Composing – How To Write A Song Or Piece, Part 1, Chords

I hope you have been getting your creative juices flowing after spending some time improvising on your instrument. If you haven’t yet tried improvising, read this post.

To compose a song or piece, you can start with the chords, or the melody, or the lyrics, or a combination of those three elements. In this post we will approach composing using chords. To show you how to find the chords that will work for your song or piece, I have made a YouTube video demonstrating chord theory, with examples of chord progressions from popular songs and pieces. It might seem confusing at first, but after watching it a few times I hope it starts to make sense:

To reiterate what you saw in the video above, you can find the chords for your song by playing triads (3-note chords that skip a key/letter) on each note of whichever key you choose to write in, using only the notes from the scale to form your chords.

In the video I chose to use the key of C for ease and comfort. But if you are composing a song with lyrics you might need to use other keys in order to accommodate the range of the singer.

To make it easier for you, here is a chart showing the seven chords associated with each scale, or key. Click to Print:

After watching the video and printing out the chart, experiment with some chord progressions. Keep trying combinations of chords until you find a progression you really like. Or you can use one of the progressions outlined in the video. Have fun with this! Don’t expect to write your masterpiece on your first try!

In my next post I will approach composing from the melody, but you will find it easier if you already understand the chord theory described in the video and chart above.

Best wishes for your good health, with love and music, Gaili

Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul.

2 Replies to “Composing – How To Write A Song Or Piece, Part 1, Chords”

  1. Thank you, Gaili, for the encouragement to compose. Your tutorials are helpful and informative as to how to proceed. I work on my piece and try to continue adding to it-but mostly I enjoy playing the few measures I have written. Right now, it is a melody and a broken chord pattern, but I do want to add a counter melody and some interest to the left hand. Who knows??? It will probably just remain in my journal forever.
    I would encourage anyone to go for it. Music has no ceiling to it and is endless in its combinations.
    Your study on sevenths has been particularly helpful. I have used your flash cards and have made additional ones with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd inversions. They are really not that difficult once you work with them. I am beginning to recognize and play them with greater ease.
    With much gratitude and appreciation,
    Carol from Connecticut

    1. Thanks for your encouragement Carol! I do hope you expand your piece, maybe the successive videos will help. I’m so glad to hear that the flashcards are helping you learn your 7ths. Great idea to also study the inversions with flash cards! Lots of love, Gaili

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *