SONGWRITING: Fresh-sounding Chord Progressions
If you guys are tired of the good old I-IV-V…. or, more importantly, the tried-and-true I-V-vi-IV (have you seen the Axis Of Awesome “4 Chord Song” official video yet?)…..
if you’re tired of that played-out sound (and most people who listen to a lot of music outside of the top 40/top 250 “box” usually tire of that sound pretty quickly)…. here are some chord progression ideas to spice things up a bit:
* Try playing A major and following it up with F major. The F is out of key and brings an ambiguous sound to the progression. Brings the common thought “are we in F… or are we in A?” This works with any two major chords. Just play the first one, and play the second down a major third (4 frets from where you started). Technical name for this progression is I-VI (chord I to the MAJOR version of chord vi, which is commonly minor).
* Make a progression entirely from suspended chords, especially suspended 2nd, that move by a minor 3rd (up or down 3 frets, not including the fret you were on)
* Try the very simple add9/sus2 power chord trick… if you’re familiar with power chords (and chances are, you are, if you follow this blog), try a voicing such as this (using EADGBE as a reference) — 357xxx, 579xxx, 135xxx, 246xxx – those chords always sound awesome and bring bands like Hum and some Foo Fighters songs to mind. It really spices up a chord progression or makes power chords a bit more fresh and interesting.
* Throw in a simple third interval, in place of a major chord. Just play the root and third of a chord (example: picking only the first two strings of a C major or G major chord). Sometimes this is a lot more effective than just playing the common “all strings at the same time” full chord sound.
* Whatever chord progression you’re playing, have your bassist (or yourself/computer) play the major or minor third instead of the root, for any chord you play… or a majority, or hell… every chord. This is an exotic, weird sound that can work in certain situations or styles.
* “Invent” chord shapes by playing in an altered tuning. One of my favorites to play in is DADGAD. You can come up with some crazy-interesting ideas… even if you only use a maximum of two fingers in the chord shape.