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Thread: Writing chords to lyrics, and using scales over them.

  1. #1
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    Writing chords to lyrics, and using scales over them.

    Okay guys, Im a song writer..So I write my lyrics then put chords to them.

    Say..its a simple song...3 chords...G C D...The key I'm playing in would be?

    Or say its...F C G..What would the key be?

    I need to know how to find the key in a progression.

    I know alot of scales, Major and minor pen. Along with alot of the blues scales. I can come up with licks out of these scales but have no idea how to put them to chords and make it sound right "in theory".

    These are the problems im having. Can any of you point me in the right direction?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Registered User jimc8p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chevys&Gibsons
    Say..its a simple song...3 chords...G C D...The key I'm playing in would be?

    Or say its...F C G..What would the key be?

    I need to know how to find the key in a progression.
    G C D = I IV V in the key of G
    Try also using Am, Bm, Em and D7

    F C G = IV I V in the key of C
    Try also using Dm, Em, Am, and G7

    I reckon Malcolm will post you a chart of all the keys so you can figure out why these chords work etc

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Here goes ----
    http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/chords/chordchart.htm
    I need to know how to find the key in a progression.
    Write all the chords on a piece of paper, cross out the duplications, ignore the fancy extensions you are interested in only the structure part of the chord, i.e. is it C major, C minor or C diminished, now put them in alphabetical order. Now go find a key they all fit into. Upps ---- you need a key chart. Try the one I listed above.

    As to the other questions you asked:

    The chords in a key are based upon what notes are in the scale.

    Interval....1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
    C scale = C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

    You then apply a key structure formula to those notes and come up with the chords in that key. The key structure formula for a major key is....
    I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viidim the upper case numbers will become major chords and the lower case numbers will become minor chords. For example:

    Interval....1, 2,.. 3,. 4,. 5,. 6,... 7,... 8
    C scale = C, D,.. E,.. F, G,. A,... B,... C
    Formula...I,. ii,... iii, .IV, V, vi.. viidim. I
    Chords....C, Dm, Em, F,. G, Am, Bdim..C

    The key structure formula for the natural minor key is....
    i, iidim, III, iv, v, VI, VII, i

    OK now lets do something with all that. You have your lyrics - let's say you have them in the classic four line verse format. And you want to use the key of G for this song. Look at the key chart for the key of G.....

    I,.. ii,... iii,. IV,. V, vi, viidim.. I
    G, Am, Bm, C,.. D, Em F#dim, G

    You can't go too far wrong using the I IV V I chord progression for your song. First two lines start and complete one G C D7 G chord progression. This is repeated in the next two lines. That makes your verse -- two complete G C D7 G progressions. I'd suggest using this same format for all the verses and what the heck use it for the chorus also. Like this.....

    G...................C....................
    There goes my reason for liv-ing
    ......................D7............G....
    There goes the one of my dreams
    G...................C.....................
    There goes my only pos-ses-sion
    .....................D7......G...
    There goes my everything.

    Three more verses and a chorus later you will need some melody notes. Not a step for a stepper. Use chord tones.......

    G chord has the G B and D notes
    C chord has the C E and G notes
    D7 chord has the D F# A and C notes

    Now isn't that amazing, G C D7 contain every note in the G scale. Every note and not one out of scale. That's why the I IV V I progression is always a safe bet for your first draft of a song.

    Go scatter those notes over the chords they go with. If the melody and the chord contain some of the same notes they will harmonize each other. Some - not necessary they have all. You want to end up with a melodic phrase. Use the notes in the pentatonic scale. Major pentatonic scale will contain the 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 note, the 1, 3 & 5 are chord tones the 2 & 6 could be passing notes. Mix them up and come up with melodic phrases.

    OK you started with the chords and have a way of making those chords provide a suggested melody. The following attacks that problem from the other way, melody note first and the melody note provides a chord that will sound good under that melody note.

    First column will represent the scale degree (1, 2, 3, etc). With that scale degree try these chords. Those chords will contain the scale degree note, thus will harmonize - sound good.

    1 degree of the scale try I, IV, vi or ii7 chords of that key.
    2 degree of the scale try V, ii7, iii7 chords of that key.
    3 degree of the scale try I, vi, iii chords of that key.
    4 degree of the scale try IV, ii, v7 chords of that key.
    5 degree of the scale try V, I, iii chords of that key.
    6 degree of the scale try IV, ii, vi chords of that key.
    7 degree of the scale try V7, iii, Imaj7 chords of that key.
    Understand it is not necessary to have a chord for every melody note. There should be a melody note for each lyric word - some words take two notes - You need a new chord when the melody moves on and no longer contains notes from the old chord. When that happens it's time to find a new chord that does contain some of the melody notes being used at this specific time in the song. Your ear will alert you that you need to change chords and your ear is the final judge as to which chord works best.
    Good idea to check out:
    www.musictheory.net
    Click on Lessons and then common chord progressions.
    This site will show how certain chords like to move to other chords. If we let them move like they like to it normally works out well.

    Ask specific questions.......... and ....... Go write some songs.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-18-2008 at 03:06 PM.

  4. #4
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    Thanks alot guys all the info has helped me. Another question I have is, I have this song with a chord progression Fmaj7, C, G. Simple but when i sing to it I just love the way it sounds...I've tried to get away from it because of its simplicity but cannot. I feel I should be able to do something here to help with melody.

    Like, Fmaj7,C,G then on the next line 2 other chords to switch it up. any ideas of what would go good with this..."in theory" once again?

    Thanks once again.

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    You should try singing your lyrics (finding melodies) without using chords at all, at first.
    Or at least, let the melody lead you. Find one chord that works for the first phrase; keep singing, and hold that chord until the tune MAKES you change it. That might be after only 2 beats, if might not be for 2 or 4 bars. (In blues, eg, you hold the same chord for a whole line, 4 bars.)

    Remember you can't sing chords! When you're singing to chords, you're matching your voice to particular notes (1 or more) in those chords. Work out what those notes are. Then ask: what other chord(s) could contain that note or notes?; do I need to change chord when the notes change? Most chords can take a lot of different melody notes, not just the 3 or 4 notes in the chord. Maybe you can sing a "wrong" note against the chord, that sometimes works well.

    When you move to another chord, ignore what theory might tell you ("only THESE chords belong in THIS key"). Just look for any chord that harmonises the note you want to sing. Chords in the key will usually be first choice, but outside chords sometimes work better - especially if they link well to the previous chord (and next chord).

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Chevys&Gibsons
    Thanks alot guys all the info has helped me. Another question I have is, I have this song with a chord progression Fmaj7, C, G. Simple but when i sing to it I just love the way it sounds...I've tried to get away from it because of its simplicity but cannot. I feel I should be able to do something here to help with melody.

    Like, Fmaj7,C,G then on the next line 2 other chords to switch it up. any ideas of what would go good with this..."in theory" once again?

    Thanks once again.
    Maybe sub a Amin for the Fmaj7 or for the C.

    Am or Dm would also add a minor balance to your song.

    Bb or Gm would get you out of the group of notes you've been playing, but ironically either one would cause a push back to F (not Fmaj7 though). You could then play the original idea without the maj7 on the F.

    Oh I like this one if you want to shake things up but still return to Fmaj7:
    Fmaj7 - C - Em - E - repeat

    If you want more of the common tone kind of sound in your original idea, try
    Fadd9(with C and/or G)
    Cadd9 (with G and/or Dm)

    There's a zillion things you can do, just though I'd share and throw out a couple.

  7. #7
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    Thanks so much, you guys are great!

  8. #8
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    Okay guys, Im a song writer..So I write my lyrics then put chords to them.

    Say..its a simple song...3 chords...G C D...The key I'm playing in would be?

    Or say its...F C G..What would the key be?

    I need to know how to find the key in a progression.

    I know alot of scales, Major and minor pen. Along with alot of the blues scales. I can come up with licks out of these scales but have no idea how to put them to chords and make it sound right "in theory".

    These are the problems im having. Can any of you point me in the right direction?

    Thanks
    i think your problem has been sloved, if you wanna know anything else do write here!

  9. #9

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