This is geared mostly towards guitar players, but could still apply in some respects to those of you who write with a keyboard. Are your chord choices and your chord progressions getting boring? You might find yourself always turning to the same chords when you’re sitting down to write…and let’s face it, you can probably only sing in certain keys so those chords work for you.
However, they’re not very inspiring after awhile, are they?
Maybe you need to introduce yourself to some new sounding chords, chords that have different extensions (more about that in a minute), but still work for your voice. There are many, many chords out there, but most of the time we stick to the common chords. It’s not that common chords are bad, but they are what we know. I get an awful lot of visitors to one of my articles entitled “Chord Keys” because people aren’t sure what chords sound good together. In fact, they often use the search terms “what chords sound good together” to find that article!
So if you aren’t sure about chord keys, that’s a good primer. However, beyond that, why not teach yourself some less common chords. Chord “extensions” are simply added harmonic notes that change the sound of a chord. For instance, a basic G chord changed to a Gadd5, gives it a fuller, more majestic (for lack of a better word) sound. A Gadd5 is fretted like this:
Gadd5 ----------- | | | | | | |_|_|_|_|_| | 1 | | | | |_|_|_|_|_| 2 | | | 3 4 |_|_|_|_|_|
Just adding that third finger to the third fret of the 2nd string gives the G a whole new dimension. In fact, I know some guitar players who have permanently replaced any G they play with a Gadd5 because they like the sound of it better! But there are many other G chords with different extensions, so I’m going to give you a bunch of them here just so you can play with them:
Gadd5 G6 Gadd9 G11 ----------- ----------- ----------- ----------- | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_| | 1 | | | | | 1 | | | | | 1 | 2 | | | | | 1 | | |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_| 2 | | | 3 4 2 | | | | | 3 | | | | 4 2 x 3 | | | |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_| |_|_|_|_|_|
(Note: the "x" in the G13 chord means that you mute that string
with the back of your second finger)
So you can see that just by changing a couple of notes from a normal G chord, you can find lots of variations. Sometimes I have found myself fingering some kind of chord without even knowing what to call it! All I know and care about is the fact that it sounds cool. Eventually I have found the names by using a website called Gootar.com and typing in the fingerings on their little Java chart. It gives me a few names to choose from :-). The point is that you should explore how you play your regular chords to get out of your regular chord “rut”.
The web is an excellent place to find chord charts if you are looking for new ones to try out. Chordie has a great one that gives all kinds of variations of all of the standard chords, and I’m sure you can find others just by Googling “guitar chord chart”.
There is something about the sound of a new chord that can do all sorts of things to your ear when you are trying to write a song. Sometimes the subtlest change can inspire something entirely new for you. So find yourself some cool chords and get busy!