How To Use ‘Chord Association’ To Write Music

by guitarkadia on October 30, 2008

in Blog

Note: Some of you have used the following exercise/game to write new music. If so, please leave a comment and share that music. Would love to see what you’ve come up with.

You know the game. When a word is thrown at you, you respond with a word(s) or image it triggers in your head. For example: Paris: Eiffel. Coffee: Good Morning. Etc etc.

So, I was thinking of what chord types trigger what words or images in me and how  I can use them to write songs and perhaps tell a story – or set a mood, at least.

Major – Home

Minor – Nostalgia

Major 7th – Love

Minor 7th – Joy

7th – Pain

Diminished – Puzzle

Just a few to start with. No need to do that with all the chords (you will go nuts and will be very confused). Now a DM7 will feel slightly different than CM7 – than will EbM7. DM7, to me, is a little “warmer” than a CM7.

How would I write songs or music with that? If I played the progression, a IIm7-V7-IM7 (Dm7-G7-CM7), and tried to state a theme or tell a story, it just might mean – taking the association I’ve made above – “Joy Pain Love”

The night is a little cold and I’m feeling a little nostalgic, so I played the sequence bossa nova style. A title springs to mind – “When I Remember Your Face.” Not so good, but not such a bad way to start.

Just one of many, many, many approaches to start a song. What the game did, if nothing else, is that it gave me a title and a style to begin work with.

What comes to your mind when you hear those chords? Do you tend to pick certain types over others?

Related: The Power of Vulnerability (In Writing Music)

Subscribe to this blog if you’d like to receive new lessons by email or via RSS. You won’t be disappointed. Check out the list here.

Ash Frog November 2, 2008 at 1:47 am

Awesome little breakdown of the chords. Thanks a bunch.

emon November 2, 2008 at 11:24 am

You’re welcome, Ash! And thanks for stopping by!

Seafroggys November 3, 2008 at 4:11 pm

I just finished writing a song that utilizes this style! Thank you!

emon November 4, 2008 at 10:18 am

Nice, Seafroggys! Would you be open to sharing your process?

Chris McCarley November 13, 2008 at 10:32 am

Just discovered your site recently. This is the kind of thing I’ve been looking for recently: how to go about writing new stuff and how to bridge the gap between theory and art. It’s more interesting to me than the thousand posts out there about scales or shredding.

Keep up the good work.

Chris McCarleys last blog post..Sexed Robots

emon November 13, 2008 at 11:15 am

Thank you, Chris, for visiting and for the encouragement! Look forward to your thoughts, feedback, and comments. And…our conversation on Twitter shall continue! 🙂

Jeffrey Morse February 26, 2009 at 2:45 pm

This is a great post about chords and how to use them to write music. I love the way that you used words to describe the different types of chords. Keep up the good work!

emon February 26, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Thank you, Jeffrey!

dan March 9, 2009 at 7:11 pm

very cool idea, the chord association, is something im going to try.

emon March 9, 2009 at 10:18 pm

thank you, dan!

Previous post:

Next post: