Hey guys! Hope all is well! My question is about chord progressions. When creating songs say in the key of em, how do y’all
Go about the progression? Do y’all stick to the diatonic scale only and just make the chords 7ths, dominants and use tritones to create the climax of the song or will y’all grab from another key and if so what influences your ear and creative thought to go that way? Thanks for your time everyone! (In a creative plateau right now)

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Before guitarhacks I had written lots of riffs and progressions using 2 note chords (first and another note: fifth, third, sixth, flat fifth, etc.), but not as many chord progressions using three or more note chords (I knew traditional chord shapes, but didn’t spend much time on them).

Now I really enjoy playing around with triads using hybrid picking. I first worked on being able to move freely between the 7 diatonic chords using this technique. This gives me a foundation to try out a number of chord progressions. I play with order, timing, picking pattern, etc.

After getting comfortable with the diatonic chords, I started introducing other concepts to see what sounds I like. For example, one sound I like is the diminished sound. I was previously introduced to this chord progression which I think sounds cool:


You might note that it’s the same 4 notes in each of those chords (and that it’s always the tonic, the minor third, the minor third of the minor third, and the minor third of the minor third of the minor third; i.e. dividing the 12 notes at even intervals, rather than following the diatonic scale conventions). During the guitar experience @kiko talked about mediants and said that you could freely move up or down a minor third (if you like this sound of course).

While playing around with triads using hybrid picking these concepts meshed for me. Wherever you find the diminished chord in your diatonic scale, you can move the diatonic shape up or down a minor third to create new and interesting progressions, all while only introducing one extra note (from outside the diatonic scale).

For Em (Aeolian) the diatonic diminished chord is F#dim. Which means Adim, Cdim, and Ebdim are also options (Eb is the extra note).

e|----------------|    |----------------|
B|--4--7--10--13--|    |--4--7--10--13--|
G|----------------|    |--2--5---8--11--|
D|--4--7--10--13--| or |--4--7--10--13--|
A|--3--6---9--12--|    |--3--6---9--12--|
E|----------------|    |----------------|

Another similarly interesting sound I’ve found is to introduce the note of an adjacent mode. So, for Aeolian, either F from Phrygian or the C# from Dorian. Keeping with the hybrid picking triads train-of-thought, the diminished shape can again be used to introduce the C# (with a sound I like and you may too).


You can also flatten the minor third to create some tension which you’d then probably want to resolve. I like both of the following (the first resolves directly; the second delays for a little bit).

e|--------------|    |---------------------|
B|--8--5--4--8--|    |--8--5--4--10--7--8--|
G|--------------|    |---------------------|
D|--9--5--5--9--| or |--9--5--5--10--7--9--|
A|--7--4--4--7--|    |--7--4--4---9--6--7--|
E|--------------|    |---------------------|

I like to mix these chords in alongside the Em Aeolian diatonic chords; you may too!