Write Great CHORD PROGRESSIONS By Following Simple RULES

Write Great CHORD PROGRESSIONS By Following Simple RULES

Tommaso Zillio

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rules to chord progressions

Do "rules" belong in music?

According to an old theory (*), people divide into "left brained" (analytical, logical, detail-oriented) and "right brained" (intuitive, holistic, free-spirited). As such:

  • Left-brained individuals are all about rules and reasons and explanations, and so they will benefit a lot from knowing the "rules" of music...

  • ... While right-brained individuals eschew rules in favor of inspiration, spontaneity, and generally doing as they please.

And while the debate rages on about which one of the people above is a "real artist" and who is not...

... a point that everybody seems to miss is that all these people - by their own admission - are using just half of their brains.

And forgive me, but I think this is a distinctively un-optimal way to do something. I like my music to be written with a full brain, thank you very much.

I agree that it makes complete sense why some people might think that rules stifle creativity and that they make your music feel boring or unimaginative.

Indeed, if you were to slavishly follow a rule for every single step of the songwriting process and not use any creative or original thought, then yes, that song might sound incredibly boring.


If you follow a set of rules to kickstart your creativity and give yourself one small component of a song, like, say, a chord progression, you will end up streamlining the process of songwriting by helping yourself get started.

Not just that, but you might end up with a different idea than you would have come up with any other way, resulting in an even more unique end result!

So maybe "rules" aren’t all that bad... so the question is now: how should you use them to write music?

In the video linked below, I’ll show you how to use a few simple rules to create beautiful-sounding chord progressions, and you can easily do it yourself as well.

(*) I must mention that this theory has been discredited: the brain does not really work in that way. Still, there are people who love rules and people who hate rules - and what I want to show you is that both these people are wrong could learn to relax a bit and see what good the other side has to offer.

Do you want to know what else helps you write incredible chord progressions? My Complete Chord Mastery guitar course. Not only that, but you will understand chords and harmony on the guitar like you never have before. Check it out if you want to expand your knowledge of chords on the guitar!

Video Transcription

Hello internet, so nice to see you! People often asked me, How do we go from the rules or tricks, or other things in music theory to actually writing chord progression that makes sense. Let me show you exactly that. We're going to take a less known trick in music theory and we're gonna build up a chord progression.

The trick we're gonna take is every third inversion, seven chord results to our first inversion chord, we started with a fifth below. Ouch. Sounds complex. Well, honestly, it's really not that complex. What is a third inversion, seventh chord, let's take any seventh chord, I'm gonna take a g7 right now. Okay, third inversion chord is a chord where the seventh is at the bass.

So the g7 chord is G, B, D, F, the seven is F, and I'm just going to play the G chord with the F at the base. That's a third inversion. g7 chord results, like we're saying to a first inversion chord with the root of fifth below. Well, let's start with the root of f below a fifth below the G we have seen. So it resolves to a C chord, a C chord in first inversion, which is simply a C chord with the third of the bass, so the E at the bass.

Notice how the bass note of the first chord goes down step wise to the bass note of the second chord. So that's the rule we take today. How do we make a chord progression with that? Well, one way to make chord progressions with these kinds of rules is to start chaining those rules, one after another. How do we do that?

Well, let's do it this way. Let's say we are in the key of G. And let's start with the tonic chord, G major, which I'm going to play in this position here. Now, if we want to leverage on the rule we've seen before, we need to find a third inversion chord. There are many possible ways of doing that.

But what I want to do right now is I want to hold the base of G, this g note at the base, I want to hold it there. And I want to find a third inversion chord that has this G at the bass, it's not so hard. A third inversion chord will have the seventh at the bass. So G is our seventh. Now what is our seventh chord in the key of G that has G as the seventh.

And if you think about it for a moment, or you consult your chord tables, you're going to find that these chord is going to be a minor seventh. So after this G, I want to play an A minor seventh, and I'm going to play this way. You may notice I'm not playing the full complete chords, I mean, I'm playing only the root and the third for G major and then playing the seventh, the root and the third for these a minor seventh in third inversion.

And then doing that because one, it sounds better to me to use less note for those things. And second, so you have less notes to worry about. And third, because it's much easier to play on the guitar.

But pretty much on all the chords you're gonna see in these progression, we're going to eliminate the fifth, we got the G chord, and these a minor seventh in third inversion and we kept the bass there, which it's very pleasing to the ear. Now we have the third inversion chord, which resolves to a first inversion chord with the root or fifth below.

Good. So a minor seventh or fifth down from the A, we get the D with the third at the bass, which is F sharp. So it's this. So it sounds this way so far. G A minor seven, D major. So far, so good, right? How do we move forward for that? Well, I don't have to necessarily move forward. I could go back to G so we sound this way.

It sounds perfectly good. So I don't really need to move forward. after all. If you think about these in terms of a functional analysis, I'm playing a 2-5-1. So it's the standard 2-5-1 that we've seen jazz or in several other kinds of music, and I just rediscovered by forcing myself to use the third inversion chord resolution.

On the other hand, another thing I could do is to move forward. So I was on this D chord in first inversion. Now, let's keep the F sharp, fixed. And let's find a third inversion chord. So the F sharp will stay there. And I need to find a chord in G major that says F sharp as the seventh. And this chord is G itself, only G major seven with the seven at the bass. And this will be a third inversion chord.

It's a third inversion, major seventh chord, but still is a third inversion chord. We resolve this following the rules from G go down a fifth and find a C and then have to play a C in first inversion, which is a C with the bass of it. And again, the C chord is in the key of G. So we are fine. So if I play what I have, so far, it sounds this way.

Which sounds very pleasing to my ears, and I hope is the same for you. Now I just keep using the same trick, I hold the bass find a third inversion chord and resolve this down following the rules, I can keep doing this and go on forever with this.

And so on and so forth, I can go on and down and down and down. On the other hand, you notice that if I do this too many times, it gets a bit old. So at certain point I want to stop, when do you stop, it's completely up to your own taste, you can stop very soon, like we're doing at the beginning.

And just call it a day, or you can go on and go a bit further. And then gonna go a little bit further here and arrive maybe here. And I'm gonna G in first inversion. And then I'm just playing another inversion of the 2-5-1. Only with everything in root position just to end the progression. I could have done this before I could have done this later. Again, you can stop the chain of progressions anytime you want, any moment you want.

So you see I took one of those mysterious and abstract music theory rules. And I just found a way to make a chord progression out of it. It is simple as that, guys. Now if you're asking why I was holding the bass, it's simply because I like the sound and holding the bass, it's an easy way to get into a dissonant chord. It's kind of one of those tricks you pick up on the way if you hold the bass and you can switch to a dissonant chord and it seems to work every single time. So just by putting these together with the original rule, we were able to create a chord progression.

And you can make this chord progression as long as you want or as short as you want. And it seems to work every time. This is just a simple example. Guys don't get too hung up on the details. And if you're thinking, but could you have done it in a different way? Yes, I could have done in 1000 other different ways. That's the point. If right now you're thinking to myself, why didn't I do this? Instead? Well try and do it because it's probably another good way of using these rules to create a chord progression.

And if no idea comes to mind, don't worry, I can still help you. You see, the important thing here is to learn all those things from scratch. This video is really not a beginner video, if you're watching this and thinking some of the stuff I'm missing no problem is because you were missing some of the basics and you haven't learned them yet.

If you were able to follow completely great for you to in both cases, I can help you by recommending to you guys my course complete chord mastery where I clarify everything about chords and harmony on guitar, we see all the little details. We put all of them together and we see how to write those chord progression complete chord mastery, it's not a book. It's a complete video course that takes you from the basics up.

We do everything you need to know about harmony and chords on your guitar. All the theory is done straight on the fretboard. There is no theory for the sake of theory here. Everything is immediately practical. And everything is developed through exercises so you know how to apply these immediately on your guitar.

If you have just a minute click on the link on the top right to checkout complete chord mastery. If you liked this video, smash that like button and don't forget to subscribe and click on notification otherwise YouTube will not let you know when I put up a new video.

And if you have any comments, feedback suggestions, write them down in the comment. I enjoy reading from you, and they make videos on your suggestions. This is Tommaso Zillio for MusicTheoryForGuitar.com, and until next time, enjoy.

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