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How to Write Unique Chord Progressions with Voice Leading


Hey guys! Bound to Divide here with PML - and today I'm going to teach you about Voice Leading. 

Voice leading is basically a concept where we take chords or a chord progression and we try and make the movement between those two chords or between each chord a lot smoother.

This is the chord progression we're going to be working with:

When you have a look at this chord progression, what you'll see is that the movements between each chord are kind of big jumps

If you had to think about playing this on an actual piano your hand would be moving up and down the keyboard quite a lot. That's okay in some contexts - maybe if you're writing like a dramatic song or something, you'd want a lot of big jumps up and down the keyboard. 

If you're trying to write something that's just a bit more smooth, tasteful and emotional, you can use voice leading to make the movements between the chords a lot smoother.

Step 1: Tweaking Chord 2

If we look at our first two chords, you'll see that both of the chords have the note C in them. We can play the C in any octave and the chord will still be the same - it'll just be what we call an inversion. 

If we move it up, it'll be called the first inversion. 

I’m not going to really get too much into inversions in this lesson - if you want to take a deeper dive into music theory we have some more courses on that (Harmony Bundle), and we also have a bunch of other music theory tutorials on the channel (Ableton Tips).

The gist of it is that you can play all of these notes in whichever octave you choose.

We can move the C up - hold Shift and hit the up arrow. 

Now if you have to think about playing that as a piano player - for the movement of your fingers it wouldn't even be that far.

Step 2: Tweaking Chord 3

If we look at this third chord we'll see that the C continues over here. 

Maybe it's a good idea to keep that C going. We don't want to move that note, but we've also got an E which is a common note here.

We could bring this E down to a lower octave - and now we've got a really smooth chord progression in which we're repeating these these C’s across the three chords.

Let's give it a listen:

Step 3: Tweaking Chord 4

The last chord doesn't really have anything in common with the second and third.

I think it sounds fine the way it does at this point.


When you learn something like voice leading it's really just a tool - and all tools in music theory should be used sparingly in my opinion. If you're using voice leading through a chord progression, there's no rule that says you have to use it between each chord. It's fine to just do it on these three, and then leave the last chord like that.

However, there are a few things that we could do to make the last chord a little more interesting. 

One of them is using suspended chords. If you don't know what suspended chords are, I’m not really going to give you a whole lesson on them now - we do have other tutorials and suspended chords are covered. We've also got a full music theory course.

If we were to use suspender chords here, we could take the middle note (B) and turn it into a “sus2” chord by bringing it down to the A - or we could make it a “sus4” chord by bringing it up to the C.

The nice thing about suspended chords is they also add a little bit of tension. 

Let's try moving the B up, so we're making a sus4 chord and now we've got the C note in common.

I like that - but let's try bringing it down to the A.

I like that one the most - our chord progression is complete!

That's it for this lesson! Hopefully you understand what voice leading is by now. 

If you’d like to learn more about music theory, be sure to check out our Harmony Bundle.

Good luck with your production!

- Julian


See Also:

How to Design a Hypnotic Polymetric Lead in Analog (Melodic Techno, Ableton Live)

How To Make Skrillex Vocal Chords in Ableton Live (EDM)

How to Master a Track like a Pro with Free Plugins Only in Ableton Live

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