October 19th, 2009, 05:21 PM
So I'm putting together an original song and I feel satisfied with the chorus and three verses at this point. The progression is as follows
Intro: D Em x3 Bm C (With guitar riff being played over it)
Verses: (G D Em D G D Em C) x2
Chorus: D Em x3 Bm C
So I feel good about these chords, but to make it really stand out I want to add some tension or dynamics to make it interesting. To give you an example of what I mean, listen to "Otherside" (RHCP), "Soul to Squeeze" (RHCP), and "Kissing the Lipless" (The Shins). I love the way these songs have a sort of instrumental refrain rather than a full out solo that add some really interesting tension to the song.
Do any of you have any recommendations of how to achieve that or what chord structure to use for something like that?
October 19th, 2009, 06:20 PM
Well have you learned the songs you mentioned or looked at their structure and how the chords relate? This would be the best way to learn what you want. Analyze the songs.
We could sit here and say chords that would fit in with those chords but it's hard to say what would sound good depending on the riff and how you play the chords.
October 19th, 2009, 07:43 PM
It's virtually impossible to tell anything much from the chords alone...feel melody and lyrical content is all vital.
You don't have a middle 8 or bridge thing in the structure, that's not "necessary" but is ofen used for a bit of a rave up, or the melody used as an instrumental break or intro...maybe your intro is enough if the riff is strong.
Otherwise, a lot of it has to do with instrumentation, on those songs mentioned there are a few distinct instrument sound that are revealed on their own and a lot of space left so when new elements "hit" you really notice them. As above, study the songs.
Harmonically...as this is all you can gather from the chords alone...it does have a very RHCP vibe similar to "Under the bridge" and others. In soul to squeeze there is a guitar break (at least on the live version I watched) that is essentially the melody line.
Otherwise, in playing it...you might want to put in some kind of short break between verses and choruses. What might sound interesting is to add a bar of G major then A major. You will notice that all the chords are fairly "diatonic" or In Key...the song has no A's in it, but one might expect that it would be A minor if it were to appear. By putting in an A major, it is kind of implying the V of D and contradicting the C chord...it's kind of a false modulation effect I guess, gives a little lift or as if it was going somewhere, but then not!
But as I say, the speed, melody, style and lyrical intent makes it very difficult to make specific comment.
I always think of this kind of "now we are loud - now we are soft" kind of thing as typified by Nirvana and the grunge genre generally. I guess a lot comes down to strong simple elements combined in different ways and allowing things to be small (as with the RHCP bass and drums alone sections) so that there is room to sound "big".
There are rhythmic ideas also that can make things sound slow and fast without changing the tempo by messing with the subdivisions...so you might have a quarter or 8th note kind of riff or strumming style or drum pattern for one part, then double that by dividing the beats with 16th notes say. Again, you could layer such elements to play with the effect.
A lot is in the songs themselves. Sometimes you do need to do a little bit of "study"...for instance hendrix's "wind crys mary" solo makes a great unexpected twist harmonically by turning things around a little (starting instead of B-A-E with E-B-A) and working towards an unexpected chord (C) before returning to E and back into the song. In EVH's "jump" the song suddenly drops a tone for the solo thing, creating a lifting modulation effect when it works it's way back up to the key (the keyboard riffs), similar kind of thing.
If the song is fast or has a fair few changes, you might consider the opposite...just riff away on one chord for a "breakdown" section...it's all about shifting to opposite directions in these kinds of arrangements, different tones and dynamics, different elemnts exposed and combined in different ways...having parts that are strong enough on their own and work well in combinations.
October 19th, 2009, 08:51 PM
thanks warmingtone that's just what i needed. thanks so much for the help.
October 20th, 2009, 01:50 AM
As for creating a bridge or building dynamics, I do have some pet tricks, but I like to keep my mind and ears open and let the song suggest stuff to me. In other words, I'd need to hear the song.
One thing I will suggest experimenting with, if you haven't already, are different ways of voicing the chords. Do you know how to spell chords as to intervals and find all those notes on the fingerboard, and do you understand inversions, suspensions, and extensions? If not, I'd suggest doing some homework in this regard, as they're prime components of any arranger's toolbox. Also research the topic of chord voice leading.
The chords that you list are ripe for the pickin' as to exploring drones and other available "guitaristic" tendencies. If you understand the basics of harmony and theory, try implying the root + major or minor third for each chord (and try inversions as well) on the A and B strings, and let the extensions and tensions that occur on the open D and G strings fall where they will between the "chords" that are implied by what I call '10th' intervals (no such academically accepted interval, other than to me, as that's how I think of it... it's a third above the octave). Try building voicings in open position with only an open G string as a drone as well.
Also try using constant tones on top of the chords in open position. The aforementioned D and G fretted notes are often used choices. Also try including the open high E string (example: it functions as sus2/add9 of D, and as 6th of G), or a fretted A note on the fifth fret of the high E (example: it functions as 5th of D, and as add9 of G). Any time that a G chord moves toward a D chord, it's fair game to place a 3rd in the bass on the D (F#).
As for voice leading, build an ascending or a descending melody and voice the chords accordingly to highlight the chosen melody. Melodies are most often built in the upper range, but the movement can be in the bass as well.
All of this stuff is a matter of taste, as to what ultimately "fits the song". One size doesn't fit all. These approaches do require a basic understanding of harmony and theory, fingerboard/note/intervallic awareness, and a healthy dose of curiosity and trial and error.