If you study electronic musicians and DJs in the music industry, most of the big names you’re familiar with don’t know a thing about music theory. However, that clearly doesn’t keep them from crafting strong chord progressions, melodies, and harmonies that continuously top the charts.
Today, we’re going to go through a couple of tricks that you can use to make your chords and harmonies more interesting in FL Studio. The best thing is that you don’t need to know anything about music theory to use these tricks.
Let’s dive in!
Now, before we dive in, I think it’s important to note that the presets, patches, or tones you are using will matter a lot when writing chords, the same as certain chord progressions will work better in certain genres. For example, an upbeat, major-centric chord progression probably wouldn’t be the best choice for a dark trap song.
Don’t Get Too Complex
Though we’re talking about how to make your chords and harmonies more interesting in this article, it’s important to refrain from getting too complex from the start. It’s best to start with simple chords, get a chord progression going so you can hear what things sound like when working together, and continue to build on your chords from there.
Starting with simple combinations, such as a triad (three-note chord) or a bass line, and build from there once you can hear the progression.
Alright! Now that we have all of that covered let’s get into the good stuff.
5 Steps For Writing Amazing Chords
#1 Start With Your Bassline
The hardest of any chord progression is getting started. However, to make our humble beginnings simpler, we’ll start with the bass notes.
Start by writing out a few notes in a measure that sounds nice with one another. Now, the reason that we picked the notes above (G#-F-C-D#) is that they simply work. The chord progression we could use based on this bassline would be 6-4-1-3.
However, even if you don’t know that, you can check out our Free Scales and Presets on the FL Tips website, which has basslines and chords for every genre. By studying these, you can get a good idea of what works or not.
#2 Copy Your Bassline Up One Octave
Once you have your bassline in order, you can copy it an octave (12 semitones) up.
Now, without getting too deep into music theory, there are 12 semitones in an octave. If you look at the note C on the piano and move 12 notes up, you’ll get to the next C, which is an octave higher. The same can be said for any note.
If you want to learn more about tones, semitones, and advanced music theory, you can check out our Chords & Progressions course.
#3 Copy You Bassline a Fifth Up
Once your octaves are lined up, you can take the top octave and copy it a fifth (seven semitones up).
The fifth is one of the most popular and commonly heard intervals in all of western music and a major building block for just about any chord. When building chords, it’s a good idea to use a fifth to give the listener a sense of the progression before you start filling in smaller intervals.
#4 Move the Fifth Notes Down a Third or Fourth
Next, we will take the fifth notes that we just created and move them three to four semitones down. This should fill out the chord and give the listeners a better sense of the quality of each chord, whether they are major or minor.
We recommend playing around with these notes until you get a progression that sounds good to you.
#5 Copy One More Octave Up
Now, to fill the chords out and make them sound larger and fuller, we will take the very first bassline we made and move it two octaves up. This should give our chords a bit more life and complexity so they don’t sound so average moving from one to the next.
#6 Add the Seventh
Lastly, we have the optional step of adding the seventh, which would be two semitones down from the highest octave. If you already took our course, you probably know about sevenths (or ninths) already.
However, if you haven’t taken it, note that sevenths are often used in jazz and other less structured forms of music, as they provide a sense of instability that can make music sound really cool and complex.
I often find myself adding sevenths to regular chord progressions to make them sound more interesting. If you want to add a ninth instead of a seventh, you can take the highest octave and move it two steps higher instead of lower.
Making Your New Progression Sound Good
Now, if you play the chord progression you just quickly put together without making any adjustments, you’ll probably notice that it doesn’t sound very good.
To remedy that, we’re going to hit Alt+K and choose from one of the scales in the Piano Roll.
If you’re just starting out, we recommend going with a major or aeolian scale, as these are the simplest.
What this unique FL Studio tool does is take the random notes that you placed in your chord progression and arrange them so that they fit within the confines of the given scale. I highly recommend going through and trying different scales to see which one you like best.
Once you’ve found a scale that you like, go to the keyboard portion of the Piano Roll and experiment with different voicings, making your chords sound higher and lower.
PRO TIP: If you want to make your chords sound more natural, we recommend placing the notes closer together. By sliding the control on the keyboard of the Piano Roll, you can limit the range of your chords so that they sound closer together.
Frequently Asked Questions
How To Make Your MIDI Chords Sound More Realistic?
If you have a chord progression written out using MIDI notes, though you’re noticing that it sounds robotic, you can adjust the notes in your chords so that they are not triggered at the same time. Give them a slight bit of room away from each other on the downbeat like a real player would do.
Do You Write Melody or Chords First?
When making music, there are no rules. You can write chords or melody first. However, if you have no knowledge of music theory, finding a chord progression that fits beneath your melody may be a bit harder than approaching it the other way around.