Creating Specific Emotions With Chords (Hit Song Chord Progressions Part I)

The science of writing a great chord progression is still very much in its infancy. We all learn about the ii-V-Is and the turnarounds, but what are your chords actually doing with your audience?

If you want to be able to create any emotion you want, in this article I will show you how.

And by the way, if you’re just looking for a list of usable, commercial chord progressions, check this.

1. Pick your basic emotion

The first chord of your progression determines your basic emotion.

The types of chords that are of interest to you in pop music are:

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Dominant 7
  • Suspended
  • Minor 7
  • Major 7

These can be grouped into 4 basic emotions:

  • Happy: Major
  • Sad: Minor
  • Funky: Dominant 7
  • Dreamy: Suspended (neutral), Minor 7 (beautiful), Major 7 (floating)

So if you pick a major triad for your first chord, your progression will sound happy, pick dominant 7 and it will sound funky.

2. Color in your emotion

Your second, third and fourth chord color your basic emotion.

Quantity is key here! The more you use of a certain emotion, the more your song will start sounding like it.

Examples:

  • Excitement: An overly positive emotion (use only Major)
  • Craziness: Overly positive, with an edge (mix Major with Dominant 7)
  • Nostalgia: Happiness with a lot of sadness (basic emotion Major with Minor)
  • Depressed: Use only sad chords (Minor)
  • Romantic: Positive, dreamy (Mix Major with Minor 7 and/or Major 7)
  • Sexy: Edgy, funky (Dominant 7)
  • Beautiful: Colorful (Mix Major/Minor with Minor 7 & Major 7)
  • Apathy: Neutral, colorless (Suspended)

You get the idea…

Understand what your basic emotion is and what sub-emotions you can use for color. Pick your chords based on that.

Check out Part II here.

RELATED POSTS

Pretty vs. Energetic Chords (Hit Song Chord Progressions Part II)

My Top 5 Chord Progressions (+Chord Rotations) – incl. Video

143 Royalty-Free Chord Progressions

Written by Friedemann Findeisen

I’m Friedemann Findeisen, a creative weirdo from the middle of nowhere. I love making things, learning things and helping people. If I don’t make, I get restless. If I don’t learn, I feel empty. If I don’t help, I feel ungrateful. Good things have happened when I managed to balance all three.In the past, I’ve been a magician, public speaker, music video director, songwriter, producer, board game designer, author, publisher, YouTuber, music profiler, illustrator, musician and film composer.The best things I've ever made are Holistic Songwriting Academy, my book The Addiction Formula, the YouTube show The Artists Series, my Grunge album Canohead and my board game Cantaloop.

  • Ali says:

    This is amazing ! I learned a lot , it organised my brain BIG TIME !

  • Mindvalley says:

    I learn new information from your blog, you are doing a great job. Keep it up.
    https://blog.mindvalley.com/types-of-emotions/