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Ideas and Advice for Real Songwriters (formerly songwright.co.uk)

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What do you do when you’re bored of all those chord progressions?

Have you ever found yourself frustrated with the chords you’re using? As if you’ve used all the chord progressions that could possibly exist, not just once but hundreds of times. I have, and I know lots of others have as well.

According to this rather good article on chord progressions even Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead has felt the same.

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood once said “There are only 12 power chords, and I think we’ve had about 20 years of them, so maybe it’s time to move on.” He even went as far as to issue a message (half-jokingly) to the bands fans to send him in any unusual chord progressions they could write.

So what’s the solution? I can think of a few possibilities.

1. Are you sure you’ve exhausted all the possibilities?

Have you really tried every possible chord progression? What about jazz chords? Gospel Chords? Sometimes learning something new about chord progressions is what we need. A new nugget of information can help you find something fresh to say.

2. Don’t think vertically, think horizontally

In pop music we often think vertically – a C chord in this bar, an Aminor chord in that bar – notes stacked on top of each other, changing all at the same time. That isn’t how our system started though. Western music developed from single lines – by accident we happened to develop a written system that allowed us combine more complicated lines of melody (that’s a huge oversimplification, but you get the idea) – chords happened through the combination of single lines blending together.

So why not write like that? Don’t have any instruments playing chords, give them melodies and riffs and see what you come up with that way.

3. Stick to percussion

Do you really need chords?

4. Use a drone

A drone can be a wonderful thing – one note, or perhaps a perfect fifth to define your tonal centre, but everything else is fluid – the key could be major, minor or modal, the pulse can shift and vanish, the bar line stops being a barrier. Why not forget chords, and just use a drone?

We all feel Johnny Greenwood’s frustration from time to time. Hopefully those 4 ideas will get the grey matter firing.

For the comments:

Anyone else have any ideas?

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