

This is a D Triad:

5
7
7

7
5
x

And this is a D Triad:

5
7
7
7

5
x

Do you know this chord form:

0
1
0
2
3
x

?

and this one:

2
3
2
0
x
x

What if I told you those two are related - if you take the first and slide it up 2 frets (barring it), you have:

2
3
2
4
5
x

and the 5th fret note is the same as the open string in the previous one.

That's a D chord.

So is this:

2
3
2

4
5
x

So is this:

2
3
2
4

5
x

So is this:

2
3
2
4
5

x

So is, this:

2

3
2
4
5
x

Do you understand why?

Can you relate that 2nd set of triads based on the C chord shape barred up, to the 1st set of triads based on the A chord shape barred up?

When you play, you can play a "shape" as an Open shape, or a Barre Chord shape. But those shapes also contain within them, 2 not dyads, 3 note triads, and even 4 note chords that are triads with one duplicate note.

Because of the layout of the guitar, we can't finger every chord such that 3 adjacent strings or every other string is always a complete 3 note chord, but in general, when talking about your E open and A open (and to some extent, D open) position chords, the lower pair of strings, or the lowest 3 strings makes a power chord, while the upper strings (3, 4, or 5 strings) makes triads.

You already know them, and are already playing them.

Just don't hit all the strings!

But seriously, you need to be able to see and comprehend how these shapes come out of these larger shapes - how they're subsets of these larger shapes.

That's what will make it click. Especially when you play them in actual songs!!!!

Learning triads as a scale is not very useful - again, it is, but so is learning all your intervals that way - parallel 3rds, parallel 6ths - all you're doing is "parallel chords" which I dare say is more important in Jazz, but not something I'd put any emphasis on until much later - playing 3rds and 6ths is in fact more important.

Here's really what you need:

A version 1:

0
2
2
2
0
(4)
[0] (5)

A version 2:

5
5
6
7
7
5
(9)

A version 3:

9
10
9
11
12
[9] (12)

[ ] notes are notes you could play (within reach) but often don't.
( ) notes are notes that if you could reach, would give you the next note of the triad
Blue notes (lowest 2 or 3) are power chords.

The rest are complete triads on adjacent strings (each set of 3 strings).

EVERY - ALL Major chords follow this pattern. You want C Major, you bump these all up 3 frets.

There are only 3 inversion, so there are only 3 versions - they repeat at the 12th fret.

Obviously, if you start with something like E Major, "Version 2" is open, "version 3" is at the 4th fret, and "version 1" is at the 7th fret, then they repeat at the 12th fret.

So you may move versions around to get all 3 under the 12th fret, but this is how they ALL work.

Minor works the same exact way, though version 3 involves some re-fingering, but the principle is exactly the same.

Once you know these, well, 3 things is all you have to know, you play SUBSETS of the full forms and you've got all kinds of other forms.

Now, beyond this the REAL thing to do is know which notes make up which chords, and where they are on the neck, and you can may ANY form you want that doesn't necessarily come from an open or barre chord form.

7th chords work similarly, though it's more difficult to play those across 4 string sets so a different approach is used. But you can still use the "subset" principle, for example:

2
1
2
0
x
x

is D7

When you want a 7th chord funky sounding chinky chinky 7th chord, you can easily play a subset like:

12
11
12

which is C7.

3
3
3
2
3

is C9.

Funk songs are chock full of:


9
9
9

which is a subset of the same 9th chord shape, and produces an E9.

x
9
9
8

also produces an E9.

But

x
x
9
8
9

Only makes an E7 out of context.

So the next steps is to learn which subsets are complete, or which contain which notes, and so on and so forth.
 

Mark Robinson

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
9,403
Here are a couple things that tickled my ears when I ran into them learning songs. Maybe they'll tickle yours.
Half step movement, using either diminished chord linking or targeting downward like say an F7 to E7#9, or say a thirteenth chord down a half step with the pinky dropped to a #5. There's also the lovely Beatle and Bowie thing of using a major chord followed by the same chord as a minor. Nice movement. All of these need context. Chord vocabulary is one thing that separates great writing from cliched writing to me. Learn some songs that have great chord movement. A few that I have learned in the past year that showed me some nice chord use would be "Beware of Darkness" by George Harrison, has a nice bag of chords and the use of both major and minor of chords. Also "Starman" by Bowie, an excellent bunch of easy chords, beautifully put together with great movement. That one also has that Major to Minor movement in the post chorus part B to Bminor etc. Another Blues that has good chords would be to seek out either Mike Landau's or Robben Ford's version of Worried Life Blues. That one is a bit harder to snag right by ear, but it has the targeting half step movements to the four, the turnaround, etc. Great song, wonderfully played.
Loads of songs have upward half-step chromaticism done via use of a diminished chord. Ray Charles uses this a lot, George Harrison used it. I cant direct you to something specific here from work. Maybe someone else can.
Good luck, and HAVE FUN!
 
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Phletch

Member
Messages
9,896
I want to be able to do more song writing
As others have suggested, learn other people's songs, lots of them, especially the MELODIES. I'm pretty sure that anybody who became well-known and well-regarded as a song writer began by learning other people's songs - dissecting the melodies, hearing how different chords and bass lines work with certain notes and phrases, rhythm and timing, etc.
 

cubistguitar

Member
Messages
6,217
Here are a couple things that tickled my ears when I ran into them learning songs. Maybe they'll tickle yours.
Half step movement, using either diminished chord linking or targeting downward like say an F7 to E7#9, or say a thirteenth chord down a half step with the pinky dropped to a #5. There's also the lovely Beatle and Bowie thing of using a major chord followed by the same chord as a minor. Nice movement. All of these need context. Chord vocabulary is one thing that separates great writing from cliched writing to me. Learn some songs that have great chord movement. A few that I have learned in the past year that showed me some nice chord use would be "Beware of Darkness" by George Harrison, has a nice bag of chords and the use of both major and minor of chords. Also "Starman" by Bowie, an excellent bunch of easy chords, beautifully put together with great movement. That one also has that Major to Minor movement in the post chorus part B to Bminor etc. Another Blues that has good chords would be to seek out either Mike Landau's or Robben Ford's version of Worried Life Blues. That one is a bit harder to snag right by ear, but it has the targeting half step movements to the four, the turnaround, etc. Great song, wonderfully played.
Loads of songs have upward half-step chromaticism done via use of a diminished chord. Ray Charles uses this a lot, George Harrison used it. I cant direct you to something specific here from work. Maybe someone else can.
Good luck, and HAVE FUN!

The OP is not ready for this, he is still learning the notes of the fingerboard. Still any knowledge is good, maybe he can use this, but from the comments above, he isn't really asking for new chords. He is trying to get away from open position.
 

cubistguitar

Member
Messages
6,217
One technique that is fun is to keep using power chords but just use borrowed or wrong ones.

Like I > bIII> bV> iv min>bII> I

or G > Bb> Db > C min> Ab > G

keeps it simple but odd
 

muzishun

Member
Messages
7,674
The problem is that a chord progression is not a song. A melody is a song. No matter how interesting it is, the harmony is simply not the song. The melody is the song and the harmony only exists, assuming it exists at all, to help the melody.

If you have a melody, the chords will often be self-evident.

So, if songwriting is your aim, concentrate all of your attention and effort on the melody first. Once you've got a great melody, I promise the chords will follow. How interesting they are is entirely up to you.

True.
 




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