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Music Theory for Electronic Musicians 2: Minor Keys and More

Lesson 18 of 26

Writing Chord Progressions for Melodies

J. Anthony Allen

Music Theory for Electronic Musicians 2: Minor Keys and More

J. Anthony Allen

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Lesson Info

18. Writing Chord Progressions for Melodies

Lesson Info

Writing Chord Progressions for Melodies

All right. Next up. Um, let's talk about building, ah, core progression from a melody. So if you're one of those people that likes to read a melody first, like, ah, lot of people like I might venture to say most people like to write a melody first, but I don't know that for a fact. Um, how do you figure out what chords to put on the melody? So to figure this out first thing is, we need a melody. So let's stick to a minor. Um, and I'm just going to kind of read a random melody that's in a minor. Um, maybe l do half notes, mostly, so I'll start on A It doesn't have started. A melodies don't have to start in a. I don't have to start in the root of the key. Um, they could start whenever they want. Um, but let's start this one on a So let's go a BC The those two quick notes will go down to be and hold that. Then I'll do, ah, make a leap here to maybe e and then af I'm being kind of his random as I can hear down to see to G and t e. Well, hold that out. OK, so here's my super random melody. ...

It's not entirely random causes selling key, but, um, I didn't really think all that much about that. Okay? So I'm still using this, like, super dark weird since patch. Ah, and these drums. So it's already got kind of this dark, uh, almost trip hop feel to it. Um, but that's cool. It's also in a minor key, so it's got that going for it. So let's look at what chords we could use. So I'm going to do the opposite of what I did last time. Let's get rid of that. So this is my piano track up here. Someone's gonna copy my melody into the piano track so that I can leave the melody on the melody track, but ah, pull apart the piano part. So we're gonna figure out what chords could work on this. And let's say I want one chord per bar, just like we did in the last, uh, the last track. So what I'm gonna do here is I'm gonna figure out I'm gonna look for these, like, kind of third relationships. Um, so I haven't in this bar. I'm gonna go bar by bar. So in this bar, I have A B and C. So if I was to look at my hole diatonic chord progression, I would find through. Here's my key right here. Let's build an a minor chord the 1st 3rd 5th And actually I'll build a couple of these. Here's my to court and minor, which is that Diminished remembers who probably will avoid that one. But who knows? Build a couple more of these. Therefore, cord or five chord will just do that money. Okay, so looking back here a, B and C let's see how many of those notes I can get to fit into a single court. So, of my chords, does any of them have an A A B and to see if they have all three, then Hey, that's a great court to use. Always remember, we have a couple of options here. If we only have one note. Ah, there are three or four options. At least three or four obvious options. Um, but we'll get to that in a minute. For now, we have these three notes, and I already know that. Well, I know because I'm just gonna tell you to. We can find accord where two of those notes will work A, B and C. One of them is gonna be a passing note, and it's gonna be this Be so we can see here A and C in our one chord in an a minor chord. Do we have an A and to see in any other chords? Um, not in anything we've drawn out here. If we keep going, we'll get well, actually, if we go, one more cord will get one. So if we go here to the six chord F A and C so F would work as would a C and E So two different chords The one chord in the six chord, um, ones, a major chord, ones of minor chord so we could use whatever we want. Let's use an a minor chord here. We'll keep it simple. So I'm going to stretch this out. I'm gonna turn this into just a cord. So there's my a minor chord. Now, my second bar has just one more melody note. So that means I have three or maybe four options, like I decide a minute ago. So I need to look at all my cords that have this one note in it. Now you're gonna have If you're just looking at triads, you have three options because this note could be the root of our court. It could be the third of our cord. Or it could be the fifth of our cord. Or if we want to get fancy, we could even say it could be the seventh of our court. So let's look for a B in here. So here's a B on our two chords. So if it's the route, it's our to cord. Remember, that's a diminished chord. We don't really like that one. So let's cancel that one out. We're not going to use that one. What are our other options we could use? Here It is as the fifth, and that is the e chord T E minor chord. That's a good option. Um, so that's a good option. Ah, if we kept going up one more cord, that's what they should just drawn out this whole thing from the get go. But that's OK. We get up to the seven chord, the seventh chord in the key. We get the one that has the third in it. And it's a G chord. It's a gene major court. So are good options here. The two chord. Not such a good option. Ah, the good options are the e chord, which is the fifth and the G chord, which is the seventh, So we can decide which one you want. I mean, we're kind of in composition mode here, so both of these cords are gonna work just great. Um, one of the things you might consider is that one of them is a major chord, and one of them's a minor chord. Seem like think. Do you want a major sound or a minor sound here? Um, I'm gonna go with I'm gonna go with the G Chord will be a little weirder. Let's look at what our other options could be. What if that be was the seventh? So let's go up one more scale degree on all of these. Okay? There's I could keep going, but this is the one I want. If I did it as a C, it would give me that seventh. Um, I don't think I want to do that. I think that's gonna be a little too intense for this kind of dark trip poppy sound that I want. So I'm gonna go with the G chord. Okay, so let's turn this into a G chord. I need a G. And there's my third and my fifth will be a d here. Okay, so now that melody note works in there Just great. Now, here. I haven't e and f was there half steps apart. So they're not going to be found in any single chord. There's not gonna be a chord that has an e in it and indefinite x. Well, I take that back. Ah, we will have one. Ah, this cord, the sixth chord. If we added a seven to it, we would have both of those. But I don't think that's what we really want. That's not quite the right sound. Um, it's gonna be a little to remember this is that major seventh chord. That sounds really pretty. I kept saying it sounded pretty, um, so we could put that in this tune, But what we have going so far, we haven't really dark sound. And if we put this really pretty something coordinate, we're going to get ourselves in a little bit of trouble. It's gonna start to sound really confused. So let's not do that. Since this effort shorter. Let's treat it as a passing tone. So let's say ease the court tone. So my options are here. The one chord again. The three chord, which is major. There's the E. And then there's gonna be one chord. There's gonna be Accord. Sorry where it's It's the Roots. So here it is as the fifth. Here it is as the third, and here it is as the root. So an e minor chord are five chord. So in this case, maybe I'll think about where I'm coming from. I have a a a G, and this is a minor chord, and this is a major chord. Let's be sure we get another minor according there, so that we keep the sound of the ah, um, the darkness of the sound. I could go back to that one chord. That's awfully appealing. Um, let's do that. Subs good. Copy this over. Someone used the one chord again here. So now we've got one chord. The e fits in the cord, and then it goes to an F. That's OK, so that if that's the melody, So I'm gonna get rid of that here cause I don't want it right in the cord. Necessarily. That was gonna stretch that out so that the cord takes up the whole measure. Okay, here, I've got three chords. I've gotta see a G and E. And as luck would have it, I swear I didn't plan that. We do have a cord that has all three of those notes C, E and G right there. So our three chord has all three of those. But there's actually one more record that has all three of those to, um, let's find it. It's gonna be It's actually going to be our one chord with a seven c e and G, with the G being the seventh. So it could be our one chord again. Ah, it would be with the seventh. It would be a minor seventh court. Ah, but I'm not going to use that only because I'm coming from my one chord and I want to be sure I go to a different court. So let's use that three chord C e g. And I've got everything I need right here. I don't need to do anything. Okay? So I just kind of grouped notes together and found notes that fit that are passing tones in it. That's the way it's gonna be. That makes for an interesting Mellie. Remember, if you don't have any passing tones or any notes that are not in the cord Ah, for long periods of time, you're gonna end up sounding pretty boring. So, um, don't be afraid to just throw those extra notes that air in key, but not in the cord. Just throw him around and see what happens. Um, okay, last thing before we hear this is I'm gonna do a little bit of inverting. So I'm gonna take this G, since it's it's the highest note down inactive that actually gets me all pretty tight where I'm not moving around too much. So let's hear what we've got. Move this down. I want to get this. No, I'm gonna add de here. That d just gives us a little flavor of its Ah, it's the only note that's not in this chord in the melody. And it also just kind of helps us pushes back to this. A So, um, just kind of gives it a nice feeling for when it's looping. Okay, so there you go. So just remember when you're when you have a melody and trying to find court for it, just try to find groups of chords our sorry groups of notes in the melody and see what chords You can make most of the notes working and then put it together. There's a lot of ah option here. Ah, and this is why this is kind of what separates music theory from, like actual, like composition and producing, like now we're like, creating stuff, so we don't want to always follow the rules. 100% gotta break him to do interesting stuff. Alright, onward.

Class Description

In the first part of Music Theory for Electronic Musicians, we learned how to work with the piano roll editor in a DAW to make harmonies, melodies, and whole tracks. In this second part, we'll expand on those ideas. We'll work with minor keys, focus some time on melody and bassline writing, and we'll talk about how different tracks work. 

Extensive Analysis 

In this class, we feature an extensive track analysis segment by Daft Punk, Avicii, Skrillex, and many more. In each of these segments, we'll look at their tracks on the piano roll editor. We'll talk about why they sound the way they do, and how you can use similar techniques in your own music. Each of these segments picks apart multiple elements of the song and dissects it in an easily digestiable manner. 

Who should take this course? 

Anyone interested in producing their own tracks. This will get you up and running and give your tracks a unique sound in no time.


This course consists of video lectures, which all contain a session in Ableton Live 9. If you are using a different program (or none at all), no worries! This isn't a class on how to use Ableton Live, and the concepts can be applied to any DAW.  



Well, I slobbered all over you after your first class and this one is as good or better. I realize people don't go to college for 12 years and learn what you shared in a few hours and you didn't earn your doctorate with just this stuff. I mean Julliard must offer a lot more, but you have advanced my knowledge by miles and I've got to say thank you. Make some more of these simple, common talk courses - I'll buy them all.

Nick van Lochem

This course its so good he makes it al sound so easy. that ists easy to remember and use in your creations.

Scott Vincent

Very cool class - learned a lot from this class as well as from the Part 1 class. Highly recommend both classes!