Songwriters need to understand Key Signatures (Chords and Keys) which includes the different chords that are in each key, and some of the different progressions used for writing songs.
Do you know the 3 main chords in each key, key signatures?
Do you know what the relative minor chords are in each key?
Have you heard the main chords with a relative minor chord in a progression?
If not, don’t be intimidated, you are about to be exposed to a lot of video clips and handouts that will help make sense of all this, and give you a “reference” for many of your future song ideas.
How important is the chord progression?
There are many combinations of chords that make up thousands of chord progressions (songs). There are many songs out there that have the exact same chords in them, played the exact same way. The point I am trying to make here is that the “melody” and “chorus” is what makes the song. Yes, the chord progression can help the song be better than it is, but without a great melody and chorus (hook) the chords are just another progression. Anyone can play the D – C – G chord progression, but not everyone can write a great melody and chorus that fits over the D – C – G chords. So keep it real, keep the chords simple, and focus on the melody and chorus. Just find the key signature, and the chord progressions are there waiting for the melody and chorus to be written. Sometimes it’s best just to start strumming some chord progressions and hum some melodies to them, sometimes it’s best to hum a melody – then find a chord progression to play behind it. Which way is best? It really doesn’t matter as long as you come up with a system that works best for you…
Key Signatures – Basics
Each “Key” will have 3 “Main Chords” and 3 “Relative Minor Chords” in them. There are also “Alternative Chords” used in each key, but we will not cover that here. Most songs start with the main chords, but you can add a minor chord here and there (depending on the song). Some songs use the main chords only, but then switch to the relative minor chords during the “Bridge” (as an example). The video clips and handouts of the chords used in the “Keys” are shown below, but here are some additional handouts that will be very useful to understanding “Keys” and the Key Signature.
Chords in each Key – Video Clips / Handouts
The Video Clips will show you the chords (both the main chords, and the relative minor chords in the key signature), and the Handouts will give you a reference to work with when you need them…
The “I – IV – V” Chord Progression (one, four, five)
The most widely used chord progression over the history of modern music has got to be the “I – IV – V” progression. It has been played slow, fast, with distortion, bluesy, boogie style, fingerpicked, etc (Chuck Berry made it famous in most of his songs including “Johnny B. Goode”). This chord progression simply uses the 3 main chords of a songs “Key” (or key signature).
Chord Progression Examples – Video Clips / Handouts
These examples will give you ideas of how the chords sound in different orders and with a relative minor chord added to it. Don’t limit yourself to just these progressions, experiment with your own. All examples are in the Key of C.
Chord Progressions with a minor chord added…
Songwriting Chord Progression Examples
Once you learn some chord progressions it will come down to whether or not you want to strum it, pick it, play it fast, play it slow, play single notes, or whatever… It’s your song so whatever you come up with will be fine… Keep in mind that you want to keep your songs “fresh” so you may want to strum a few, pick a few, write a few fast ones, slow ones, etc.
The information on this Key Signatures page should give you enough information to understand chord progressions used in songwriting (songs). Don’t limit yourself to the basic “I – IV – V” progressions, use your imagination, use the chords that sound best with your melody and chorus.
Print out the handouts for future reference… Good Luck!