Have you ever learned a song that sounded great, but had no idea how those chords sound good together? Each song is different and there’s no ‘one size all’ technique that’s out there decode weird chord changes. Here are some ideas to help get you there.
Analyze the Initial Key
Start with the first chord, or the chord the song ends on and treat that as you main chord or “I”. Do a majority of the other chords lie within that key? If so great, we can start looking at how the other chords vary from that key. If not, then try other chords in the song and see if a majority of the chords fall in like with that chord as the “key”.
We’re not looking for every chord to fall in line, mainly just the key that has the most right chords within it.
Dominant 7 Chords
I have a blog about how important Dominant 7th Chords are and how they tell you what’s happening within the song. If the whole song is dominant 7 chords, then the songwriters aren’t helping out any. Remove all of the dominant 7 chords and treat them as regular major chords.
In short, dominant 7 chords are the “dead giveaway” chords that tell you what chord is next. Not always 100%, but usually a good indication of what’s going on within the song
Chords Before and After
Take a look at what chords come before the weird ones and after them. Do they fall in line with a key? If so, start relating the weird chords to the key that a majority of the song is in. If the weird ones are scattered everywhere is there something that’s tie-ing everything together?
What’s different about it – Sharp/Flat – Major/Minor
Start comparing the weird ones to the closest chord that’s normally in a key. If we’re in the key of C we have these chords:
C – Dm – Em – F – G – Am
If one of my weird chords is Ab, then the closest chord in my key of C is Am. The weird one is just a half step lower and a major. So I’d make note of it like this:
Am = vi (6th chord and lower case means minor
Ab = bVI (a half step below where my 6 chord is normal and upper case means major)
Video Lesson – Chords Don’t Fit?!
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to make sense of some of the weird chord changes you see out there. The more you take time to make sense of them, the less weird they become.