How to Write a Song From a Chord Progression
How to create a song from a chord progression? If you’re like me, you have a few original chord progressions that just won’t leave you alone! When I sit down at my instrument, my ear gravitates towards these chords and puts them together in a certain way.
While it feels good to jam on your chord progressions, giving them the structure and story of a song will capitalize on their potential.
In this post, we’ll show you exercises to help discover the song hidden in your chord progression!
Exercise #1: Free-write
Set up your recording gear or loop machine and record a loop of your chord progression.
Set it on a low volume on your monitors or headphones, and take out your notebook and pen.
Then, turn on the faucet. Begin to free-write. See what comes up as the progression subtly inspires and informs a flow of words and lyrics.
Try filling in these juicy prompts for inspiration:
- When I play this music I feel _______, __________, and ___________.
- The mood of this music is _______, __________, and ___________.
- This song could be about_______, __________, or ___________.
- This song feels like it’s about the kind of person who is ______________.
- This song feels like it’s about someone who is going through _____________.
- This music reminds me of ________________.
- This music makes me wish________________.
Let these prompts inspire more writing. Experiment with:
Avoid making any edits, decisions, or cuts during this exercise! Just let the faucet run until you’re done.
After you’ve filled a few pages, take a break. “Step away from the vehicle!” Upon returning, give it a good read and circle or highlight your favorite ideas.
These will be the building blocks of your lyric!
Pro-Tip: Many of our posts on Supreme Tracks’ blog page will give you great guidance on lyric writing: How to Write Lyrics for a Love Song, How to Write Songs Like The Beatles and How to Use Satire & Character in Songwriting. Check out these helpful secrets!
Exercise #2: Improvise
Press play on your loop again.
Set up a separate recording device, like a smartphone app.
Do your best to shake off your doubts and insecurities, and record an improv session!
Sing out all the melodic ideas that come your way. Play with them. Feel free to repeat and expand upon anything and everything. Don’t worry about forgetting something, your recorder will reflect everything back to you later.
If you liked some lyrics from your free-writing session, use these as well! Playing with one line or one verse at a time, explore your whole range, emotionally and melodically.
Once you’re done, take a listen through. Make note of what you like and relearn it, let it be the first draft.
Over the course of the next few days, you’ll be able to sit down for some re-writing sessions and sculpt your raw materials into your song.
Pro-Tip: Writing is Re-Writing! Once you have your first draft, pause and give it some space. Maybe a day. Come back to it with a refreshed perspective. Then, approach your rewriting session with focused energy and uninterrupted concentration. Solutions to problems you couldn’t crack yesterday seem obvious. A new metaphor or a grammar fix will reveal itself. You’ll be able to see the story you’re really trying to tell take shape. Come back for as many sessions as you need until you feel in your gut that the song is finished.
Exercise #3: Compare, but don’t despair
There are only 12 notes!
Do some listening research to see if there are any other songs using your progression or something similar.
Especially when writing pop music, there are formulas and musical rules we have to follow (check out our blog 3 Production Tricks to Sell Your Song).
If you come across a song with the same chord progression, it’s fine! A catchy, accessible progression can work in your favor. Check out this illuminating and hilarious video called “4 Chords”:
See? In the world of chord progressions, there is room for all! Just make sure your lyric and melody are unique to you, and you’re golden!
Use these techniques to take that small step from seed to song. Keep it simple and take it session by session, even though it may feel more like a giant leap than a small step. These exercises require you to be fully immersed in your process.
Which technique do you feel will work best for you? Let us know in the comments below.