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Songwriting Guides
Writing a song

A chord is made up of three or more notes sounded simultaneously. The classification of chords and their relation to each other forms part of the study of harmony. In song writing, the most important use of chords is when writing a chord sequence. This succession of different chords underpins the harmony of the whole song. The melody and chord sequence in a song complement each other, often using the same notes to create a harmonious and musically pleasing effect. This sequence is usually repeated several times; sometimes a different sequence is used within the chorus and even another for the middle 8.

Try two different chords per bar in your chorus for a change of pace.
Steve Hillier

Here is one very famous chord sequence:

Welcome to the Hotel California

F# Bminor
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place) such a lovely face

Plenty of room at the Hotel California

Em F#
Any time of year (any time of year), you can find it here

Hotel California (Felder/Henley/Frey)

You could easily hum this melody with only a guitar strumming these chords as an accompaniment and your listeners would instantly know which song you're playing.

Jeff LynneJeff Lynne
Was particularly pleased with a tricky harmonic progression in ELO's 'Living Thing'. "There's one chord change that makes the whole song."
Listen to the interview Audio help
But what about your own harmony and chord sequences? Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Don't be afraid to use a famous chord sequence as the basis for your song. Most writers do not consider this plagiarism or stealing as long as you write your own lyric and melody to accompany it. After all, there's a finite amount of chord sequences you can use anyway!
  • Many songs use only one chord per bar but varying the rate of change of the chords can vary the level of excitement in your song. Try two different chords per bar in your chorus for a change of pace.
  • Harmony vocals are a great way to add excitement to your song, just ask the Everly Brothers! Again, these harmony vocals should be based on the notes used in the current chord for a pleasing musical effect.
  • It can be musically interesting to start your chord sequence with a chord that's not the root chord of your key eg, if you're playing in the key of C, try starting with the chord Dm. Your music will feel like it's moving forward, taking your listeners on a musical journey.

Send us your views or read other peoples'
Send us your comments on: Lyrics

Stephen Muldoon, Manchester
hi, this is really useful stuff. I'm very much a beginner in this kind of thing. Would be great if you could give a pointer about the exact connection between the melody and the accomponiment(chord sequence). Is there a defined connection (should the chords match the notes of the melody at the point when they are played) or should the chord sequence be an almost original 'tune' that just sounds good when played with the melody (like wonderwall seems to be)? think i've got the beginings of some good songs (catchy melodies and good lyrics) - just struggling with the harmony aspect.Cheers, Stephen

keeley and meg.....kent
thanks for the advice...we are making a band so this will help!

Dammi holbourne
I have already written a few songs. I would like to share my experience and also would like to know your comments before being commercial.Your web page is very useful. I only found about you very recently although I have been writing songs since sometime.

Timothy P. Irvin Idledale, Colorado USA
LIVING IN HARMONY What a treasure! All six episodes were absolutely tremendous. I've been a professional singer for 42 years. (I'm the lead vocalist for the well known classic-rock band, FLASH CADILLAC) I've always loved harmony and harmonizing. This series was like striking gold. Great job Russell Davies. PS I'm a huge fan of THE DELTA RHYTHM BOYS. No mention of them? Fred Warring ripped-off THE RHYTHM BOYS wonderful version of "Dry Bones" I have lots of DELTA RHYTHM BOYS recordings. I'd gladly share them with you. I also have a huge collection of Jack Benny Radio Shows. Every week THE SPORTSMEN QUARTET would take a popular song and convert the song into a LUCKY STRIKE CIGARETTE commercial. (Great stuff!) Would you like some of those? If you do another series, you should mention THE GATLIN BROTHERS and THE STATLER BROTHERS. (C&W family groups) DOYLE LAWSON & QUICKSILVER are the kings of Bluegrass/Gospel(check 'em out) How 'bout THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS? Timothy P. Irvin

Kunio Fukuoka , from Osaka, Japan
Last week I happened to find out this programme at the top information of the another programme. I have just enjoyed the second part of it through Internet BBC. I am extremely pleased with the VOICES. Once upon a time, nearly 45 years ago, I was a condutor of the glee club at the university. Since then I am a lover of VOICES from Glegorian chants to Negro Spirituals by Golden Gate Quartet. When I visited your churches such as Salisbury Cathedral, I seeked for CDs of Chant. I want to enjoy MUSIC with a short explanation. It is a good idea for you to offer us a good lesson, but please let VOICES sing VOICES. Thank you very much, waiting for next week programme. Kunio Fukuoka Osaka, Japan

Songwriting Guides Writing a Song Genre Structure Verse Chorus Melody Tempo / Rhythm Harmony Lyrics Beginnings Endings Ideas Rhyme Middle 8 Hooks Performing Working with Other Writers In the Studio Publishers Record Companies Management Staying on Track
 The Songwriting Game
Songwriting Game Pick a chord
Play with chords and find out what kind of songwriter you are with the Songwriting Game.

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