Let’s take a look at how to write a song. I am not a songwriter by any means but I can give you some tips on what chords you have to choose from when starting to write a song. If you know what chords are in a given key, it can narrow down your chord choices and give you a good structure to work with for writing.
For our example let’s use the key of E major. The notes in an E major scale are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, and D#. Each note in the E major scale has a chord that goes along with it. In major keys, the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes of a major scale have major chords to go along with them. In the key of E major the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes are E, A, and B. With that in mind, if you were writing a song in the key of E, your basic major chord options would be E major, A major and B major.
In a major key the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th notes of the major scale have minor chords to go along with them. In the key of E major the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th notes are F#, G#, and C#. Now you have three basic options for minor chords when writing a song in E major, F# minor, G# minor and C# minor.
In order to be able to tell what notes and chords are in a given key it takes a bit of hard work and study. You really have to know what chords are major and minor in a key and you have to know your key signatures.
In the example I randomly picked chords out of the key of E major. I started with an F# minor chord and moved to a B major chord. I just moved back and forth between those to chords for a verse. This impromptu verse ended up sounding kind of like Pink Floyd. For the chorus I used the E major B major and A major chords. This ended up sounding a bit like “Knocking on Heavens Door”.
Picking random chords from a key can be a cool way to come up with ideas for new songs. What you should do now is pick a few other keys and see if you can figure out the chords in those keys. Remember the 1, 4, and 5 chords will be major and the 2, 3, and 6, chords will be minor. Don’t worry about the 7 chord for now, we will cover it in other lessons. I will write out the keys of G major and A major for you so you can have some more examples to look at.
The notes in the G major scale are G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#. The major 1, 4, and 5 chords for the key of G major are G, C, and D. The minor 2, 3, and 6 chords are A, B, and E.
The notes in the A major scale are A, B, C#, D, E, F#, and G#. The major 1, 4, and 5 chords for the key of A major are A, D, and E. The minor 2, 3, and 6 chords are B, C#, and F#.