Writing Music 101: Create a Chord Progression on Guitar (Major Key) | Jason Rivera | Skillshare

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Writing Music 101: Create a Chord Progression on Guitar (Major Key)

teacher avatar Jason Rivera, Composer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (24m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project Overview

    • 3. Chords in C and Roman Numerals

    • 4. How to Play the Chords

    • 5. Writing Chord Progressions

    • 6. Your Class Project

    • 7. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Learn how to write chord progressions on guitar (electric or acoustic) in a major key with composer Jason Rivera.

This class features detailed explanations and demonstrations on the guitar. You will learn techniques and concepts that can be applied to writing music in many genres.

The main topics covered in this class are:

1.  A review of the main chords in the key of C Major

2.  How to play the main chords in the key of C Major on guitar

3.  How to label the chords with Roman Numerals

4.  A system for writing chord progressions on guitar

5.  Guitar strumming variations to use in your chord progressions

For your class project you will write an original chord progression on guitar in C Major, utilizing the techniques we cover in the class, and record it. Your performance and recording don't have to be perfect—a smartphone demo will work great!

This class is for musicians, songwriters, composers and hobbyists who want to expand their knowledge of how to write music using a guitar.

The course is designed for beginners. It’s helpful if you have some experience playing basic guitar chords, however it’s not required.

Learning how to write chord progressions on guitar deepens your understanding of music and you can build upon what you learn in this class to write your own songs and compositions. Added bonus: writing music on guitar is fun!

The only equipment you need for this class is a guitar (acoustic or electric) and your ears. *Be sure your guitar is tuned!

I’d love to hear your feedback and I encourage you to leave a review for this class. And don’t forget to follow me here on Skillshare to make sure that you receive all of my updates and resources.

If you want to continue your music education, I have many other courses available here on Skillshare. I have other classes on songwriting, melodies, writing chord progressions and music theory. I invite you to check out my other classes which you can find on my profile page here https://www.skillshare.com/user/jasonriveramusic

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Jason Rivera




I'm Jason Rivera. I compose music and teach from my studio in Los Angeles, CA. You can check out my music on my website and you can join my email list for updates.

“Excellent class!!! He made concepts that have been difficult to understand previously so clear and concise. Really got a lot out of this class. This is foundational to becoming a good composer. Can't wait to try doing the assignments!!!”

- Mona Lisa P, Skillshare Student

“Things I have been confused about for years finally made sense to me through Jason's instructions. I can't thank you enough, Jason.”

- Ronja B, Skillshare Student

“Great work, with engaging visuals and great audio and video qua... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hello, I'm Jason Rivera, a composer and multi instrumentalist. I've composed music for films and trailers toward the US as a performer and have worked as a producer on music projects. I've also been teaching music since 2012. And this class I'm going to teach you how to write chord progressions in a major key on guitar. To illustrate the concepts in this class, I'll be using the chords in the key of C major. I'll be covering how to play these chords on guitar along with how to label them using Roman numerals. You'll then use these skills to create your very own original chord progressions on guitar. Specifically, I will cover our review of the chords in the key of C major. How to play the chords in the key of C major on guitar. How to label the chords with Roman numerals. A system for writing functional chord progressions on guitar and examples of guitar strumming variations to use in your chord progressions. My goal with this class is to provide you with the basics of understanding how chord progressions on guitar work and how to build an. The course is aimed that beginners who are looking to start writing chord progressions on guitar. You'll move a bit faster through this class if you can already play some basic open guitar chords. But this is not a requirement since I'll be going over the main chord shapes in the key of C major. This class is great for songwriters, composers, producers, or even hobbyists, who would like to learn how to write chord progressions in a major key on guitar. If you're interested in writing songs or compositions, this class will provide a great foundation towards that goal. Learning how to write chord progressions in the key of C major. It is a great first step in songwriting and composing. And once you've grasped the concepts that I'm going to share in the class with you. You'll understand how you can write chord progressions on guitar in any major key. So whether you're looking to write music for yourself or produce tracks for other people, you can utilize the techniques from this class to expand your musical vocabulary and skill set. By the end of this class, you'll be able to play the most common guitar chord shapes in C Major and to write chord progressions in the key of C major that sound good. And you'll be on your way to songwriting and composing with your guitar. Alright, let's get started with our class. 2. Class Project Overview: Welcome. I'm so glad you decided to join me in this course. Before we get started with the class, I want to give you a brief overview of your assignment for your class project, you will write an original chord progression on guitar in C major, utilizing the techniques we covered in the class and record it. Your performance and recording doesn't have to be perfect by any means, a smartphone demo will work great. I chose this project because once you can create a chord progression on guitar using a strategy, then you're on your way to writing songs and composing with some structure and background knowledge. When you have techniques that you can lean on, then writing music becomes easier and more fun. To create a successful class project, be sure that you are first comfortable playing the chords in the key of C major that I demonstrate in the class, then start writing your own core progressions as soon as possible. The best way to learn is by doing. So, don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. The more chord progressions that you ride, the easier it will become, and the better you'll get at it. Remember, you can review the demonstration lessons on how to create core progressions as many times as necessary, until the process becomes more intuitive for you. Before diving into the next lesson, make sure that you have your guitar with you and tuned up and ready to go. 3. Chords in C and Roman Numerals: In this lesson, I'm going to quickly introduce the chords of the C major scale and what they look like on guitar, the C Major Scale has seven nodes, C, D, E, F, G, a, and B. And there are seven chords in the key of C. Each chord is built on one of those notes of the C-Major scale. Here are the chords, C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G7, a minor, and B diminished. Now to help us organize our core progression ideas, we're gonna use Roman numerals to label each of those chords. The a, C is one, D minor is two, E minor is three. F-major Is for G7 as 5-7. A minor is six, and B diminished is seven diminished. Please note that the major chords and the 5-7 chord use uppercase Roman numerals and minor chords and the diminished seventh chord use lowercase Roman numerals. I want you to get very familiar with labeling your chords in this way because it's going to help with the class project. So those are the seven chords of the C major scale on guitar. Remember that each chord is built on a degree of the C major scale, and each chord is labeled with its own Roman numeral. Alright, so that's our intro to the chords in the key of C Major. I'll see you in the next video lesson where I'm going to cover how to play each court. 4. How to Play the Chords: Alright, in this lesson, we're going to cover how to play the chords in the C-major scale. I'm going to cover each chord and show you the most common way of playing them. I mentioned in the last lesson that we're using Roman numerals to label our chords. So let's start with the one chord C and the standard open position. This is a really common chord shape for C. Just remember on this one you'll probably want to avoid playing that six strain B open e. If you want, you can wrap your thumb around the neck. And you can use that to mute the low E string, like I've done here. Next we have the two chord, which is D Minor. For this one again, you can use your thumb to mute the fifth sixth strings. If you want. You technically could play that opened a if you wanted to, since it's part of the D minor chord, but you definitely want to avoid playing that six string for this court. Then we have the three chord, which is E minor. This is super easy core to learn, and it's one of the first ones that I teach to complete beginners. You're playing all of the strings, including for open strings. So it has a nice resonant sound to it. Next we have the four chord, F major. You can play this as a bar chord, like I just did there. If that's too challenging at the moment, you can also play it without the bar by just moving your first finger, your index finger, to technically your barring the first second strings. That also sounds nice. You've got less of a low-end sound playing it with that shape. Next, we have the 5-7 chord G7. Now adding in that F on the first string, first fret helps to create a bit more tension when you play the G7. As opposed to just playing a normal G chord. Technically, you can just play a G chord here, which would be a five chord and that works. But I would recommend learning the G7 and the G So that you have the option when writing your chord progressions are next chord is the sixth chord, a minor. On this one, you'll want to avoid playing that six string again. Although technically the Loewy is part of the a minor chord, I think it sounds clear when you mute or avoid that Loewy. And again, I'm using the thumb to mute the sixth string. And lastly we have our seven diminished chord, a, B diminished chord. With this one, you can use your second finger to just kind of lean on the third string there so that you're meeting it. Diminished chords aren't used a whole lot and pop and rock music, but they're good to have in your back pocket as an option. And personally, I love the sound of this chord. Remember you can pause this video lessons as you move along through the class and work on the chords one at a time until you feel more comfortable with them. Those are the seven chords in the key of C major. If you're looking to learn to write your own music on guitar, I would highly suggest learning these chord shapes to get started. If you don't have a strong handle on playing all these shapes at the moment. No worries. You can always get started writing chord progressions with the chords that you can play. And as you learn the new chord shapes, you can then branch out and add them to your toolkit. I'll see you in the next lesson where we're going to start to cover some techniques for writing chord progressions. 5. Writing Chord Progressions: Okay, so now we're moving into how to ride a chord progression in the key of C major using a system, rather than throw you blindly into writing chord progressions without any background information. I'm going to show you a system for organizing your chord progression ideas. We're going to create what are called functional chord progressions. Basically, functional chord progressions take each of the seven chords from the C Major Scale or any major scale, and give them a role to play in the context of a chord progression. Functional chord progressions come from Baroque, Classical, and romantic music. But functional chord progressions are used in popular music all the time. Speaking from my experience writing music when you learn how to write chord progressions and this way it's a game changer because it gives order and direction to your ideas. And I think you'll be surprised by how fresh sounding the core progressions are. Ok, in this chart here you'll see that I've grouped all seventh chords of the C-major scale. These are the ones that we've already looked at, and I've placed them into categories. The one chord, C and six chord a minor are in the first group on the left. These are in the category called tonic chords. These two chords are home chords and they sound stable. Then we have the four chord F And the two chord D minor. And these are in a category called predominant. These two chords lead into the third and final grouping of chords on the right. And the last grouping we have the seven diminished chord be diminished and our 5-7 chord, G7. These two chords are dominant chords in between the tonic and predominant chords and are predominant and dominant chords. You'll see that we have our three chord, E minor. This is a special chord that we'll use sparingly. The idea with this concept is that you pick at least one chord from each category of the chart, starting with a tonic chord. And you only move from left to right through the categories. Let me give you some examples of how you can use this chart to create your own progressions. Okay, so we're gonna start out simple and just create a couple of to measure chord progressions. And we're going to write in 44 time. So each measure has four beats. I want you to write your chord progressions out on paper as you go along. Provided a sheet for you to fill in your core progression ideas. And the box labeled chords, I want you to write the actual cord letter name, for example, sea. And the box labeled Roman numeral, right? The Roman numeral of the cord you pick. So for C, you'd write in a Capital One. The reason that I want you to do this is because the more practice you have connecting the coordinates to their Roman numerals, the more natural writing functional chord progressions becomes plus thinking in terms of roman numerals allows you to take the system of writing core progressions and apply it to different keys later on if you'd like. Okay, so I'm going to start with a tonic chord and I'm gonna pick C. Then I'm going to move to the right. And I'm actually going to use the other tonic chord in the key of C major. And I'll add in an a minor chord. Then I need to pick a predominant chord and I'm going to pick the F-Major chord. And finally, I'm going to pick a chord from the dominant category, and I'm going to pick G7. Okay, so I have a quote from each category, and now I have to decide how many beats I'm going to play each chord. I think it'll sound good to play C for two beats, and then a minor for two beats. And that's our first measurement done on Play, the F major for two beats, and then the G7 for two beats. And on my right hand I'm just using downstrokes to keep it simple for now. Let's see how it all sounds together. You'll notice that I repeated both measures and created a loop. I recommend doing this when you're writing your own progression so that you can really hear what you're writing. Also, take note that as I picked the chords, I only moved from left to right on the categories chart. Let me give you another example. Let's start by picking a chord from the tonic category. I'll start with the a minor this time. Now I'm going to pick a chord from the predominant category, and I'll choose African. Now I'll pick a chord from the dominant category and I'll pick B diminished. So let's see how this sounds. So there I played the a minor of the first two beats of the first measure that I played f. The second two beats of the measure, Dunn, I played B diminished for all four beats of measure two. I pick the sounds pretty cool. You'll notice in this example that I mixed up the type of chords. I used, a minor chord, a major chord, and a diminished chord. This is something to keep in mind when writing your own progressions. Through my music studies, I've learned that a lot of the songs that keep my interests tend to have a nice mix of major and minor chords used in them. Also, you'll notice that I veered away from all downstrokes with the strumming pattern. I just used a pattern that felt and sounded good to me. Let me give you a third example. This time it'll be for measure progression. And I'll play each chord for four beats. So to be one chord per measure, again, I'll start by picking a chord from the tonic category, and I'll pick C-Major. Now I'm going to throw in an E minor here. And again, you can add in the E minor in-between the tonic and predominant or inbetween the predominant and dominant chords. Then I need a predominant chord, and I'll choose D minor this time. And finally, I need a dominant chord and I'll pick G0. Let's check out how all these chords sound together. So you'll notice that because this progression has to minor chords in it, it sounds a little bit sad. Also make note that I improvised again with the strumming pattern. And you should feel free to do this when working on your project for this class. Alright, so by organizing your chords into tonic, predominant and dominant categories, you have a reliable system so that you can organize your own courts. And by moving from left to right through the categories, picking chords and you have some guidelines to work with to start creating chord progressions. Remember, you can keep your strumming really simple to start out and focus on what chords are choosing and how they sound together. Please feel free to review this particular Lesson as many times as you need to so that how to categorize the chords and how to pick chords on those categories. Make sense to you. If you've never heard of these techniques before, they might seem a little bit awkward. But I promise you from my own experience that the more that you try this system of writing functional chord progressions, the more intuitive it'll become. And the next lesson we're going to talk about your class project. 6. Your Class Project: In this video lesson, I'm going to explain the steps to create our class project. Firstly, we want to make sure that you head to the projects and resources section of this class and download the PDFs that I created for you. One file will have the core diagrams for the chords in the key of C major for your reference. The other file has the categories of courts listed at the top with several spaces for you to writing your chord letter names and their Roman numerals. I want you to create several core progressions Using the same process I went through in the last video lesson. Since I want each of your core progressions to include a tonic, predominant and dominant chord. All of your chord progressions, we'll have at least three chords on them. But feel free to add more if you'd like. Have fun with it, mix and match and try different combinations out. Just make sure you start by picking a tonic chord and then only move from left to right in the categories of courts chart, be sure that you play your chord progressions on your guitar as you're writing. And to write in the core letter names in Roman numerals and the boxes. As far as strumming goes, you can keep it simple and use all downstrokes like I did in my first example. But also feel free to play around and try different strumming patterns like I did in the second, third examples. In terms of strumming, just experiment and use whatever sounds good to you. Once you've completed writing your chord progression, I want you to record yourself playing it. It doesn't have to be a perfect performance or perfect recording. Remember, you can always use simple downstrokes for the strumming pattern. Then you're going to upload your audio recording to SoundCloud or Dropbox or record a video of yourself playing your progressions to YouTube. And then head to the projects and resources section of this class. Then click on create project on the next page. Give your project a title, and then paste in the link to your file. Last but not least, be sure to hit publish. Don't forget to read the project description on the class page where I've listed out the specific steps for your assignment. And be sure to download the project materials in the projects and resources section. Remember, this should be a thoughtful but a fun process for you. And I'm more than happy to check your work, answer any questions and give you notes on your chord progressions as you're working on your chord progressions, I recommend going back and reviewing the previous video lessons in this class as many times as you need to. The best way to learn the new concept is through constant repetition of information and then applying it. Remember the goal of this project is to have fun and to learn how to write chord progressions. And then share your work and your questions with your fellow classmates and with me. And this way we can grow together as a supportive community. When it comes to writing functional chord progressions on guitar. The more you practice, the quicker you'll get at writing, and the more natural the process becomes. It's a matter of repetition and practice. So get writing and have fun. And the next video lesson, I'm gonna give you some final tips on how to write chord progressions. Like you know, how you can continue studying music with me, and how we can stay in touch. 7. Final Thoughts: That completes our class on writing core progressions on guitar. I hope that this course opens up a whole new dimension of possibilities for you in writing music. Remember this class is all about writing chord progressions on guitar that sound logical, but more importantly, that sound good. What I presented to you in this class will get you going on the path to writing your own great core progressions. But please note that this course presents the foundational elements of writing good chord progressions. It's not meant to be an exhaustive course on the subject. Think of what I presented here as solid guidelines that you can build on rather than strict rules that must be followed. Remember, music should be fun. Don't forget to post your chord progressions to the projects and resources section of this class. Feel free to post as many core progressions as you'd like. I want you to post your recording so that I can listen back to them. But if you'd also like to send links to your chord progressions written out on paper with the Roman numerals. Feel free to send those along to. I'm happy to review both of those items. Also, I'd love to hear from you and I encourage you to leave a review for this class. Your feedback helps me to create better classes in the future. And don't forget to follow me here on skill share to make sure that you receive all of my updates and resources. Lastly, I want to mention that if you want to continue your music education, I have many other courses available here. I have other classes on songwriting, writing melodies, and music theory. I invite you to check out those other courses as well. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions that you may have by posting them to the discussion section on the class page. I'll do my best to answer your questions as quickly as I can. Thank you so much for taking the time to watch this class. I'm really looking forward to listening to your chord progressions.