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Ι am attempting to write 6 songs for a live performance of about 22 minutes. But I keep beating myself up over my "artistic integrity" when I repeat progressions that I enjoy.

For example, say I go A -> C -> G on one song verse that I love. Then a different song's hook is A -> C -> G -> F. (maybe transposed, but same movement in first 3 chords).

Then say another verse I have A->C back and forth.

Does this get boring or repetitive for the listener? If I have 3 songs that use A -> C in a way? Am I allowed to do this and still be good?

What do you think the limit is for percentage of songs that should use the same progressions or chords?

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    Other factors are relevant, like tempo, feel, time sigs, etc. They probably have different voicings, bass lines, and I hope, not the same melody lines! 12 bars have basically the same chord format, and folk seem to like them, although at a gig, after the third, I've heard and played enough. But that's me. the audience seems quite happy to hear the next ten or so! – Tim Jul 19 '16 at 18:05
  • true on the tempos feels etc. thanks. when u say 12 bars, u mean like a verse or hook one time around correct? thanks for the input i agree on the feel alot and that helps me chill out greatly ... also do u think it passes to repeat a progression in 2 different songs but the tempo/time sig is completely different? – gamergirl22 Jul 19 '16 at 19:52
  • A '12 bar' is a well-known format or chord sequence, commonly played in the blues idiom. – Tim Jul 19 '16 at 20:40
  • Status Quo used the same chord sequence in many many many of their songs :-) – Doktor Mayhem Jul 20 '16 at 8:51
  • I always envision "Tommy" as a series of variations. The overture has maybe 17 chords, but many of them are adds that, if grouped or considered as "transposed" by the criterion above, are really only...5(?). Also John Cage's 4-33 is probably some apex of artistic integrity, but some may find that tedious. – Yorik Jul 20 '16 at 14:29
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As you're trying to write six songs, it's probably no bad thing that they share some harmonic material, as it will help them sound like they belong together.

Say songs 1 and 6 share a common chord sequence - the audience will get a satisfying feeling of closure because they're hearing material they heard earlier.

If you think two of your songs sound much too similar, you could consider taking the best bits and combining them into one bigger song or song sequence. There are many songs e.g. Human League's Don't you want me, Gary Numan's Cars, etc. that were the result of combining two song ideas together like this.

Also, I expect you're composing on an instrument and the reason you use a particular chord sequence is that your hands fall a certain way. One thing you can do to get out of that rut is to pick a key you don't commonly compose in. Or compose at the piano if you're a guitarist. And if you're a guitarist, consider using an open tuning or a capo. Or try starting your composition process at a different point - if you normally start with words, try starting with a tune. Or try collaborating. With a little thought you can break out of the creative rut.

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I know your question has been answered well by Tim. Also what matters is the performance. People love a great performance and if you can do that your songs will be a success. If it pleases that is what counts. If you want to experiment you might try some chord substitutions such as tritone subs. I don't know your songs, but probably most important idea is to work on making the performance great. That is what your audience will care about.

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Seeing as the vast majority of country music has the basic 1/4/5 chord progression, and no one is really questioning Brad Paisley's artistic integrity, I think you are OK.

Also, there are a fair number of jazz standards than many musicians play differently, even though they may all be built on the same harmonic structure.

It is clear that this...

Is not the same music than this, even if it does have chords in common.

  • Oh, plenty of people question the integrity of country music, all right. They have, they do, and they will. That's the nature of popular music. – user45266 May 6 '19 at 23:46

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