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Getting out of the Four Chord Rut

When songwriting, do you find yourself coming back to the same four chords over and over again? It's not just you, a lot of songwriters struggle with the same thing.

Chris Chimene gives us a way to break that cycle.

Group chords into tonic, dominant, and sub-dominant

Chris does this for us with the key of C major. "The biggest thing to know about the chart," says Chris, is that you can replace a chord with another chord in the family."

In general, you want to end songs with your tonic chords. Sub-dominant chords tend to be good "fillers" and dominant chords, a little more aggressive, lead the ear back to your tonic chords.

The Em, stuck between tonic or dominant, can be used for either one, but you'll want to avoid ending with it.

Replace chords in your progression

One of the simplest chord progressions is:

C F Am G

Try playing through that. Feeling bored yet? Now, try writing down some replacement progressions. Once you do that, check out the examples below and see if you feel any different.

C Dm Am G

C Dm Am Em

Am Dm C Em

Try with a different key

Below is a chard for the key of G.

Here's your basic chord progression once again:

G C Em D

You know the drill. Grab a pencil. Write a few alternate progressions. Play. Rinse. Repeat.

Check out a couple of ours:

Em C Bm D

G Am Bm F#dim7

To watch the original video, go here.

If you’d like to go more in depth with music theory, head over to for more comprehensive theory lessons!

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