1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Song Structure and Chord Progressions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by JaggedB, Feb 17, 2002.

  1. JaggedB


    Jan 26, 2002
    Columbus, OH
    Okay, I'm starting seriously on the "ear" learning thing and my basic theory is decent. I did a couple of searches and found some good info. The only thing that I am still having trouble with is chord progressions for certain parts of songs.

    My specific question is what are some good rules of thumb for figuring out chord progressions for bridges and pre-choruses? I know it must be fairly simple but I am struggling.

  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    HASBRO and I have been meaning to do a FAQ on this very subject...maybe this will be the kick in the pants we need to get started.

    When transcribing, I've always found it best to work from the outside in - that is to say, start with the forest and fill in the trees later. To this end, try the following sequence:

    1) On a piece of manuscript paper, listen to the song and map out the form (minus repeats) in empty bars (4 on a line usually works well).

    2) After having done this, take a second pass through and make a light mark on your form template every place you hear the harmony change.

    3) Once you have the harmonic rhythm down, go back again and fill in note the bass is playing on the downbeat of each chord change. This may take several listenings, but don't give up. Remember to SING each note before trying to find it on your bass.

    4) Once the bass notes are filled in, try building different chord colors on top of the bass notes and see if they seem to match the song. The most obvious colors to try are major and minor - these will usually at least get you in the ballpark.

    5) At this point, you will have the chord progression down and will be ready for some fine tuning.

    Hope this helps.

  3. JaggedB


    Jan 26, 2002
    Columbus, OH
    Thanks CLAUDE!

    What I have been doing has been trying to fgiure out the chord structure and connect the basslines from there. I use the tried and true first note last note as a starting point for the most part (curse those NC intros!!) Although the songs I've been working on aren't complex, like Rush or something.

    And the pentatonic concept is simple yet brilliant ;) because as long as the chord is right the notes seem to follow. Makes those fills a lot less mysterious.

    I'm also looking for some chord progression rules like:

    What are some common pre-chorus chord progressions?

    What are some common bridge chord progressions?


    I guess I'm looking for even more shortcuts :D Although as I get further into it I'm sure it will get easier. Then I can move on to Rush...

    Thanks again!

    J to the (LIL) B
  4. A nice tool to help with progressions and chord structures is a little thing called a Bradley music scale. These work very well and have several chording / scale progressions on the back. The tool allows you to chose the progression .i.e. 1 -4 -5 type, and in the key you chose. Then by changing the root it is automaticly transposed.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    It's kind of difficult to describe what might be a "common" chord progression without knowing what style of music you're playing - and even then that would be best left to those who know the particular artist. Got anything specific in mind?

  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Huh? What? Um...yeah. I remember us talking about that. Okay, so I don't remember this, which, of course, doesn't mean that we didn't talk about this, just that my memory is failing me in my advanced age.

    I don't really know what point there is in verifying what PLAYDURRL says, I mean if the man says it, just assume it's true, but what the heck.

    This approach, I feel, is so much easier than the note for note with relentless attack approach. Sage advice here.

    I might add here, that I think it's a good idea to listen to the song several times. Even if you've listened to the song hundreds of times in the past. Before I sit down to do a song, I try to listen to it at least 3 times, often more. The more you hear it, the better idea of the song structure you will start to get right off the bat. I really suggest the 4 lines per bar method. It helps things from getting cluttered, and keeps a uniform feel that is easier to process visually.

    I wish somebody would have given me this idea when I first started, it really would have made things so much easier.

    And there's nothing wrong with having to try all 12 notes to find it. Unless you have extensive experience with this, your ear shouldn't be expected to just find a note instantly. Sing it. Then just start hunting for it. With repitition this process becomes easier and easier.

    This is where knowing your theory comes into play. Watching for things like inversions or slight variations to the chord. While it's true that major and minor will always be your most prominent chords, also consider the (for 7th chords) Dominant chord. Especially if you're working within the rock or blues genre.

    Isn't DURRL INTERRUPTED handy to have around!?

  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Man, between DUURRL 6 and DAD'S BRO, we've got some very killer advice here!

    And it's dead on (thanks for the tips, guys)
  8. JaggedB


    Jan 26, 2002
    Columbus, OH
    All right, all right, I stop looking for short short cuts :D .

    It is great advice! I appreciate it all.

    And to answer, the songs I've been asked to play here recently that I've been trying this on are STP, AIC, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and the Rolling Stones. (two different groups of people in case it wasn't obvious ;) )

    The only thing with the heavier songs is that it seems to get a little muddled. Bad for someone who like to get it "right," good for someone who can get away with a few missed notes...

    It reminds me of something the bassist from Disturbed (Fuzz?) said that went somehting along the lines of "on the album I do some neat things with octaves but you can't hear them." Hmmm.

  9. bassandlax


    Dec 31, 2001
    Raleigh, NC
    whoa... this amazing info is coming at a great time.. i got a gig coming up in like a month and i gotta learn 20+ covers.

    hey chris,
    regarding your #2 tip... how do you really tell when the harmony changes. I have a decent grip on theory and sight reading/writing ect... but i never really took harmony training. I honestly dont even know what the term "harmony" really means (i just know it sounds good with the melody :rolleyes: ) could you clarify/help me out here

    thanks guys... i seriously cant thank you enough

  10. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    TIN-TIN-JAZZBO, CRISP-MUSIC-HERALD, great stuff you guys have pixeled here, this stuff should go into a FAQ. The mapping idea is a great one!
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Aw shucks JIZZHO, you've put in a lot more time on helpful stuff around here than I have, and I make plenty of mistakes - I just make them with conviction. :)

    But like I said, if there's interest, maybe we could team up. You have a knack for boiling down stuff to the essentials, where sometimes I press "post" when the $#!+'$ only luke warm.


    That's a good question...you kind of have to feel it. Usually, the bass changes, but more often you can perceive a harmony change aurally in the same way you'd notice a change in the color of the light around you with your eyes. Harmony is really very like color when you get down to it, it's just color that you hear instead of see. Maybe NOSEBLOW can give a more precise answer.

    Peace everyone.

  12. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Well, there's a plethora of topics I think we can break down:
    • Ear training - Don't forget the excellent thread GUMP started a while back.
    • Sight Reading - We can definitely have fun on that. Maybe fill in things LOBSTER.COM doesn't have.
    • Circle of Fifths - RIGHT GARD had an excellent thread on this before.
    • Building Walking Bass Lines - You sent me some great stuff on this a year ago.

    I'm sure there's more, but I think there are plenty of items that we can write lessons on.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think this is one of the things you just "have to do" at some point to progress. I started a music degree at one point and gave it up - really becuase I wasn't motivated enough - but the point I really got "stuck" was playing and hearing chords on the piano - so the teacher would play chords and say - "what is this" . We were supposed to go away and practice playing chords on the piano so we could hear them, but we weren't really given a structured way to do this.

    Any serious music course insists that you play a keyboard instrument - not to any great standard, but so you can "hear" harmony.

    I found that when I started playing Jazz and got on a Jazz course I was much more motivated, as it was based around actual songs and it all made more sense. I come home and play the chords and sometimes programme them into my microcomposer so I can play along with them and really hear the harmony shifting.

    Another good, structured approach I found was in Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book". So he takes you through all types of chord explaining how they are used and all about them, along with examples for you to play - gradually getting more difficult through the book. So you just work your way through and find out what different chords sound like - I think it would be extrenmely useful whether or not you intend to play Jazz - all the theory involved, applies to almost any type of music.

    BUt still you need at least access to some sort of keyboard instrument to really be able to systematically practice this skill.
  14. danqi


    May 21, 2001
    I would really enjoy reading lessons about all of those things you mentioned. I have learned more from you guys here on TB then from any other source but I can still take much more.
    The only problem is that I am starting to feel bad because it feels like I am taking advantage of you. :( Well, I don't know if you know what I mean. In today's capitalist egomanic world it is weird to see someone put real effort into helping others without expecting a reward.:cool:
  15. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
  16. danqi


    May 21, 2001
    What do you mean by that?:confused: :confused:
  17. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    As an old thread fails to receive new posts, it will fall in the list of threads, below threads with more recent posts. On occasion, if someone wants an older thread to be revisited, or seen by newer members that weren't around before, they'll post in the thread, to return it to the top of the listings in the forum. This is also known as "bumping" a thread back to the top.
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I think he means, "Hey, DURRL....get off your *** and start following up on all of this **** you keep talking about". :)

  19. One of the older musicians I work with said they'd occasionally know the chorus of a tune (usually a request) but not the bridge.

    In that case the leader would either call for the "Sears-Roebuck" bridge (iii7|iii7|vi|vi|ii7|ii7|V7|V7) or the "Montgomery Ward" bridge (IV7|iv7|I|VI7|ii7|ii7|V7|V7).
  20. danqi


    May 21, 2001

Share This Page