A chord progression is a fundamental element of every track. It sets the mood and gives a piece of music its harmonic movement. I must admit that I often start a new track by composing a groove. There's nothing wrong with that. A cool beat can really get you started. But every now and then I take a chord progression and try to be creative with that instead.
The title of the article is somewhat misleading as I am not going to show you how to compose an entire track. However, I will show you a few simple tricks that can help you on your way.
Compose a chord progression or download a midi chord progression from midichords.
Obviously, we will need a chord progression and the progression I will use for this tutorial can be downloaded here free-midi-chord-progression-tutorial (note that you need to signup before you can download). What I will show you however applies to any chord progression, so as long as you understand what I am doing you'll be fine.
Before we continue, have a listen below:
Pretty nice right? I could have chosen something longer and more complex, but for the sake of simplicity this is the chord progression we'll use.
Chop the notes of the chord progression
The next thing you want to do is create a copy of your chord progression channel in order to keep the original. You should now have two channels with the same progression.
In one of the channels, break up the long notes of the progression into shorter notes. I'm sure you have a feature in your favourite DAW that can help you with this. For those of us who use FL Studio, you can use Tools | Chop (or Alt+U) in the Piano Roll.
What you should get is the following:
As you can see I've chopped each long note into 4 shorter ones. Each bar now consists of 4 notes with a total of 16 notes (spanning 4 bars).
Remove upper 3 notes and lowest note alternately as shown below:
You get the picture right? Now, this is what is sounds like:
Sounds pretty nice right? A cool trick is now to create yet another copy, based on the broken chords with deleted notes.
Compose an alternative
Create a copy of the channel where you broke up the chords and deleted notes. You should now have 3 channels in total. The original chords, the broken chords and finally a copy of the latter.
Now, move the notes in your third channel. Move them up or down, forward or backward. There are no specific rules other than that it should sound cool. How do you know whether it sounds cool? Well, there is an easy trick for that. Simply play the track (put it on repeat) and start moving your notes. Look at what I came up with:
Take some time to study the piano roll above. The differences are only few, but they're just enough to sound really good in combination with the original channel. Let's have a listen.
Again, there are no rules. I composed the above by ear and nothing else.
Now, let's put the 3 channels together and see what it sounds like.
Pretty awesome result don't you think so? At least considering the effort we put in it. The trick is really simple. You start off with a single chord progression and compose other elements based on that.
Naturally, this is only the very beginning of what could be a new track. But I hope you get the picture and that it inspires you to start experimenting with chord progressions yourself. Happy composing! Oh yeah, I usually do not ask for this, but if you enjoyed reading this tutorial, please 'Like' it. It will be appreciated :)