Great Chords of Pop

Posted on October 10, 2017 by songtive

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Great songs often use great chord progressions. Today, we bring you the legendary I – V – vi – IV progression, which is used by these legendary artists to create songs that are to be considered modern classics. Check it out!

  • Let It Be – The Beatles
  • Another Girl, Another Planet – The Only Ones
  • All You Wanted – Michelle Branch
  • No Vacancy – One Republic
  • And We Danced – Macklemore
  • Save as Draft – Katy Perry
  • Ain’t Your Mama – Jennifer Lopez
  • Bailando – Enrique Iglesias

See how this chord progression is used for different music styles from a rock ballad, through punk rock to today’s pop classics such as Bailando!

Depending on how you use it with our Songtive app, you’ll get different results, but we’ll get to it in a moment.

The Progression

This chord progression is derived for the 50s progression, which we discussed already, but the chords’ order is changed in order to get a different kind of feeling. As the 50s progression sounded more melancholic due to the I – vi chord change (major chord to a minor chord), this time the order is changed to I – V (major chord to major chord) to achieve a cheerful tone that will help you to reflect the positive sensation of your song. So, the mood of your song will mostly go from happy (I – V) to inspirational (vi – IV).

Let’s use The Beatles’ Let it Be as an example:

The notes are:

C – G – A – F

Now, if you take these notes and make them the root of their own chords in the key of C Major, you’ll get the progression:

C – G – Am – F

And by writing it as a chord chart you’ll get the following:

Using it like scale degrees with roman numbers, you can transpose it to any other major key with the Songtive app:

In D major:

In E major:

E – B – C#m – A

etc.

Why it works?

This progression works so well because of the notes of each chord change are related. For the I – V chords there is one common tone that links both chords. For example, in Let it Be, the C major chord (C – E – G) is linked to G major chord (G – B – D) by one chord tone, which is G. This helps to establish the positive section of the song.

Then, we change from V to vi, for which there are no common tones and we shift from major mode (happiness) to minor mode (melancholy). But then we change to the IV chord, and since it is a major chord, going from melancholy to happiness again turns your song into an inspirational sound.

How can I use it?

  • Enter the Songtive app, and tap the menu
  • Select “My Stuff” and then “Songs”
  • Tap the “+” button to add a new default song
  • Tap the musical note at the bottom right and select your root, i.e. your song’s key
  • Tap the “CHORDS” section to add or change the chords of your song
  • That’s it! Now try for different styles by using the “Mixer” at the bottom right!

Remember to try different keys and different styles to get as many artistic results as you like! Step up your game by creating the right progressions for your songs by keeping up with our blog, in which we review new songwriting tools every week!

Learning from the Masters – Part 3

Posted on September 29, 2017 by songtive

funny girl student with glasses reading books

Hi there! Today in Songtive we’re going to follow our ‘Learning from the Masters’ series reviewing the legendary Queen classic Bohemian Rhapsody! This worldwide known song has many interesting aspects worth to analyze and to incorporate in your composer’s toolbox. The singular structure, the musical approach of the ideas we’re listening, the combination of classical music elements into a (for that time) modern rock and roll setting; all of it combined to shape one of the most memorable songs ever written!

Before getting into it, let’s remember some bullet points that we will observe:

  • For analysis purposes, the most convenient way to get into it is to get the structure first.
  • The introduction will give you the essential information you need: the key, the main theme(s) and the character.
  • Verses present the main vocal ideas, and usually are repeated with only a variation in the lyrics, conserving the underlying chord progression to keep the balance and symmetry.
  • Chord-melody relationship will provide you information on why things sound appealing to our ears and are via chord tones and melody’s notes that this relation is established.

Released in 1975 as one of the lead singles from their A Night at the Opera album, the song stands as one of the most emblematic rock icons of the last 40 years! And much of its success can be owed to Freddie Mercury’s outstanding songwriting work on it.

First things first: the thing that makes Bohemian Rhapsody a timeless classic is its structure’s complexity. The song departs from the common verse – chorus – verse – solo – chorus formula, and it is set as more of a musical suite than anything else. That is, the song is planned to tell a story through multiple musical episodes, each one approaching a particular point of the main character. Let’s check it out!

Intro

At 0:05 starts the memorable introduction of Bohemian Rhapsody and it goes to 0:53. It presents the character and something that would be a recurring element throughout the song: an a capella choral arrangement (made entirely of chord tones) and the theme of the poor boy in trouble, which is the principal argument of the song. The main pieces of what Bohemian Rhapsody are established during this introduction section.
Lessons: Intro section needs to set the mood of your song, so keep it soft and with few instruments to make it a ballad.

1st Verse

The first verse starts at 0:54, the piano accompaniment pattern is established and will last the whole song, using the following chord progression: Bb – Gm – Cm – F. This can be read as I – vi – iv – V. We can hear the piano and electric bass supporting the melody Freddie sings, so the intention is to keep it subtle, as it is the story of an incident. The mood is that of a slow ballad.

Lessons: Using sparse writing, like arpeggios, chord tones for the bass and subtle-to-non percussion is useful to set a light mood for your ballads.

Bridge

At 1:24 begins the bridge, a section that will be used as a transition point between verses. Roger Taylor’s kits start here, to add motion and intensity to the song, as the melody goes higher. Note how the melody descends as Freddie sings “carry on, carry on”, adding more meaning to the fateful phrase.

Lessons: Enhance the emotional range of your melodies by placing them properly. Use middle-range melodies to establish the mood, ascending lines for stronger emotions and descending ones to release the tension of the moment.
The chords are: Eb – Bb – Cm – Fm

2nd Verse

Starting at 1:53, the second verse explains what is going on in the poor boy’s head as he has to face the consequences of his actions. Note how the same pattern is repeated: the piano+bass accompaniment, followed by the drums. Now, instead of a sung bridge, we get the same chords with a new addition: the first guitar solo.

Lessons: To add more verses, you can use the same chords as in the first one. Make sure to bring something different

1st Solo

Starting at 2:40, the solo serves two purposes for this song: as the close of the first section, exposing the situation (how the boy murdered someone) and the unforeseen consequences (the boy dealing with it by writing a letter to his mother). The second function is to serve as an interlude for the beautiful and legendary a capella choir that follows, in four-part harmony!

Lessons: Expand your solo ideas by recycling material. This is good to keep coherence. Note how the solo is being played over the same chords as the bridge: Eb – Bb – Cm – Fm

We hope that you have enjoyed the first section of Bohemian Rhapsody and got some great ideas from it using our lessons! In the following article, we’ll get deeper in the interesting a capella section and the exciting second half of this timeless rock classic!

Popular progression I-V-vi-IV

Posted on July 19, 2016 by editor

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In this post, we are going to talk more about one of the one of the most popular chord progressions that exists. This progression is

and it is used across all genres of music. It turns out that these four chords in this particular formation can make for some seriously memorable music. Here are just a few examples of songs where you can hear this progression come to life.

  • Adele – Someone Like You
  • Idina Menzel – Let it Go
  • James Blunt – You’re Beautiful
  • P!nk – Perfect
  • Green Day – When I Come Around

You might recognize these chord types from a different progression, the 50s progression. It uses the very same chords, just in a different order. The progression has also been said to have a heroic sound to it. It has been used in many major Hollywood movie trailers, especially ones released after the year 2000.

The progression has been called many other things as well. It was dubbed “the sensitive female” progression by Marc Hirsh of the Boston Globe. It has also been called the “pop-punk” progression by Dan Bennett. The bottom line is that this progression goes by many names because it has been used in so many pieces of music and crosses genre lines.

Let’s look at an example:

In “Let it Go” as performed by Idina Menzel in the Disney movie, Frozen you can hear this progression in the chorus. Have you ever wondered why you just can’t get that song out of your head? We’ve explained below.

Why does this work? Well, there are many reasons, but here are a few. You’ll noticed that this progression is used often in songs written in a major key. That said, I, IV and V are always good chords to use together in a major key. This is because they will harmonize well with any note in the key. The vi chord is a natural next step because it is also a good fit. This progression is, like the 50s progression, “catchy”. For that reason, the melodies written over the chords always stick.

That’s it! What will you create with this awesome progression? Take your new knowledge to use on Songtive for iOS/Android/Web. Remember to keep coming back to our blog to expand your knowledge of theory. Thanks for reading.