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FL Studio Tutorial - Composing Chord Progressions (like Basshunter)

Blckbxxx | 9:58 AM | 20 kommentarer

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FL Studio Tutorial explaining chord progressions

An essential part of virtually every song is a so called chord progression (also called a harmonic progression). A chord is composed of harmonically related notes that (are perceived to) sound at the same time. Just play some random notes on your keyboard simultaneously and you have a chord. I am not claiming it sounds good though, but that is what we will work on in this tutorial: To find some good sounding chords and play them in a sequence (and repeatedly). These chords and the chord changes over time (the chord progression) are very important elements that contribute to the songs overall mood, rythm, etc.

In this tutorial I want to give you an introduction to making cool chord progressions.It does require some basic knowledge of music theory, but I hope that won’t scare you ;) We’ll keep it simple.

Before we continue, I would like to give you an example of a chord progression – in one of Basshunter’s songs.

The famous producer and singer-songwriter Basshunter (Jonas Erik Altbeg) from Sweden has been using FL Studio for many years. And with great success! His singles and albums stormed international charts, most notably the album ‘Now You’re Gone – The Album’, which topped the UK Album Charts for two weeks. The single ‘Now You’re Gone’ from the album even stayed at #1 in the UK Singles Chart for 5 weeks. His latest album is called ‘Bass Generation’.

 

 

Basshunter refers to his music as Eurodance. A style that is characterized by its strong beats and bass rythm, powerful melodic synths and vocals. And indeed, these are the elements that make Basshunters’ compositions so recognizable. His beat and bass rythms as well as the melodic synth leads tend to be simple, but are extremely effective with a strong sense of key, repetition and balance. And of course, Basshunter picks his chord progressions wisely.

Watch and listen to ‘All I Ever Wanted’ below (don’t get too distracted by the bikini clad babes though ;) Focus especially on the first 20 seconds where you clearly hear 4 piano chords (played twice).

 

 

(If you cannot see the video, then click this link All I Ever Wanted )

This skillfully crafted song is based on quite a simple chord progression. Now, it does not mean you constantly hear the progression, but lead vocals and synths are played over this progression and largely adhere to the notes of the individual chords. For the entire duration of the song.

Scales

Before we jump to the subject of chords and chord progressions, let’s talk a bit about scales. There are many different scales, but the most popular ones in modern western music are the Major and Minor scales. You can read more about it in the tutorial Scales, modes, chord progressions and lead synths - part I. I strongly recommend that you read that tutorial first if you are not familiar with the term ‘scale’.

Now, let’s focus on the major scale - C-major to be keep it simple(simple because it only involves the white keys – the naturals).

The notes in this scale are: C, D, E, F, G, A, B. See below:

 

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After the 7th note B, the 8th note C marks the beginning of the next octave.

A more generic way to describe major scales is in terms of the whole-steps and half-steps between the notes (also explained in the tutorial mentioned above): W(hole) W(hole) H(alf) W(hole) W(hole) W(hole) H(alf). See also below:

 

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Two half steps (or semitones) makes one whole step (or tone). The cool thing is that the W W H W W W H pattern/formula applies to every single major scale. So whether you start with C, D or A#, etc., it does not matter. As long as you follow the formula, you have your major scale.

Intervals

We have seen that a scale can be described in terms of:

  • The notes in the scale – e.g. consider C major, which has the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

And more generically:

  • The number of whole-steps and half-steps between the notes – e.g. the formula W W H W W W H for major scales.

Now, another concept that is used to describe scales (and chords and chord progressions) is the concept of Intervals. Intervals are defined by the major scale. For example, in the C major scale, the intervals are C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7 and the octave C=8 (octo means 8, this is where the name octave comes from). What applies to C major applies to other major scales as well. In other words, they consist of the intervals 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 - 7 and 8.

 

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This numbering of notes is what is called the formula and the major scale is simply the reference point (it is the only scale that has 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 - 7 and 8 as its intervals). Other scales are described in terms of intervals that vary in structure compared to this reference.

I’m sure you wonder how and when such interval formulas are used.

Chords

As explained before, chords are notes that sound simultaneously. While any note may be combined with any other note, the most common chords are the so called triads, which are three note chords. Such triads consist of:

- The Root

- The Third (a third interval above the root)

- The Fifth (a fifth interval above the root)

Hey, that’s interesting. Chords seem to be described in terms of intervals. If we apply that principle to the first note of the C-major scale - note C - we get: C (root), E (a third above the root) and G (a fifth above the root).

 

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You can take any note in the C major scale as your root note for such a triad. For example, if I were to start on note F, my triad would be: F (root), A (a third above the root) and C (a fifth above the root).

 

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Given the 7 notes in scale, you can build exactly 7 of those triads:

  1. C E G (called the tonic triad)
  2. D F A
  3. E G B
  4. F A C
  5. G B D
  6. A C E
  7. B D F

The above principle (root, third and fifth) applies to any major scale you happen to pick. What applies to C major also applies to D major, E major, etc. The only difference is that – depending on your scale – you have a different first (tonic) triad and your other triads may look different as well (different notes).

Major and minor triads

Triads can be major and minor. Major triads are triads where the third is 4 half-steps (semitones) from the root. Minor triads have a third that is only 3 half-steps (semitones) from the root.

Consider the tonic triad in C major: C E G. E is exactly 4 semitones above C. Count the number of red arrows (from C to E) in the illustration below.

 

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Because there are 4 half-steps between C and E, the triad C E G is a major triad. Compare this with the number of half-steps between D and F. As there are only 3 of them, the triad D F A is a minor triad.

Now, the triads in the major scale are given the following roman numerals:

  1. C E G = I
  2. D F A = ii
  3. E G B = iii
  4. F A C = IV
  5. G B D = V
  6. A C E = vi
  7. B D F = vii

Uppercase roman numeral if it is a major triad, lowercase if it is a minor triad. It follows that triads I, IV, V are major. Triads ii, iii, vi and vii are minor.

Minor triads tend to sound more solemn and sad than major triads and I suggest you simply try it out by playing all the triads listed above.

Chord progressions

Now, if I tell you the following…

For the song ‘All I Ever Wanted’, Basshunter picked the E major scale. He then created the following chord progression: vi –> IV –> I –> V

…then this should ring a bell.

Let’s see what notes we have in the E major scale and list the available triads, shall we?

The notes are: E, F♯, G♯, A, B, C♯, and D♯

The triads:

  1. E, G♯, B = I
  2. F♯, A, C♯ = ii
  3. G♯, B, D♯ = iii
  4. A, C♯, E = IV
  5. B, D♯, F♯ = V
  6. C♯, E, G♯ = vi
  7. D♯, F♯, A = vii

Interesting, Basshunter picked the chord progression: C♯, E, G♯ -> A, C♯, E –> E, G♯, B –> B, D♯, F♯. In other words, he starts with vi (minor triad), moves on to IV (major triad), continues with I (major triad) and finishes with V (major triad). And this progression is repeated throughout the song! See below for a screenshot of the Piano Roll in which I have drawn the progression on top of the (greyed out) E major scale:

 

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I invite you to program the above and compare with the song on YouTube. Pretty close right? Then, add some kicks, bass and pads and voila! You have your own Basshunter song in FL Studio. You can experiment a bit with a lead as well.

Common chord progressions

Good chord progressions are not random. The main principle is that the tonic chord is the most important chord – built on the first degree (note/interval) of the scale. This tonic chord is the ‘home’ chord so to say and good chord progressions tend to arise from it and return to it in the end.

Another chord is the so called dominant chord and is always built on the 5th degree of the scale.  Therefore, in the C major scale, the dominant chord is the G major triad. Yet another important chord is called the subdominant chord, which is built on the 4th degree of the scale. In the C major scale this is the F major triad.

Some common major scale chord progressions are:

 

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The natural minor scale

The principles that apply to the major scale can also be used for the minor scale. One thing to realize though is that the generic formula (half-steps and whole-steps between the notes of the scale differs from the major scale).

Consider A minor for exampe (the so called relative minor of C major). It shares exactly the same notes as C major, but starts with A: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

 

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As you can see the generic formula is: W H W W H W W (as opposed to the W W H W W W H from the major scale).

The triads in A minor are:

  1. A C E = i
  2. B D F = ii
  3. C E G = III
  4. D F A = iv
  5. E G B = v
  6. F A C = VI
  7. G B A = VII

As you can see, the same triads as in the C major scale, but with a fundamental difference. Look for example at the 4th and the 5th triads. In the natural minor scale they are minor triads as opposed to major triads in the major scale.

Hmmm, but this means that a popular progression like i –> ivvi only covers minor triads. Remember, in the major scale the progression is: I –> IVVI.

And that’s exactly why songs based on the minor scale tend to sound more somber and sad! Because the Tonic, Dominant and Subdominant chords are all minor chords.

 

Ok, I think I’ll call it a day. Much more can be said about scales, chords and chord progressions, but I hope that this tutorial helps you on your way. Pick your scale and carefully program some chord progressions using the principles explained above. And remember, listen, listen and listen – every chord and progression conveys its own unique atmosphere. Once you start understanding that, you can build some really beautiful and cool progressions. Happy composing!

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FL Studio Tutorials - All fl studio tutorials are written by Marc Demar

20 kommentarer

  1. jorge says:

    excellent tutorial here m8 very helpful now i see how it really works .

  2. Blckbxxx says:

    Glad you liked it jorge!

    Cheers, Marc

  3. Anonymous says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Blckbxxx says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I've bookmarked your site and it will from now on be used as a reference guide. Excellent, well-written tutorials, especially considering the difficult subject matter. Keep up the good work!

  6. NC-AB says:

    Thank you soooo much! Great tutorial. Bookmarking this blog!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dam... Out of all things of read thus far, this was by far the "SIMPLEST" and most straight forward approach to chord progressions i have ever come across!!! Thank you and God Bless...

  8. Sanjay says:

    THIS IS THE BOMB ! now I know what the hell is happening !!!

  9. Sanjay says:

    Hi can you explain why,

    B, D♯, F♯ = V

    is in E major scale ?

  10. Anonymous says:

    The vii chord in a major key is half diminished, as well as the ii chord in a minor key. :)

  11. Anonymous says:

    Another song with the same chord progression is "daddy dj"

  12. Great basics you have here. If anyone want's more indepth training on this visit our site www.vsavagellc.com/piano-chord-progressions

    I'd like to share some tutorials on this blog as well if that is ok.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thanks a lot! my head exploded for the first read through, but im going to pick up the remains and absorb this when i have time! :)

  14. Anonymous says:

    thanks, finally a very easy explanation :)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hi, This tute is awesome, Thanks Mate :)

  16. Anonymous says:

    cooool i did it

  17. thanks for the theory tutorial needed it

  18. Anonymous says:

    If a scale is whole whole half whole whole whole half (which it of course is) then that means that second C would be part of the scale, which is not what the illustration shows. Perhaps you should clarify this?

    Cool write-up though. Thanks.

  19. All I Ever Wanted is written in C major? Or am i tone deaf? (I probably am) tryed to play this progression into bassshter music on my keyboard and it sounded all weird and dissonant.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thank u So Much...its so helpful.