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Thread: Picking/Strumming Progressions

  1. #1
    Insanity is the End. No Heart's Avatar
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    Picking/Strumming Progressions

    Hello Ibreathemusic

    I am a guitar player and I have been playing for around 4 years (see links at bottom), and I have always been influenced mainly by metal, although when i first started I enjoyed playing mostly bands like Offspring, Nirvana etc. And I really was drawn to picking ballads, which pulled me towards classical, and so on..

    I write a lot of music, mostly "classical like stuff", and I love writing metal, but my problem is that firstly the structure of my music (im posting another thread), but what Im posting this thread for is my progressions, I can never break away from the triplets, or... I cant really explain what each progression I use because I have no knowledge on theory, but I cant seem to find better ones, I like to speed pick ALOT, but I think I could be using better progressions for some of the parts, but at the same time I want to sound original..

    So I guess the question is, how can I learn to write my own progressions? is there something I can study in order to learn to create more unique progressions?... Thanks

    And here is a link for just a few random aimless shred videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/dylanmatheson

    And this is my myspace page for the "classical like stuff"
    http://www.myspace.com/dylanmathesonmusic
    My heart is pure like the snow riding the blizzards of my soul

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I just answered this same question on another forum. Here is a cut and paste from that forum -- I think it may help.
    Malcolm, Is there a chapter in Esterowitz that explains these progressions--I-vi-ii-V7-I. I can't seem to get past Chapter 11 and the rest of the book seems very out of my reach!!!!!
    It's a great reference source, however yes, it does go on beyond what we really need to - just play from a fake book. Esterowitz deals more with how to make the specific chord, not much on how to build a chord progression. However, that is beyond the focus of the book which is to teach us how to play from a published piece of fake chord or lead sheet music. If you would like more on how to build and then jamm a chord progression of your own go to www.musictheory.net then go to Lessons and check out Common Chord Progressions. Pay attention to what chords like to go to what other chords and their function within the key or progression. In a nut shell here are the important things to consider.

    Any chord within a specific key will sound OK with any other chord within that same key. So if you stay with chords from the same key there is not a lot of bad you can do.

    Making chords - what specific chords are in a certain key? If we take the scale and apply the key structure formula to the scale we have the basic chords within that key.
    Code:
    Scale interval 1, 2,.. 3,. 4,. 5, 6,.. 7, 
    C scale =..... C, D,.. E,. F,. G, A,.. B,
    Key formula =  I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viidim 
    Chords in Key  C, Dm, Em,. F,. G, Am, Bdim
    Notice from the formula upper case chords will be Major and lower case chords will be minor. Key formula for the natural minor key is; i, iidim, III, iv, v, VI, VII.
    Each key will have 3 Major chords, 3 minor chords and one diminished chord.
    OK that gets what chords will be in each key.

    Lets now talk about which chords like to do what.
    A chord progression normally moves from rest to tension, climax, resolution and then back to rest. Normal route is I home tonal center to the subdominant chord IV then to climax V then back to rest on the I chord.
    A progression of I, IV, V will contain all the notes of the scale, thus if you are trying to find chords to harmonize a melody line (chords and melody being played over each other should contain some of the same notes) you only have to look to the I, IV or V chord. That's why you see the I IV V chord progression so often. To add a little color I like to throw in the minor ii, iii or vi chords for example I, iii, vi, ii, V, I.

    ii and IV are considered the sub dominant chords. They can sub for each other. The V and VIIdim are considered the dominant chords and can sub for each other. Now let's get into their task in life.

    I is the tonic chord. The tonal center. You can, if you like, start each progression with the I tonic chord - it's not necessary, just an easy way to start. Now you should end each verse, chorus or phrase with the tonic chord as that will resolve the tension, and end the phrase. The I chord can go anywhere within the progression it wants to.

    ii as we said above is a subdominant chord and likes to go to a dominant chord. The ii is used quite a lot in jazz. I like to use the ii instead of the IV. Help yourself to which ever you like.

    iii is a great lead to chord. Classic start of a turn-a-round, for example; iii, vi, IV, V, I The iii likes to drag the vi with it - so if you add a iii also add the vi.

    IV is a subdominant - like the ii chord - and it wants to go to the dominant V or viidim chord.

    V is the dominant chord and it's task in life is to get to the tonic chord. In doing that the tonic chord brings the phrase back to rest.

    vi is the relative minor chord in the key. The iii likes to drag the vi with it and the vi likes to go to one of the subdominant chords. Thus fits into those turn-a-round we spoke of.

    viidim is the diminished chord. It is also a dominant chord and can sub for the V chord. If you want to end the phrase use your V chord, however if you want to delay the resolution use the viidim and hook it to a iii, vi turn-a-round.

    That's not as complicated as it may look right now. Put the route to memory and just ask yourself what chord likes to be next.

    Little on extensions.
    If you add the dominant 7 to the V chord - for example G7 - G7 now really wants to get to the tonic chord right away. Adding the dominant 7 increases the tension - brought climax and the progression now begs to resolve. Anything after the G7 except the I tonic would be anti-climatic IMHO. If you use the maj7 instead of the dominant 7 you do not increase tension you are adding color. Use the maj7 on non V chords. Use the dominant 7 on V chords.
    A 6th adds color.
    Beyond this gets into broken chords (two handed chords) and I just don't go there - If you include all the notes it gets muddy so then you are left with which to omit. I'm happy up to the 3 sevenths (A7, Amaj7, Am7). This was written for piano/keyboard.

    Look at some lead sheet or fake chord music and analyze what the chord progression is doing and why. Chords provide the harmony and to do that they should contain at least one of the melody notes being played over them. When the melody moves on to notes not found in the old chord it's time to find a chord that does contain some of the new melody notes. For example if you wanted to harmonize the C melody note your chord choices could be C (CEG), F (FAC), Am (ACE) or Dm7 (DFAC) as each of them contain a C note in their make up. Pick the one that your ear likes the best and give some thought to does that one fit into the rest, tension, climax return to rest progression. It's a balancing act.

    That should get you started, of course there is more......

    Have fun.

    Malcolm

    One last part of the puzzle. Melody notes one per lyric word. Ma-ry will take two notes, bea-ti-ful will take three melody notes. One or two chords per measure is enough. The number of chords is dictated by the melody notes used in the measure. Sus chords work great on two note words, i.e. Csus4 under "Ma" and C under "ry". "Bea" Csus2 then under "ti" use Csus4 and end "ful" with the C chord.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 04-17-2009 at 10:24 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    You mentioned metal and speed picking. A modal vamp will sustain the mode mood much better than a chord progression. Brush up on modal vamps.
    http://www.riddleworks.com/modalharm3.html

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by No Heart
    Hello Ibreathemusic

    I am a guitar player and I have been playing for around 4 years (see links at bottom), and I have always been influenced mainly by metal, although when i first started I enjoyed playing mostly bands like Offspring, Nirvana etc. And I really was drawn to picking ballads, which pulled me towards classical, and so on..

    I write a lot of music, mostly "classical like stuff", and I love writing metal, but my problem is that firstly the structure of my music (im posting another thread), but what Im posting this thread for is my progressions, I can never break away from the triplets, or... I cant really explain what each progression I use because I have no knowledge on theory, but I cant seem to find better ones, I like to speed pick ALOT, but I think I could be using better progressions for some of the parts, but at the same time I want to sound original..

    So I guess the question is, how can I learn to write my own progressions? is there something I can study in order to learn to create more unique progressions?... Thanks

    And here is a link for just a few random aimless shred videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/dylanmatheson

    And this is my myspace page for the "classical like stuff"
    http://www.myspace.com/dylanmathesonmusic
    Study the music that inspires you, and work out its form.
    This is fairly easy with rock of all kinds, but much harder with classical (which is enormously more complicated formally).

    Forget lead playing for a moment (esp speed picking), and look at chord changes, measures, lines, etc. (how many measures in a line? how many lines in a verse, chorus or bridge? can you identify where different sections start and end? can you identify repeats? identify keys and key changes? explain how chords connect with a key?)
    Also - for the moment - forget trying to be "original" (an over-rated ambition). All the great "originals" in music built their vision on deep, detailed (even obsessive) study of the past and of their heroes. True originality springs from a firm foundation in tradition.
    You know what kind of music excites you - so work out what it is about it that jumps out at you. A particular kind of chord change? An unusual scale? unusual rhythm? effects? etc. But while analysing that, be aware of what is "usual". The interesting stuff happens against a background of the "ordinary". It wouldn't make sense without that contrast. So you need to understand the "ordinary", as well as the "extraordinary" - then you will be better placed to handle both, and find your own path.

    Malcolm's post is a tiny example of the kind of things you need to understand. Not laws you need to follow all the time, but guidelines you need to know.
    It may feel sometimes as if you are going backwards (dealing with very simple stuff), but - if you're feeling lost now - it's probably because you've got ahead of where you need to be, maybe moving too fast.... Trace your steps back.

  5. #5
    Insanity is the End. No Heart's Avatar
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    Thank you VERY much for your replies, it is good to finally have some direction! I will be studying what you have showed to me very much.. I am astonished on how great your responses were, thank you very much again!! -Dylan
    My heart is pure like the snow riding the blizzards of my soul

  6. #6
    Insanity is the End. No Heart's Avatar
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    Scale interval 1, 2,.. 3,. 4,. 5, 6,.. 7,
    C scale =..... C, D,.. E,. F,. G, A,.. B,
    Key formula = I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viidim
    Chords in Key C, Dm, Em,. F,. G, Am, Bdim

    I dont understand the vII iv v (example), I dont have a clue what to do or what they symbolize, or anything... Could you please explain in full detail what EXACTLY im supposed to do?
    My heart is pure like the snow riding the blizzards of my soul

  7. #7
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    Here is a link to an article you should read from start to finish.

    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/article/105/0

    Edit: And sorry for the relatively unimpressive post.
    Last edited by NG7; 04-24-2009 at 12:22 PM.

  8. #8
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    That site NG7 listed is a great one. Now to your question.
    Scale interval 1, 2,.. 3,. 4,. 5, 6,.. 7,
    C scale =..... C, D,.. E,. F,. G, A,.. B,
    Key formula = I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viidim
    Chords in Key C, Dm, Em,. F,. G, Am, Bdim
    I dont understand the vII iv v (example), I dont have a clue what to do
    I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viidim is the key structure formula used to find what chords are in any major key. You take the scale and place the formula under the scale - upper case notes become major chords and lower case notes become minor chords. The viidim becomes the diminished chord. Every key will contain 3 major chords, 3 minor chords and one diminished chord. All you need now is how to use them. I gave you www.musictheory.net in my other post. That will go into detail on how to use the chords in a song.

    Main reason for this is we normally know what scale the song is being played in ---- if you know that you then can figure out what chords to use for the harmony.

    Here is something no one tells you when you first start out - and I wish they had told me this years ago. Music is made of melody notes, chord harmony and rhythm. The melody note and the chord played under it will harmonize (sound good) if they contain some of the same notes (at least one). So ---- making sure you know which chords are made from (fit with) a scale is half the battle.

    Trying to harmonize a C melody note -your chord choices could be;
    C (CEG), F (FAC), Am (ACE) as all of those chords have a C in their makeup. Use the one that your ear likes and it fits into what www.musictheory.net told you about how chords like to move in a song. In writing your songs this little bit of information is kinda important. One melody note for each lyric word, Ma-ry takes two, and one or two chords per measure. The melody notes dictate what chords and how many to use in each measure. If the melody is happy with the old chord no need for another one, however, when the melody moves on to notes not found in the old chord you need to find a new chord that does contain some of the new melody notes. Now that and some good lyrics will write some pretty good songs for you.

    OK some more of what do you do with this:
    Scale interval 1, 2,.. 3,. 4,. 5, 6,.. 7,
    C scale =..... C, D,.. E,. F,. G, A,.. B,
    Key formula = I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viidim
    Chords in Key C, Dm, Em,. F,. G, Am, Bdim
    Now that you know the chords that will go with the scale you can now play rhythm guitar - or write some melody and chords to go with them, i.e. you can play (or write) a chord progression and furnish the harmony part of the song. You can play from or write fake chord sheet music.
    http://www.chordie.com/chord.pere/ww...dColdHeart.cpm
    Your introduction for this song is the A7 and D chord.
    then keep doing the D chord and start singing the lyrics - all down strums will be OK for now. When you get to the lyric word "dream" change to the A7 chord - keep strumming and when you get to the lyric word "scheme" change back to the D chord, keep going......

    OK notice which chords are used in that song -- the I, IV and V normally get the most use. So you are jamming with the guys and they say something like Jim will do Go Kiss Ole Sally in G, ready 1 and 2 and 3...... What do you do?

    Look down at your cheat sheet you've made using that formula and you know to play a I IV V chord progression in G the chords will be; G, C, D or D7.

    BTW those I IV V chords will contain every note in the scale. As melody notes are made from the scale notes -- the melody for this song will have notes found in either the I chord, the IV chord or the V chord. Good bet the song's verse will start with the I, and another sure bet is the verse will end with the I chord. So your I chord is a real safe bet to play. Course that will get boring so near the middle of the verse grab the IV chord and toward the end of the verse grab the V chord. If what you grabbed does not sound right change -- I bet that one will sound OK. It's not rocket science. If you slow down and find the chord that does have some of the melody notes in it you've solved the problem.

    I write the lyrics first, find a chord progression that flows with the lyrics and works with my verse structure and then use the chord's notes to make a melody. You of course can reverse this by starting with the melody then harmonize the melody notes with chords that contain some of those melody notes and then write the lyric. It's a chicken or egg thing.

    Spend some time here;
    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...ad.php?t=11975


    Have fun.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 04-24-2009 at 04:22 PM.

  9. #9
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    How much theory do you know No Heart?

    In the opening post you said you had no knowledge of theory. Do you mean that you literally have none? If so, I would highly suggest checking out that article I just linked, and probably those that are mentioned in that article.

    This would help you greatly in having a clear and full understanding of what Malcom's posts saying, because in spite of them being very useful, you do need some rudimentary knowledge to dip into. For example, constructing and playing minor and major chords.

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