FAWMSTOCK: 'Using Weird Chords In Songwriting' > Saturday August 15, 2020 2 pm PDT, 5 PM EDT, 9 pm GMT, 10 pm BST

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A discussion session
TOPIC: 'Using Weird Chords In Songwriting'.
DATE: Saturday August 15, 2020 2 pm PDT, 5 PM EDT, 9 pm GMT host: @AndyGetch
FORMAT: 40 minute Zoom meeting (detailed info below with discussion on this forum topic). There will be a brief introduction by followed by live question and answer discussion session.
ZOOM link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/78379852794?pwd=UHd5Rk1jN0RyUDhjY1piZFN6Rlo5QT09
Password: fMz4Zi

I'm looking forward to meeting everyone this weekend!

Questions for the meeting and this forum topic.

EDIT 8/15/20 Post-session summary:

What are weird chords? One that is not one easily written with standard notation or sounds weird in the context of the song. In other words not a major, minor, 7th, sus, diminished, augmented, or power chord. Anything unusual or even unexpected chords from another key.

How to play weird chords? Familiar chord shapes in a different location on the fingerboard. That can be in standard guitar tuning, using alternate guitar tuning, or on a different less-familiar-to-me instrument. For a solo track on guitar one can take a familiar chord shape (C, A, G, E, D, Em, etc.) and move it further up the guitar neck or to a different string. At many positions on the guitar neck the open (unfretted) strings will create a weird chord sound. On keyboard one can play different chord shapes/positions with both hands. Or using the familiar chord shapes on an instrument with different tuning. Chords sound different in the context of what was played before, the melody, the key, and what follows. A chord that is not of its own, weird, can sound weird if played in the context of a different key.

Why use weird chords? Experimentation. Maybe a way to get a different melody. Sometimes it is to get a different effect or feeling. To put in an unexpected chord change. To set the mood behind the melody. To transition into or imply a key change.

What do you consider to be weird chords? How and why do you use them?

Short answer cos I'm on my phone; why do I use weird chords? Cos music (and life) should be about experimentation.

The weirder the chord is the more unique will be its functionality, I think. Your standard triads or 7's can build a foundation for a tune but with every new chord introduced, whatever the chord is, new chordal relationships are introduced with them. A chord that sounds sour or "unmusical" on it's own could sound fine as a passing chord or generally in the right context.

To use language as an analogy, a spoken or written phrase may seem pretty weird outside of its context. For example, if I blurted out something like, "hot dogs and ice cream for every boy and girl," those around me would likely take a couple steps away. However, that phrase has the same potential to have crucial functionality. The possible functions are endless, too.

What if I said, "My friend, I have something very important to ask of you. If anything should ever happen to me, please delete all the unfinished demos on my hard-drive. The password is 'hot dogs and ice cream for every boy and girl?'"

I don't use weird chords for one thing, really. I can build a song around them if it sounds a certain way. I love using purposely ugly sounding chords if the lyrics paint something ugly or stressful.

A lot of us use them and don't even notice in something called "oblique harmony," where one note stays the same as another moves around. I use this most often with a chord as a bass note descends like in Friend of the Devil by Grateful Dead or These Days by Nico.

dzd's picture

@Fuzzy wrapped up a lot in that short answer Biggrin

Great topic to explore deeper too!

Personally it's mostly out of a "different" tuning for me, I have purposefully tried to stay away from even knowing what sus's and dim's and all that garbage means, I know the sound........but it all seeps in eventually whether you want it to or not......I've seen it bog down and stifle too many people, that would of otherwise been great if they hadn't worried about such things. Just all my opinion, I don't want to get into the "rules" thing Smile but I usually do quit listening when someone starts droning on about why this should be amazing to you, because I used this note instead of that note, etc Wink .....just me

stringed instruments(mostly always) hard to re-tune a kazoo hahah...... I do a lot with familiar/complex chord shapes then just tune to an open tuning of whatever I find interesting at the time and fiddle with it from there. I tried to actually find whatever open tuning that would of been called by the books recently and was baffled.....sounding like a little bit of a C to me........It was basically a C/F with about 10 qualifiers........a C is still a C unless it's an ocean Biggrin

Great topic though! I probably won't be able to tune in, but who knows that's more than a whole day away Smile

I wish I could tune in, friends!

dzd's picture

me too, thinking about it, Its going to be an near impossibility....

I'm planning on tuning in for this, but mostly to listen since I'm admittedly terrible at theory (probably why I use weird chords in the first place). Looking forward to it!

@Fuzzy Of course!
@JūS Thanks and well put.
@dzd I look at it as having more tools in the toolbox. I may not know all of the tools (or chords) proper names, but I can use them.
@cleanshoes While I know a little about theory and I feel like that helps, I'm hoping the discussion doesn't get too wonky or technical. For me some of the best weird chords are the ones that defy naming conventions. We'll see where it goes LOL.

@dzd -- so, you do not note the Note then? Smile

You must have loved my glee at explaining the, not knowing what key I was in, within that one song, and didn't really care either! Hahhh!

Well, it's a "Relatively Minor" thing. Could be Major, or even Harmonically speaking, Naturally in Parallel -- we're all just a 5th away from being to far gone Wink

"...Lydia-n, oh! Lydia-n, say have you met Lydia-n
Oh! Lydia-n, the tattooed lady..."

-- if one wants to "break bad" about it. Wink

onllyth simplist, most predictable songs are based on chord progressions, following a chord progression limits you tothe notes you are able to use in melody, and more often than not, each of your choices will be obvious, cncealed at times by a warble or trill. the important element in songwriting us the melody. chose your choords after your melody is composed, and choose them for their harmonic value. dont go for creative weirdness, that only leads to diffusion. dont allow a significnt note in he melodic devlopment to fall on a passing chord, such as a sustained 4th or 7th, s george harriso did on ist it a pity. it stops the melody cold. i have received the best comments on my chord progressios for songs that i used no chords at all, but simply improvised a guitar part that harmonized with the melody in often unexpected ways. you have to earnhow far youu can walk on the ceiling without falling off the wall. the most important thing is to find the accompaniment that best fits your song, whether it is as basic as the four chords as Dylans knockin on heavens door or as complicated as Coltranes Giant Steps. it is the melody that the song listener hears,,,not the chord progresssion

dzd's picture

@ustaknow I did Biggrin

Going live in five minutes

I can't get in ?

Thanks to everyone who attended the session and participated in the discussion. A big shout-out to @ductapeguy and @nancyrost for organizing and keeping the entire schedule running smoothly.

dzd's picture

@billwhite51 some sage advice I need to remember to follow Biggrin @AndyGetch all go well? is one I particularly wanted to attend? you find the brown note? Biggrin

I'm still looking for the one "lost chord", -- even have a pub dom re-write song about it! I can hear it, just can't seem to play it.

It's lost.

dzd's picture

you'll know it if you find the brown one Biggrin okay last crappy joke about the brown noise, unless I find it, I promise Wink

@dzd the session went well. I put a summary above if it is of any help.

I didn't have time to attend, however, since post even commented:
"What do you consider to be weird chords? How and why do you use them?"

For anyone listening to my gibberish, -- heard me say, in ref to this, "any two notes is a chord". Moreover, "me", when I "write" esp since recording while writing, ---- I do not even think about key, or "good" form, technique (as you can well hear Wink ) -- I focus on,




However, I do keep track of, or be mindful of, and do have to use "formal" language in this analogy:

If in the melody I am using an "E" Note and playing C E G - triad that I do sing the E in that chord if even NOT there, or MAY be in the NEXT chord and a harmony passing Tone/Note.

-- So, that's "How and Why"

I know I've tried to discuss this and most don't "appear" to get it, nor engage it as a topic. So, I am glad they did TODAY with mr. andy!!

How many logged in? (Not that # matters, -- quality of interaction is the only matter! And usually more than 5 can diminish, Wink so to speak the tone of it... Smile ! Chord jokes, they come in 3's Wink )

I'm sorry I missed this. Sad