I have written a number of tunes using just A,B,C, etc. to indicate notes. I have no musical knowledge so I am unable to find the appropriate chords to go with my tunes. Is there a an online program or tool that will automatically add chords to my tunes? If not, what is the best way for someone with my limited knowledge of music theory, to find the chords that will complement the notes I write in my tunes.

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    If you want to be serious about music, learning the theory behind music is very useful. Check out musictheory.net's lessons. The lessons are pretty simple and give you a basis for understanding harmony, melody, ect. – Dom Feb 5 '15 at 21:04

The best way is for you to practice a bunch of simple songs - folk tunes, Christmas carols, children's music - learning the chords to these songs. This will train your ear as to the appropriate ways of using chords. There is no software which will add chords to a tune because for any particular melody different chord progressions can be used, it's partly dependent on the person who is playing the tune what kind of mood they want to evoke.

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  • I have learned so much from those types of songs. Those songs must communicate to a large audience and are great examples to start learning how music can communicate with the listeners. They demonstrate how the chords function. – r lo Feb 6 '15 at 15:52

The others are spot on in saying that learning some music theory is the best way to be good at this, but I think I can help you with a simple technique on piano to find some chords that work together.

I should stress that this is method will limit the chords available to you, and limit you to just a few keys, but limiting yourself can be great for creativity, right?

Here's the crux of the trick: only use white notes on the piano.

  1. Pick a 'home note' on the piano. I recommend C for a major (happy) sound, or either D or A for a minor (sad) sound.
  2. Form a 'triad' chord for each white note. For C, this has the notes c, e, g. For D, this has the notes d, f, a. You should get the pattern fairly quickly.
  3. Play around with all the different triads until you find some sequences you like.
  4. Move your melody up/down (i.e. transpose it) so it fits in with the 'home note' from step 1.
  5. Use your ears to figure out if the chords are working. Does it sound nice? Is it supposed to sound nice? Maybe you want it to clash a certain point? This is where you become an artist!

Voilà, chords that work!

If you want to learn this stuff properly instead of cheating, start learning about Modes in music.

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you'll want to learn music theory which explains how people have gone about writing music through the ages.

But for now, start easy. Let's say your keysig is C (your melody uses the white piano keys). Start with the C, F, and G chords. C has c,e,g. F has f,a,c. G has g b d. If your melody spends most it's time on e, you'll want the C chord. If your melody spends most it's time on c, could be C, could be F. See which sounds best.

Keep playin around like that. That's your intro. But come on now - get serious about this music thing. If you can come up with a melody, you're 85% the way there.

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Melodies often include notes from the chords that go with them. Try this: Pick out/separate the notes in the melody in to bars or measures (timing units of the music that is often but not always in 4 beat units). Select the chords that combinations of these notes would suggest (build chords using these notes). Not all of the notes will fit a single chord, like spelling words in the game boggle. Unlike boggle, you can use notes that are not there to build the chords if you feel like it, or are missing notes. There is usually more than one chord possibility, so experiment some. Often (although not always) chords will remain the same for an entire bar. After some practice you may know when you want to change chords more often. Typically you will repeat chords much more than once in the same piece.

Of course the real answer, as others suggest, is that learning music theory will help you attain your goals long term.

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I was once just like you, or in a similar position. I'm not claiming expert knowledge or anything, but I can tell you what I did:

1) First, I found a book at the library that explained basic piano chords. (not just a list of piano chords, but like one that explained them AND had a reference section). I already had a basic knowledge of piano, so I knew which notes were on which keys, but that isn't hard to learn.
The basic major and minor triads (three-note chords) were enough for me to add chords to my first song.

2) I figured out the melody of my song on the piano by ear. (it seems like you've already done this, which means you have real talent, since you said you have little knowledge of music)
(steps 3 and 4 aren't totally necessary, but they save you a TON of time and frustration)

3) I figured out what key my song was in. (Google can help with this, as well as various forum sites if you really aren't sure.)

4) I then Googled what chords were on that key (and the notes they were made of, if necessary) and played them on the piano so I knew what they sounded like.

5) I played through my song on the piano, stopping whenever I thought a chord change was necessary, and tried different chords until I found one that sounded good with that note and seemed to "go with" the previous chords.
There are some rules to determining which chords "should" go where (according to common convention), but even now, nearly five years later, I barely know any and don't worry much about following them. People who hear my music say it sounds unique and original, in a good way. (My motto: If it sounds good, keep it; if it doesn't sound right, try something else.)
At first, I wrote in a chord change on every note. As I got more comfortable with messing with the chords, and also played along to existing songs by reading their chords (which were available online --for free! --for almost every song I could think of), I eventually spaced out my chord changes a lot more.
(Again, no guarantees.)

Some additional notes:

Choosing an Instrument

If you don't have access to a piano, I guess guitar would be a good alternative? (Obviously, being able to play more than one pitched note at a time is a must, so wind instruments and unpitched percussion are out of the question.)
These two instruments (piano, especially) do not necessarily require someone to have extremely proper technique to gain enough proficiency to play simple chords (as opposed to an instrument where technique is a large part of being able to play the instrument, such as marimba [which is also expensive and requires mallets, etc]). I play both piano and guitar (at a rudimentary level for both) and find it more difficult to "see" the notes on the guitar, but I did learn piano first so maybe that's why.

And in conclusion...

Today, I write for various instrumental ensembles, as well as for voice and guitar, and have dabbled in synthesizer stuff as well. It's been a long but rewarding journey. I hope you realize that the fact that you were able to come up with your own songs AND having the diligence to figure out the notes means you have something special. Follow your heart and don't be discouraged!

Edit: Another thing I did was I downloaded a free music notation program called MuseScore (it's the best you can get for free) and then found basic arrangements of very simple songs that also had the chords written above the music. Then I copied the music (by typing each note, which was a bit tedious, but worth it in the end) into MuseScore, and tweaked it from there. Programs like MuseScore are super cool because they will play your music for you; even if there are multiple parts/instruments involved, it will play them all at the same time, together.

I understand that someone who does not read traditional music notation would have difficulty using a notation program unless they learned to read the notation. This is perfectly okay, as I've heard that even some very successful composers (such as Hans Zimmer, though I'm not sure how accurate that Internet article was) don't necessarily have a solid background in reading sheet music. Many of them use sequencing software with a "piano roll". There are many free applications for that as well.

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You can think of it in terms of sets of notes making a chord:

  • Write out your notes (a,b,c).
  • Most melodies 'feel' as though they have a "home note" or key - a note that they want to 'resolve' to. If you can identify that, write that down too. It may/may not actually be in the melody.
  • If possible trim it down to three or so notes whcih are at the heart of the melody. This just makes things a bit simpler to hear/play. Two notes is maybe a bit sparse, three notes is good for a full chord, and more is adding enrichment.
  • Plug them into this page : Chord Identifier which I've only just found, and looks brilliant. Put the "Home" note (if you found one) to the first note on the page. Tick the two boxes starting "show chords.." to trim down the options returned, especcially "Show chords with 1st note as bass note, only! " of you found a "Home note" in the melody. Or just try all the options!

Should give you a clue as to where to start. An appropriate chord is likely to be made of of some of the notes from part your melody, so you could bypass the writey-down stuff and just try playing all the notes of your melody at once, and missing some out until it sounds how you like it.

That's quite a clumsy approach in that it leaves not-much for intuition and art (ie it's a bit hit and miss, bash about until it sounds ok) but to go into how to be more artistic about it, you're really asking "how do you write music" which is of course a huge question, and at the nub of the art itself.

I'd imagine once you've tried this or one of the other answers here for a while, you'll get a good intuition for what works with various changes in melody.

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I actually created a free/no-ad app to try and solve this issue: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ampetus.tochord

Consider the C major scale of C D E F G A B

or C = 1/1
D = 9/8 or 10/9 E = 5/4 F = 4/3 G = 3/2 A = 5/3 B = 15/8

The fractions dictate where the most likely chords are. Turns out the D is fairly near both 9/8 and 10/9, so it can serve as either.

How so? Look at the common denominators. The notes C D E G and B or 1/1 9/8 5/4 3/2 and 5/3 have a common denominator "segment" of 8.

Say your melody is C F D E B. While you play D E B part of that melody, your melody fits in the above "segment". So a chord formed from some combination of those notes, such as C E G (c major) or E G B (e minor) is ideal.

But how about when you play the C F D? Those notes have a common denominator 9 so C D F A or 1/1 10/9 4/3 5/3 match. So a good chord for those would be D F A AKA D minor. IMO you may even want to grab an A#, which is roughly 16/9 from C, and form a A# D F or A# major chord, which is the sort of trick the Beatles often used to modulate to despite it being technically out of key.

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  • Hi Michael - this looks a lot like self promotion, and combined with a lack of clarity in what your nomenclature is based on is probably why you are getting downvotes – Doktor Mayhem Nov 29 '18 at 12:54

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