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This is a question I've had for a long time but I've never really found the answer other than following some suggestions on chord sequences like 1,3,2,5 and 1,4,5, but I'm sure there must be another way of coming up with a sequence of chords that work together.

I usually write my melodies first and try to work out what chords work with it based on the notes I'm playing. Occasionally I try to write some harmonies first when I compose, but with either approach, I'll reach a point where I'm dumbfounded on where I can go next.

Let's take a simple example, I'm writing a comedy orchestral track now starts with C major, then goes to Gb major (essentially shifting key). I've written some lines on top of those chords, but now I can't find where to go next.

Is there any musical theory I should be drawing on to find out where to go next?

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It would help if you posted ,say, the melody line of this track, as a clear example of what you're having trouble with. – Tim May 23 '13 at 17:20
Ok, I will do as soon as I get back to my studio. Thanks for responding – Osu May 23 '13 at 17:25
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Nearly every melody line has underlying harmonies (chord) which reflect the notes in each bar. E.g., in a bar of C-E-F-G, there are notes which make Cmaj., so that chord will fit in that bar.

In a bar with, for example, an F and A, this will give you more scope - F, Dm, G9 come to mind.

Often there's a note which won't fit a chord, and if it's on a weak part of the bar, it won't count towards that chord. Weaker parts could be 2nd or last beat, or maybe the 'and' between beats. 1st and 3rd (in 4/4) are places to look for components of a chord. When you move out of key, as in C - G♭, there are no common notes, so either change chord within the bar, or possibly use a B♭ note, which could fit both C7 and G♭

Really need that sample.

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Ok, I've got a quick mp3 I put together and a pdf of the melody line - as the melody moves across different instrument groups, I've put it all into one line so it's easier to see what's going on. As I'm still learning how to write music properly, I apologise in advance if this isn't the way to write the melody correctly (I left the key signature as C major)! My question is I don't know what chords I could play next after the Gb major at the end of this sequence. I haven't come up for a melody for it yet btw. mp3: and the pdf: – Osu May 24 '13 at 8:27
When you write out music try to keep to ## OR bb.Mixing them mixes up the reader ! There are occasions when an accidental MUST be # or b specifically, for technical reasons, but not in this tune. Quite like the arrangement. You've moved a tritone - the Devil's interval. Used a lot in jazz. What's next depends on the next bit of tune.Down one semitone may keep the 'jaunty' feel. – Tim May 24 '13 at 9:17
Thanks for this Tim. Would the correct way to write this be to indicate a key change at bar 3 and then revert back to C major at bar 5 etc? And, if I understand correctly, my options at this point in the arrangement is to go a semitone down, is that right? Are there other options if I follow something like the circle of fifths? – Osu May 25 '13 at 16:35
Best stay in Cmaj., it's not worth changing to G# for a couple of bars only.One semitone down is an idea, it's your tune ! That would lend itself to the circle, i.e.B - E - A - D - G and back to C, probably all using any appropriate accidentals, rather than key changes. – Tim May 26 '13 at 8:20
Thanks Tim, I realise it's ultimately my decision where to go next, but I was just wondering if there are any conventions as to how composers approach writing harmonies other than the chord sequences I mentioned above, or if they just do it according to what sounds right. Can you recommend a book I read on this topic? I feel there's a large gap in my knowledge and I'd like to fill it. Will mark your answer as the correct one now, thanks again. – Osu May 26 '13 at 9:08

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