Author Topic: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs  (Read 4306 times)

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Offline Hollywood

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2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« on: April 25, 2015, 02:14:00 am »
1) Okay, so I came up with a cool riff, but I'm finding it a little difficult to find the right chords to lay over it that sound good.  I can figure it out by ear, but is there a quicker/easier/maybe even technical way of figuring out what chords should sound good over certain riffs?  For example, the first part of my riff is xx99xx.  The closest thing I can find that sounds good is a capo on 2 and then a C chord. 

2) When using the same chords throughout all but the bridge of a song, how do you keep it from sounding repetitive?  Right now I'm pretty much just going up an octave in the chorus.
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Offline shadowscott007

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2015, 04:44:47 am »
Was there a sound link here?  I can't see them on my phone.  Need to get to a PC.

1.  Couple of things here.  First ear trumps theory (sounds good is good).  Second you can use you ear strength  to figure out the theory.  So you got your riff, and you've eared out the chords that go over it (or under it).  So now write down the chords.  Not C with the capo at the second fret, write it down as the D chord that it is and likewise for the rest of your chords (that is an exercise in theory in and of itself).

So the pair of 9s is a B and E.  I would theory out that B and E are tbe root and 5th of an E chord.  But it matters where the riff goes.  Your ear told you a D chord sou ds good over the riff.  So now you have D chord and a B and E note.  D F# A are coming from the chord, 1 3 and 5, the B and E could be 6th and a 9th... kinda odd (to me but a 6/9 chord rings some bells).. Anyhow what is the next part of the riff, maybe is resolves nicely into chord tones of the D chord... a little tension with the E and B into resolving back into  D, Dmaj7, D7 chord tones.

Maybe the the B and E drop a whole step back down to an A and D.  Hey that is the root and the 5th of the D chord... cool that explains why that sounds good..

Anyhow my long winded point is that when you find something sounds good you can tear it apart to figure out why that may be...

2)  Dynamics, louder softer, regular strumming for the verse, pumping 8ths for the chorus.  Maybe a completely different rhythm pattern, sparse or busier, stuff like tbat.

Shadow

Edit from Wikipedia about a 6/9 chord (and you found it by using your ear):

The 6/9 chord is a pentad in which a major triad is extended with a sixth and 9th above the root, but no seventh, thus: C6/9 is C,E,G,A,D. It is not a tense chord requiring resolution, and is considered a substitute for the tonic in jazz. Its constituent notes are those of the pentatonic scale.[9]
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Offline close2u

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2015, 09:20:50 am »
Good stuff from shadow ....

what you have is a classic double-stop pairing of two notes there ... and it also makes me think of patterns of 3rds


Hollywood
You are trying to make little melodic riffs and fills for yourself without necessarily resorting to scales and soloing ... cool .... so I highly highly recommend you begin to play around with 3rds and 6ths.
They are like little double-stop chord fragments that melodically spell out a scale and create instant riffs.
I gaurantee 100% fun once you get started.
Do you like the intro to Brown Eyed Girl? All 3rds.
How about the intro / repeating riff on Peace Train? All 6ths.

Try this thread: https://justinguitarcommunity.com/index.php?topic=24236.0

Now, it is very heavy going as a start point as I wrote so much theoretical stuff in there ... so if you just want to jump in and begin playing in 3rds or 6ths then use these diagrams:

Double stop 3rds mapped out in G

5 sets of 3rds that lie on adjacent strings.
Root notes are marked in red.
Other notes of the G major scale are marked in black along the two strings in each diagram.
Blue lines connect the 3rds.





6ths mapped out in G

4 sets of 6ths that lie on strings two apart. Root notes are marked in red. Other notes of the G major scale are marked in black along the two strings in each diagram. Blue lines connect the 6ths.



You can play both notes together, or two separate, you can slide from one to another etc. Finering is important - your 2nd finger is the anchor and then switch between 1st or 3rd.
If you're unsure how to start watch this video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePdY0kEPHuk



ps
Sorry - this doesn't answer the question in your OP ... although as noted, shadow already has addressed that.
:)

Offline Hollywood

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2015, 03:06:34 pm »
Thank you both for the great posts!  I appreciate it.  :)  Took me a couple of reads through them both, but I think I understand what you're both saying now.  Close, I'll definitely check out that video and thread you shared.

write it down as the D chord that it is and likewise for the rest of your chords (that is an exercise in theory in and of itself).

Anyhow what is the next part of the riff, maybe is resolves nicely into chord tones of the D chord...

This is one of those things I know I need to learn... how to figure out what the chords actually are when using a capo.  Is that all in the PMT book?

The entire riff is xx99xx, xx66xx, xx44xx repeated a few times.  I just sort of accidentally discovered it sounded good, haha.
I think (capo 2) that C, G, C, D sounds good for the song (again, no idea what chords they really are), but I'm not sure if those are the right chords for the riff.  I can't play them both at the same time and haven't recorded it yet.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 03:44:03 pm by Hollywood »
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Offline shadowscott007

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2015, 03:37:05 pm »
I thought you said capo 2, rather than one... neither here nor there really except if the capo and one makes it a C# or Db chord instead of the D I mentioned in the post.

I don't think you NEED PMT to learn how to figure out what the "real" chords are.  Don't get me wrong, it would help but the theory here isn't too complex.

You need to know:

1)  Where the root notes are in the open chords you are playing.

2)  The names of the notes on the string. You don't have to have them memorized, it would help but doing stuff like this helps you memorize the notes.  PMT note circle will show you how to follow the notes up a string.

So let's take a C chord.  The root is on the 5th string.  When you play a C shape in the open position your 3rd finger is playing the C note 3rd fret 5th string, the root.  So it is a C shape C chord.

Capo the 5th fret play a C shape chord.  Your third finger is playing the 5th string 8th fret root.  What note is that?  It is an F note.  So you are playing an F chord, a C shape F chord.

If you don't KNOW the the 8th fret of the 5th string is an F, you are not alone.  But you can just count up or down from any old note you know on the 5th string.  So I knew the 5th fret 5th string is A a D note.  So a whole step above that, the 7th fret is an E note.  Now the next note above E on the 8th fret is F.

Know the root notes in your chord shape.  Wherever you move your chord shape with a capo, figure out what the letter name of the note is that you are playing in the root note location for that shape.

Exactly how it works for barre chords to.  If you understand how it works when you play a F barre chord and move it up to the third fret it becomes a G chord it is the same thing.  The F chord is and F because the root note is F and is the note on the 6th string.  Slide it up so that note is G and it is G chord... slide it up to the 7th fret and it is a B.  It is named after its root the note on the 6th string.

Shadow

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Offline Hollywood

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2015, 03:40:27 pm »
I thought you said capo 2, rather than one...

Hahaha I literally just came back to this thread to correct myself.  Yes, I meant 2nd fret.  Ugh.  ::) Reading the rest of your post now.

Edit:  Okay, that makes sense. I think the only thing I'm still a little confused by is the root note, figuring out which note is the root.  I have the PMT and have looked through it, but the last time (a few weeks ago) it still didn't make much sense yet beyond a certain point.
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Offline shadowscott007

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2015, 04:12:59 pm »
Go to this page:

One every chord diagram on this page until you get to the slash chord section the root note is the lowest note in the shape.  Make sure to pay attention to the fact the the lowest note MAY be open.  (Just so you know the root note shows up in a couple of places in each chord, but to start it is easiest to focus on the low root.)

http://justinguitar.com/en/CH-000-Chords.php

THE ONE EXCEPTION is the F chord shapes.  In the first and last ones shown, the low note is the root F.

You can probably stop reading now but I cannot stop myself.

The D chord is a D in the open position because the root is the open D string, the A is an A because the root is the open A, the E is an E because the root is the open E, the G is a G because the root is the G on the 3rd fret of the 6th string, the C is a C because the root note is the C on the 3rd fret of the 5th string.

You could print out the diagrams and write R on the low note of each chord and hang onto it as reference... in my minds eye I tbiught J had the roots marked on that page. 

Shadow






Shadow
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Offline Hollywood

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2015, 04:24:09 pm »
Ohh okay, I get it.  :)  For some reason I never include the open strings as part of the chord - even though I play them that way, the open strings just somehow don't register as being a note. haha

Okay, so.... if you know what notes the riffs are, which chords should "technically" go with each riff?  The same root notes?  So if the riff notes are something like B-E-D-A, for example, would the chords that go with it be B, E, D, and A, most likely?
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Offline stitch101

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2015, 04:24:25 pm »
If your playing the 6th and 9th in your riff you can expand it using the Dorian scale. The minor pent with the
6th and 9th added.

To figure out what chord you are playing with a capo count the frets up from the chord shape you're playing.
Two frets up, one tone from C is D two more is E one more F.

Offline TB-AV

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2015, 04:30:48 pm »
fitting riffs to chords can be tricky because the riff could be passing through chords, outlining chords, use chromatic tones.

You kinda need to hear your whole riff and see if you hear 'drive beats' that might associate with chords.

it probably starts or resolves on a chord. figure out the notes.

Can you post the entire riff?
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Offline Hollywood

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2015, 04:32:02 pm »
it probably starts or resolves on a chord. figure out the notes.

To clarify, are you saying that the notes of the riff should be the same as the chords that will sound good with it?  So if the riff uses a lot of C and D notes, what chords would you likely play with it?  C and D?
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Offline TB-AV

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2015, 04:38:13 pm »
Not necessarily... that's why I just added, can you post the entire riff.  It can get really complicated.

I'm just saying... most riffs generally have tonal basis and resolution that is often associated with a chord or two or three.
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Offline TB-AV

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2015, 04:40:54 pm »
IOW.. you gave us BE and said it sounds good over a D chord... Well if you said sounded good over a B chord or E chord that makes sense but a D chord makes me think the rest of the riff is having some sonic impact outweighing those two notes.
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Offline Hollywood

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2015, 04:50:19 pm »
I thought it did, yes, but I hadn't recorded it to play over or anything.  Here's the riff.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/73m06ju526k29vj/riff%20demo.wav?dl=0


I may end up not using this riff with the song I was thinking, though, because the D/A/E chords fit that song better and I'm not sure if they go with this riff or not.
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Offline shadowscott007

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Re: 2 songwriting questions - putting chords to riffs
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2015, 05:05:32 pm »
I agree with TB and said as much earlier, the riff is probably moving and resolves to Dishness.  But the D6/9 is a pretty consonant chord. 

Take the Brown Eyed girl intro.  Under the G chord the intro riff is walking across the intervals (not chords), G B maj 3rd, A C min 3rd,  B D min 3rd.  But the whole thing is riding on the G chord.  Same with under the C chord but everything shifts up a 4th. 

The riff is moving through the scale tones but the chord behind it is providing a stable home for the riff to play against.

Shadow
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