Does it matter which chord you start a progression from?

Home Ear Training Forums Ear Training Relative Pitch Does it matter which chord you start a progression from?

This topic contains 7 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of horn8287 horn8287 2 years ago.

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  • #17811
    Profile photo of dayzd
    dayzd
    Participant

    When I’m writing songs sometimes I will take a progression from somewhere else but start it from a different chord. So if the progression goes D A Bm G I will play Bm G D A instead.

    What I want to know is is this okay? I mean I know it sounds good

    But is that alright (like in the music theory)? Am I changing the key if I start from a different chord?

    #17821

    Hi Daisy,

    You’ve hit the important point: if it sounds good, it is good ;) But it’s good that you want to understand the theory too.

    Most often, songs will start and end on their tonic chord. So a song in C major will most likely start and end with a C major chord. This should give you a hint that if you change which chord you start with, you may be altering the key people hear.

    However, the key is actually determined by a number of factors, including the group of chords used, and the notes used in the melody.

    The one case where simply changing the order of the chords can have an impact is when you turn a major key into its relative minor key – that’s the minor key which shares the same notes and chords.

    This is what’s happening in the example you give: you are changing the progression from D major to B minor (B is the relative minor of D). You can probably hear that by starting from the B minor, that B minor chord becomes the “resting place” for the progression, instead of the D major chord? And you will find that a B minor scale will work better for creating a melody to match.

    Apart from this case, you’ll find that starting a standard progression from a different chord in the sequence simply produces an unsatisfying progression – the chord you start from won’t feel like “home”, and the harmonic journey created will seem a bit awkward. Then again, that can create some interesting musical innovation…! :)

    #17879
    Profile photo of dayzd
    dayzd
    Participant

    Thanks! That really helps

    I think I understand

    How do you know if you are changing to the relative minor or not when you start from a different chord?

    #19926
    Profile photo of britanica
    britanica
    Participant

    I always wondered this myself. I don’t really recall everything I learned in “music class” while in school but I do actually remember my music teacher saying songs begin and end on the same cord to create rhythmic balance.

    #19927

    Sorry for the late reply, @DayZD!

    How do you know if you are changing to the relative minor or not when you start from a different chord?

    This can get a bit complicated! How we infer the key from a sequence of chords we hear starts getting a bit fuzzy as you stray from simple major/minor chord progressions.

    But the simple answer is: if you start and end on the chord which is the relative minor (e.g. A minor for C major, E minor for G major, D minor for F major, etc.) then the progression will probably now sound like a minor one.

    #19928

    I do actually remember my music teacher saying songs begin and end on the same cord to create rhythmic balance.

    Yes! Though I think she probably said “harmonic” balance rather than “rhythmic” :)

    #20031
    Profile photo of britanica
    britanica
    Participant

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>britanica wrote:</div>
    I do actually remember my music teacher saying songs begin and end on the same cord to create rhythmic balance.

    Yes! Though I think she probably said “harmonic” balance rather than “rhythmic” :)

    You are probably right. It has been awhile since I was in music class, or even school. haha

    #20612
    Profile photo of horn8287
    horn8287
    Participant

    I’d say the starting chord is pretty important, just because it will definitely alter the mood of the piece you’re writing! If you start on a minor chord and end on a minor chord (thus achieving harmonic balance, as Chris mentioned), the song’s mood and color will be very different than if you’re starting and ending on a major chord. Not that there aren’t any happy songs in a minor key, but the mood of minor is generally “sad” while major is “happy”. From an artistic standpoint, this is important to consider!

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