Chord progression generator or tips?
Old 11th June 2008
  #1
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Chord progression generator or tips?

I have learned a little music theory and it helped me understand the basics of scales/modes and resolving chord progressions. Prior to this I intuitively knew what sounded right and it was good to learn some theory to explain but more importantly to help solve problems.

Since I can't play piano I still clumsily struggle to put together chord progressions by a combination of sloppy keyboard playing attempts and a lot of editing to fix things. It is usually very frustrating to have a clear idea in my head of the complex chord progression I want and then have to spend a loooong time slowly adjusting each chord and moving around notes until I get it right. Someone who is a properly trained musician could probably do this in seconds.

I am looking for tools / tutorials to help me form chord progressions. I have googled but mainly found stuff for guitar (e.g. chord progression generators).
I am especially interested in more complex chord progressions and ones based on more interesting modes. I like modes that are a little darker, moodier and trippy. Stuff with minor 7 and diminished chords for example.


Any tips?
Old 11th June 2008
  #2
Gear nut
 

Chord Progressions
Piano Chord Chart - 8notes.com

I visit this site or somthing like it...generate a progression...then you can do some reading on extending/modifying chords to spell out more nuanced sounds....

just reference the chords you don't know in a piano chord chart...
Old 14th June 2008
  #3
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Cognitone Music Prototyping

check out Harmony Navigator.

For chord progression hints I wouldn't look any further, this program is just amazing. There is a preset that gives chord progression hints.

Ben
Old 14th June 2008
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbital View Post
Cognitone Music Prototyping

check out Harmony Navigator.

For chord progression hints I wouldn't look any further, this program is just amazing. There is a preset that gives chord progression hints.

Ben
+1

it's a great tool for learning and writing ...
imho the best and most complex.
Old 15th June 2008
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbital View Post
Cognitone Music Prototyping

check out Harmony Navigator.

For chord progression hints I wouldn't look any further, this program is just amazing. There is a preset that gives chord progression hints.

Ben
Thanks for the heads up on this... Looks like a nice app.
Going to check it out.
Old 15th June 2008
  #6
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Old 15th June 2008
  #7
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Old 15th June 2008
  #8
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Nice, but none seem to be on OS X... [sulk]
Old 15th June 2008
  #9
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I don't know man, -- it seems to me the easiest thing to do is just learn music. Then you can generate as much as you want, any time, any where..
Old 15th June 2008
  #10
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Old 16th June 2008
  #11
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Old 16th June 2008
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by duvalle View Post
Yeah I saw that one earlier in the thread.
The others though are VST's but not on OS X.
Old 16th June 2008
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
I don't know man, -- it seems to me the easiest thing to do is just learn music. Then you can generate as much as you want, any time, any where..
Yes, I agree. Have started doing this of late. Just looking for tools to tide me over and aid in this process...
Old 16th June 2008
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
I don't know man, -- it seems to me the easiest thing to do is just learn music. Then you can generate as much as you want, any time, any where..
that's exactly what some of these tools are for imho: learning music!
"Cognitone Music Prototyping" knows chords that i did not even know they existed.
it's very complex and a great help. just check it out ...

beside that:
if i listen to common pop music, most of the chord progressions are old and used very often. these tools could help to break out of routine or to find a knew chord you never thought of.
Old 23rd June 2008
  #15
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All that's cool. Looks like a cool application. Sorry about the long delay in response.

But if you learn basic scales, and apply the roman numeral system -- for I- ii - iii - IV - V - vi - viiø chords and then learn the basic progressions, I - IV - V in all keys and variations of progressions, how they relate to scales, you have all the data you need to know to then let you ears do the walking. And while you're learning those in all 12 keys you'll discover some other way cool stuff along the way and write about 4 dozens songs in the process.

Music, like anything else, is about learning how to THINK on an instrument and with the language of music. I am afraid some of these pre packaged software programs might not teach you the process of understanding the language and just pop out the answers for you, which in the long run, might not be the best avenue to take.

You'll find some chords prefer to be followed by other chords, but that also ANY CHORD CAN FOLLOW ANY CHORD.

There are some basic and common patterns:

I - vi - ii - V

I - vi - IV - V

And of course the more songs you learn with the added knowledge of how these progressions work gives you even more fuel to think about your own progressions . . .
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Old 23rd June 2008
  #16
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there's a VST, EChord i believe. takes individual midi notes and transforms them into chords for you.
Old 23rd June 2008
  #17
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I would say that it is a bad idea to learn 'theory' without putting it into practise by playing an instrument. You can get all sorts of weird ideas and you will think of it analytically and mathematically and its not meant to be like that.

Theory has one useful purpose to me and that was learning to develop muscle memory. When I'm learning I usually start off slow and unsure so I have to count up notes, count triads, count inversions etc. My fingers are hesitant and I often hit the wrong notes or use the wrong fingers. After a while if you keep on drilling it the same way every day for half an hour to an hour over the course of a year your fingers become so used to falling into the right place that you begin to play on autopilot and you no longer need to count up notes. Your fingers just find the right keys. You need to learn proper and consistant fingering for this to work in your favour though. The most important thing is that your fingering is consistant.

A good analogy is learning how to type properly. The most efficient way is to start slow, keep the first 3 fingers on the left hand over the A S and D key and the first 3 fingers on the right hand over the J K and L keys. This way, every letter and things like space, tab and punctuation are all 1 key away. If you start learning like this and go it slow the idea is to develop a sort of muscle memory where after a while you no longer need to look at what keys you need to press when you type. If you find yourself reaching over several keys or moving your hands you should start over and take it slow again. Remember - consistancy is the most important thing to develop muscle memory that works.

It is exactly the same with piano and guitar and pretty much every instrument. The idea is to play it on feel but first you have to learn where everything is (whether it be letter keys or the notes of a scale) and you need to train your fingers to get used to going through the motions. Music theory helps to do that quickly and intuitively (especially for piano) but the idea is to eventually get to a point where you have no need of the theory anymore because it has become instinctive and second nature.

It is a difficult thing to describe but after 8 years of being an undisciplined guitar player and 1 year of being a disciplined keyboard player, I can say with much certainty that I don't think about what notes I am playing. I just sort of do it on autopilot. 8 years of messing up on guitar taught me many of the things that made me a better keyboard player in just a year. I am actually a very poor and uninspired guitar player considering how long I have been playing and this is mostly down to not being consistant and methodical in my learning. As such I have never been able to be deliver the goods consistantly with my first instrument and the range of feeling that I can express is limited by my rather poor technique.

The absolute worst thing you can do is to learn theory for the sake of learning theory. It doesn't help you if you don't apply it to an instrument so that it becomes instinctive and reflexive. Never ever get chord books that tell you what notes to press but don't tell you why you are pressing them or what fingers it is best to press them with. Theory is what you use to develop technique. If you have exceptional technique you can physically play anything and break it down with your fingers (not with your head). If you are learning theory I highly recommend you physically put it into practise by learning piano along with it. It is easy to see and hear and feel what you are doing which is important. Give it time and practise and you won't need to see or hear what you are doing - you can just play on the feel of it and this is a great place to be.

I must apologise if I sound like a cracked record but it is extremely important that your learning is logical and consistant. The best solution is to get a teacher who will keep you on track and nip any bad habits in the bud before they blossom into real problems but if you cannot afford one there are many good 'teach yourself piano/theory' resources online which will help you develop good consistant technique. There is a series of very good youtube videos by some young guy with crazy hair whose name I forget. Those lessons are actually good but what he doesn't elaborate on is that when he teaches you a new scale you don't just play it once and thats your learning done. You have to play it ascending, descending, left and right handed, both handed, cross handed and with your eyes closed. Then you have to keep on doing that slowly and as evenly as possible until you dont make any mistakes. Then you have to keep on doing that until you no longer need to look at or hear what you are doing. Then you need to play it faster. I recommend you check out those videos but I also recommend that you don't watch like 3 episodes a day. Only go on to the next episode when you have absolutely mastered everything he has taught you in those 6 or so minutes. It could take weeks or months before you go onto the next episode. It doesn't matter. Take it as slowly as you need to to develop your touch. Rushing it or getting ahead of yourself will harm you in the long run as it can lead to bad habits and sloppy technique. You will just be wasting your own time and it won't sink in.

What you don't want to do is learn the theory and not play an instrument or learn higher theory and not develop your technique to the point where you can actually play what you have learnt. If you do this, music theory will always be abstract and that is not a good thing. It should be intuitive and spontaneous. Theory can and does help you to get to a level where playing an instrument can be intuitive and spontaneous but you need to do it properly. But when you get to that level, you won't think about it anymore. You will just do it. This takes time, practise and discipline but if you are serious about it, it will save you time in the long run.

My 2 cents.

Edit: The crazy haired kid is called Lyper on youtube. His tutorial videos start here: YouTube - How to Play Piano: The basics, lesson #1

Edit 2: This is also a good resource to start learning the theoretical and practical side of playing piano: Free online piano lessons...learn piano scales, chords and more!

Obviously if you can afford a teacher and you are willing to put in the effort - go for it. Nothing beats face to face mentoring. For everyone else who can't get a scholarship and can't afford a personal tutor theres the internet. And it ain't half bad for free.
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Old 23rd June 2008
  #18
thx1138
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
All that's cool. Looks like a cool application. Sorry about the long delay in response.

But if you learn basic scales, and apply the roman numeral system -- for I- ii - iii - IV - V - vi - viiø chords and then learn the basic progressions, I - IV - V in all keys and variations of progressions, how they relate to scales, you have all the data you need to know to then let you ears do the walking. And while you're learning those in all 12 keys you'll discover some other way cool stuff along the way and write about 4 dozens songs in the process.

Music, like anything else, is about learning how to THINK on an instrument and with the language of music. I am afraid some of these pre packaged software programs might not teach you the process of understanding the language and just pop out the answers for you, which in the long run, might not be the best avenue to take.

You'll find some chords prefer to be followed by other chords, but that also ANY CHORD CAN FOLLOW ANY CHORD.

There are some basic and common patterns:

I - vi - ii - V

I - vi - IV - V

And of course the more songs you learn with the added knowledge of how these progressions work gives you even more fuel to think about your own progressions . . .
Henry, you're the man!
Very much to the point and guiding as well.

Thanx
Old 27th June 2008
  #19
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I found this website a while back - it's a great ear trainer and theory teacher - it's very simple to use and it's free

http://www.musictheory.net
Old 27th June 2008
  #20
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Quote:
I - vi - ii - V

I - vi - IV - V
Is there a list of more standard patterns like this?

Do those patterns still work if you are using different modes?

If I make those patterns in Major key but then change the chords (e.g. add intervals like 7ths, make some intervals minor etc.) does that break the pattern?

I can do this all by ear but I am looking for some easier ways/patterns to use as starting points to help make sure the progressions resolve


That chord playa vst has turned out to be excellent. Too bad it is so pricey given that it is made in Synthedit (and price is in UK pounds which does not convert well to the relatively weak US/CND dollar) I might just have to make my own out of max/msp.
Old 27th June 2008
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by intellijel View Post
Is there a list of more standard patterns like this?

Do those patterns still work if you are using different modes?

If I make those patterns in Major key but then change the chords (e.g. add intervals like 7ths, make some intervals minor etc.) does that break the pattern?

I can do this all by ear but I am looking for some easier ways/patterns to use as starting points to help make sure the progressions resolve
I'm not sure what you/'re referring to when you say "different modes." I'd say yes, but then I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing . . .

Chord family doesn't a\lter chord type. So Cmin can be used similarly to Cm7, or Cm9. C can be used similarly to CMaj7 or CMaj6 or C69 or even CMaj7+11 -- but they're not interchangeable with C7. Those are the three basic families: Major Minor and Dominant. Not to be confused with the Four Types of chords - Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented.

The patterns are almost endless. I -IV - V and the ones I provided earlier are based on the Major scale. But they could be the minor scale. Capital roman numerals indicate Major Chords; small are minor.

As far as resolution, Dominant resolves to Tonic. The V chord is dominant and the I chord is tonic. The V chord ALWAYS wants to go to I. It doesn't ALWAYS HAVE TO, which is one of the things that provides for tension.

Different chords want to go different places, but they don't have to. The I chord, for instances, wants to go to the IV or the vi, or the V or the iii, depending on the where the iii if going.

The best thing to do is just PLAY with this stuff. That way you can learn how YOU like to hear these chord progressions. I think it's so much better and organic and creative than having a machine hand them to you.
Old 27th June 2008
  #23
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But, excuse me, that kind of shit is so stupid. Why don't you just learn music? If you love it you might as well learn it, right?
Old 27th June 2008
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
But, excuse me, that kind of shit is so stupid. What don't you just learn music? If you love it you might as well learn it, right?
who says you cant do both? it's all just fodder for the writing tool box.
Old 27th June 2008
  #25
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No one is saying you can't do both. But once you know music and can hear chord progressions and understand their movement you won't ever need or use one of those thing-a-me-bobs. And it's not hard. As a matter of fact it's easy. That's not entirely unlike learning how to multiply with a calculator. You can get it done, maybe, but if you suddenly don't have a calculator you can't do shit.

The problem, as I see it, is music creativity is organic and "spiritual," where decisions made are made by the person, his emotional and aesthetic vision in alliance with his own particular ear, and his own choices. When you use a "Chord Wheel" -- that's lamer than using a rhyming dictionary. It's like writing with the I Ching; learning to play guitar by playing "Guitar Hero," or learning to drive by watching TV. The process is eliminated and in the process you end up with chance, not music that has been intuited or willed. It's rolling the dice, which is fine if you're into John Cage.
Old 28th June 2008
  #26
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Robobaby and Henryrobinnet - Wise Words !

The best genre of music to help you get to grips with modern harmony is JAZZ THEORY and Hamony - this applies to all types of modern musical forms for any sort of song writing to groovy riffs etc . As Henry has correctly and elegantly said, to get to grips with chord patterns and understand how the connect, change, options in any key then you have to learn the Roman Numeral theory ( when people refer to ii - V - I and the likes )

I've been teaching jazz harmony on courses in the UK for many years and I have to admit that I am still learning even now !

To the original poster ( As Robobaby said ) - you need to be able to play to get the most from this theory and to make it stick in your head. The reason different chords work together is integral to scales that connect and flow with them. If you're having troubles playing the chords on their own then you're never going to be able to play the scales - without these you won't be able to comprehend why harmony works.

Music is nothing without MELODY. Writing a good melody is the hardest thing in music. Without the understanding of which scales run through a particular set of changes and why you have very little chance of writing melodic line that make sense over these changes.

Its vital that you know at least all twelve major scales to the degree that you can play them in any order back to back whilst having a conversation about the rise and fall of the roman empire !

The Ultimate guide book I've come across and still recommend is Mark Levine's 'Jazz Theory' - everything you need from A-Z !:

Amazon.com: The Jazz Theory Book: Mark Levine: Books

As to any one using Cognitone's Music Prototyping I have to ask: - Don't YOU want to write music ?

It is sad that technology has developed this false world of pseudo creativity. Everything is pre-recorded and pre-rendered. You can't truly hold your head up high and say 'Here's something I wrote' because in the case of 'Prototyping' its somebody else's work. You didn't write anything ! Worse still, the user has absolutely no further insights into why or how that music was actually produced. Press Play to hear the song you DIDN"T WRITE !

Hey, cut out the middle man and go out and buy a commercial CD release and tell your friends that you wrote it !
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Old 28th June 2008
  #27
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It's the way music is prepackaged. It''s where the money is. Like Apple Loops for Garage Band and Logic -- prepackaged loops. You can put a song together you actually didn't write at all. But you can THINK you did, and it sounds great and you can put your name on it. But in point of fact you didn't completely write it and are not responsible for creating those sounds.

If you write a song, you HEAR it, rhythm, melody and harmony and you play it and either write it down or record it. Chord wheels, and the like, might be a good way of finding possibilities to get your creative juices going WHILE YOUR LEARNING THE ACTUAL THEORY but I'd suggest never leaning on these kinds of tools. They're more harmful than helpful, in the long and the short run.
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Old 28th June 2008
  #28
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don't always think of a chord as a thing in itself

a chord is a collection of notes, think about what each individual note is doing, and where it is going/coming from.

since you have a jazz guitar in your avatar henry, i'm guessing you'd agree to some extent?

narco
Old 28th June 2008
  #29
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Sure, I'd agree, to some extent. I used to teach with a Solar System concept. Each note has a balance that's related to the oother notes. There's the note, or planet with the strongest gravitational pull towards the Sun, or home key.

But chords are 1-3-5 steps of the scales, with several variations. These "Triads" have their own gravitational pulls either towards the Tonic (Sun), the ultimate destination,-- or the Dominant (Jupiter?), being the direct route home to the Tonic/Sun, or Earth if you want.

BTW That's actually not a jazz guitar, play I play it as if it's one. It's MY jazz guitar -- Gibson ES 355.
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Old 28th June 2008
  #30
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ah, well you look kinda jazzy

and yes I don't mean that chords are to be ignored, it just helps sometimes to consider the seperate movements inside the chords

nice solar system analogy too

narco
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