At 5/9/12 02:37 PM, sorohanro wrote:
I tried to make a visual explanation to this. Thanks to Musescore and Windows Paint, the result is highly appealing from a visual point of view.
Did you intentionally make that example like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? Lol
To the OP: The strongest chord progressions are those that move down in fifths (ex: Amin, Dmin, GMaj, CMaj, or vi, ii, V, I). Downward movement by fifths tend to provide a feeling of resolution or moving toward "home." Conversely, moving up by fifths usually creates a feeling of departure and rising tension. In the key of C major for example, going down from GMaj to Cmaj (V, I) sounds resolved, whereas going the other way up from Cmaj to GMaj (I, V) sounds as though it is left hanging.
So moving in fifths, up or down, is the strongest motion evoking tension and resolution. Other "safe" progressions include occasionally going up by a second (EX: FMaj to GMaj, or IV, V) or down by a third (CMaj to Amin, or I, vi). These are weaker progressions however and are best used in combination with progressions consisting of many movements by fifths.
Here are some common chord progressions and observations on them:
I, ii, V, I
-Notice how there is a movement up a second, and then down a fifth and down another fifth. Going up from I to ii created tension and moving down in fifths eventually brought us back to I, or "home."
I, vi, ii, V, I
-This progression starts by going down a third, but then progresses down by fifths until arriving back where it began. Again, movement up a second or down a third is good sparingly but can make a very weak progression if overused.
As another rule of thumb, I, IV, and V are the strongest chords in a key. There are entire books explaining why, but I won't get into the technicalities. But know that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of songs written just using those chords. Using primarily those while sprinkling in others is an easy way to get decent sounding progressions.
If you are going the self-taught route, you might consider checking out The Idiot's Guide to Music Theory. It explains all of this in a down-to-earth, comprehensible manner and is WAY cheaper than your standard college theory textbook. It will at least give you a solid grounding and point you in the right direction.
Once you know a little music theory, it would be wise to listen to your favorite music and figure out what chord progressions the songs are using. Take those same chord progressions and use them for yourself (seriously!). Just write an original melody over them. Millions of songs use the same chord progressions, and that isn't considered stealing. It is melodies that are protected by copyright. Not chords. Borrowing chords from songs you like will help you develop a good sense of what works and sounds good. It will also give you somewhere to start until you can develop your own original ideas and styles.
I am trying to make this as nontechnical as possible, and I hope you find the information helpful. If you have questions, feel free to message me.