How to Write a Song—Starting With Chords

How to Write a Song—Starting With Chords

Songwriting is a creative process that can sometimes feel challenging, especially when it comes to finding the right balance between music and lyrics.

By understanding the importance of chords and how they lay the groundwork for your song, you’ll gain valuable insights and techniques that will help make the songwriting process far less anxiety-inducing for you.

This blog post aims to summarise the first part of our video ‘5 Simple Steps to Write Your First Song’. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.

The Power of Chords

Chords are a fundamental element of music, providing harmonic structure and creating a sense of progression and emotion. When you start with chords, you establish a solid foundation for your song, giving you a musical structure to build upon. This approach can be especially helpful if you’re an instrumentalist or if you find it easier to create music before working on lyrics.

Choosing the Right Chords

To begin with, it’s useful to establish some parameters for choosing your chords. Pick a specific key to work in, as this will help ensure that the chords you choose harmonise well together. 

Each key consists of seven chords that naturally fit together, and have a relationship of tension and release with one another. By utilising chords within the same key, you’ll ensure that they sound good together no matter how you choose to arrange them.

Click below to get instant access to the free PDF ‘3 Great Chord Progressions to Try in Your Next Song.’

Exploring Chord Progressions

Now, let’s delve into three different chord progressions within the key of G to illustrate the versatility of different permutations of the same 4 chords. These progressions will help you understand how different chord arrangements can evoke different emotions and moods.

  1. 1-5-6-4 Progression:

The first progression we’ll explore is the 1-5-6-4 progression. In the key of G, this means using the G chord as the I chord, followed by the D chord (V chord), the E minor chord (vi chord), and the C chord (IV chord). This progression is extremely familiar to many of us and can be heard in numerous popular songs across various genres.

Examples of songs that use this progression include:

G, D, Em, C :

  • “Let It Be” by The Beatles
  • “Someone Like You” by Adele
  • “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers
  1. 1-6-4-5 Progression:

Next, let’s examine the 1-6-4-5 progression. Using the G chord as the I chord, you’ll then progress to the E minor chord (vi chord), followed by the C chord (IV chord), and finally the D chord (V chord). This progression offers a slightly different musical flavour while still retaining a sense of familiarity.

Examples of songs that use this progression include:

G, Em, C, D :

  • “Zombie” by The Cranberries
  • “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s
  • “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day
  1. 4-1-5-6 Progression:

Lastly, we have the 4-1-5-6 progression, which evokes a sense of anticipation or even a more contemplative mood, depending on how you build upon it. Starting with the C chord (IV chord), you’ll then move to the G chord (the I chord), followed by the D chord (theV chord), and finally the E minor chord (the vi chord). 

Examples of songs that use this progression include:

C, G, D, Em :

  • “With or Without You” by U2
  • “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
  • “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People

Choosing Your Chord Progression

Out of the 3 above chord progressions or any others that you may come up with, it’s crucial to choose the progression that resonates with you the most. Trust your instincts and select the progression that aligns with the emotions you want to convey or suits the overall theme of your song. 

This choice will serve as the backbone of your song, providing a stable structure to guide your songwriting process.

Conclusion: How to Write a Song—Starting With Chords

At this point, you’ve successfully completed the first step of the songwriting process by starting with chords. 

By understanding the significance of chords as the foundation of your song and exploring different progressions within a chosen key, you’ll be able to establish a strong musical groundwork for your song. 

However, this is just step 1 of a 5-step process. Check out the full article that outlines all 5 steps, or check out the video now.

For 3 variations on how to use simple chords to create great songs, check out our mini course, ‘The 5 Most Powerful Songwriting Exercises…Revealed!’ right here:

Leave a Reply