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Create a Chord Progression: First Steps

Next: Add a Melody: First Steps
How to Write Music Contents

by Conrad Albrecht

Start creating your 1st chord progression in ChordSong with these simple steps. For an overview of how chords, melody, and lyrics combine to make a song, see Elements of a Song.

Note: You'll need to download and install ChordSong (free in Demo Mode) first. Then we suggest you arrange ChordSong and this browser window side-by-side on your screen.

Step 1: Choose Your Song's First Chord
Step 2: Choose Your Song's Tempo
Step 3: Try Different 2nd Chords
Step 4: Add Your 2nd Chord
Step 5: Save Your Work
What Next?

Step 1: Choose Your Song's First Chord

1.1 Open ChordSong and find the Tops window. If the Tops window isn't showing, open it via ChordSong's Chord > Top Chords menu command.

1.2 Play the different chords in the Tops window to hear what they sound like. To play a chord, click on it with your mouse's right button (not the left button--the left mouse button will add the chord to your song).

1.3 Choose a chord to be the 1st chord of your song. Any of the chords in the Tops window will sound fine, so if you don't know which one you want, just pick one.

1.4 Left-click your chosen chord button. This creates your song's 1st measure in ChordSong's main window. For our example I'll assume you chose the G chord:

Step 2: Choose Your Song's Tempo

Now that your song has a chord, you can choose your song's tempo:

2.1 Click the Play button. Also make sure the Repeat checkbox is checked. This makes your 1st measure play over and over so you can hear it with different tempos.


2.2 Adjust the Tempo up or down until you find the speed you want. Hint: slow songs usually have a tempo in the range of about 60-90; medium dance songs about 100-120; faster songs about 120-160.

2.3 Now click the Stop button before that repeating measure drives you crazy!

Step 3: Try Different 2nd Chords

Now that your song has its 1st chord, it's time to add a 2nd chord after the 1st.

When you created your song's 1st measure (in step 1.4 above), the chord buttons in the Tops window changed. Now they show chords which work well in your song's key.

What's a "Key"?

When you hear music, usually one note sounds like the "home note". For example, if the music "comes home" to the note G, then the music is in the key of G. Actually, we usually talk about major keys and minor keys, so the music might be either in the key of G major or in the key of G minor.

Usually, the 1st chord in a song matches the song's key. So if your song's 1st chord is G (the G major chord), ChordSong guesses that your song is also in the key of G major. Then ChordSong fills the Tops window with chords which work well in the key of G major.

3.1 Right-clicking chord buttons in the Tops window, play your song's 1st chord (G in our example), then a different chord, then the 1st chord again, like this:

G C G
Try out different 2nd chords with your 1st chord:
G D G
G Em G
etc.

3.2 Also try playing each chord 4 times to hear what it will sound like when each chord lasts for a whole measure, like this:

G G G G C C C C G
G G G G D D D D G
etc.

3.3 Keep trying different 2nd chords until you find one you like. Any chord combination from the Tops window will sound OK, but they all have different musical effects.

Step 4: Add Your 2nd Chord

4.1 Click at the end of your song's 1st measure to place the current-position cursor (the thick black line) there:

4.2 Left-click on your chosen 2nd chord in the Tops window (for our example, I'll assume you chose D). This adds your song's 2nd measure:

4.3 Click the Play button to hear your 2-measure chord progression with rhythm. (For an online MIDI rendition click this link: Two-Measure Chord Progression.)

Step 5: Save Your Work

OK, now you've created a 2-measure chord progression, which is a good place to take a break. Use ChordSong's File > Save As menu command to save your song.

Next: Add a Melody: First Steps
How to Write Music Contents

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