Which chords are you "allowed" to use?

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of britanica britanica 3 years ago.

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    Profile photo of dayzd

    When I write songs I normally either take the chords from a song I like and change them a bit or choose whatever chords sound good to me.

    Now I’m learning more about music theory and I think you can work out which chords you’re allowed to use in a particular key, right?

    How do you do that??

    Profile photo of gtabor

    Hi Dayzd,
    I’d be happy to answer your question!

    Most western music is written diatonically. This means that all the notes in the song, are part of a scale.

    A chord is a group of notes, stacked in thirds. For example, C E G is a C major chord. There are 7 notes in any diatonic scale. In the case of C major it’s, C D E F G A B. Because there’s 7 notes, we can make 7 chords: C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, and B diminished.

    In music theory, we assign each one of these chords a number (in roman numerals) based on their position in the scale.

    Go to: http://www.hooktheory.com/theorytab

    There you can see all this in action.

    HookTheory also has a song editor here where you can make your own songs.

    I HIGHLY recommend it if your interested in song making.

    To answer your question:

    You can really use any chord that sounds good to you.
    Traditionally, there are also rules that you can follow.

    If you’d like to learn more about this, I’d suggest getting a book on harmonic theory specifically. The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis (Second Edition) is a very good book for learning harmonic theory. You can find it on Amazon here.

    Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.
    I’d be happy to help.


    Profile photo of trentvon

    Do not play by rules when making music or you will become a robot. That is unless you want to be purely a session musician playing styles without experimenting with them.

    Profile photo of jtabon

    Hello Dayzd,

    Music theory is your guide when you create music but it should not hinder you from being free in making music. You can use whatever chords you like so long as it fits the music you’re creating.

    When you learn more about music theory, you’ll be surprised how easy it’ll be for you to create your own music that’s because you know how chords, scales and etc work.

    Yes, you can work out on which chords to use a particular key.

    For ex. When you try to end a piece, you normally go from V(7) to I or G(7) to C (if your key is in C Major), but you can also end it this way, V – IV – iv(stay a little longer here) – I or G-F-fm-C.

    Really depends on how you want your music to sound like :) But again music theory can be very helpful.


    Profile photo of britanica

    I was wondering the same thing. gtabor helped out a lot with this. I had no idea music was made differently depending on the area. I guess I am a complete noob :p

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