Current hit songs in all mainstream commercial genres tend to stick to a few basic chords and lean heavily on repetition. For skilled musicians there’s a real temptation to overwrite. You may be better off limiting your chords to I – IV – V and VI, for instance, C, F, G, and Am. You can hear progressions using these chords in big four-chord hits like “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You” or Kris Allen’s “Live Like We’re Dying.” These are just two top ten hits that rely on a basic, familiar chord palette. there are dozens more
One of my favorite videos: “Four Chords” by Axis of Awesome will give you an idea of just how many successful songs are built on these chords.
So, how do they make that work?
The secret sauce
The secret to successfully using today’s repetitive chord progressions lies in the way the melody relates to them. The chord progression provides the solid, steady foundation on which a rhythmically interesting melody can be built. Nickelback’s “Photograph” and “Far Away” are great examples of rock-steady, repeated four-chord patterns with melodic phrases that begin in between the chord changes. This is the trick that keeps these repetitive chord progressions interesting: The melody doesn’t always emphasize the beat on which the chords change. Continue reading “Get the Most From a Simple Chord Progression”