We try new foods from time to time. New foods allow us to broaden our horizons to new cuisine, this in turn opens a door to new experiences. If we are self-styled chefs, new foods give us new ideas for sprucing up our own dishes, as well as ideas for new dishes altogether.
Music can work much the same way. When you work with other people, you’re exposed to new ways of working. When you try playing a song created by someone else, you are exposed to their way of writing. This can often give us new ideas for our own songs, new ideas for how we play our instrument, sing, etc.
I’ve done all the above to a great extent, including cooking. I’ve found great fulfillment from working with others, learning new songs, even playing in different bands. But what about when you need a constant stream of regular inspiration? One routine that has been very helpful for this is simply forcing myself to learn a new chord every week. And, not only do I try to learn a new chord each week, I try to use it in my own songs, too.
So, what are the benefits of learning new chords? Not only can updating your mental library of chords increase your creativity, there are some other fine results as well.
One major one is your ability to sit in on jam sessions with new musicians… and hold your own! To be able to ask someone what chord they are playing and actually be able to know the chord once they reply is huge. This can save you a lot of noodling around in an attempt to find the chord. And, remember, noodling during a jam session doesn’t always make you look so great!
Here’s another reason to update your chord memory: Do you ever have those moments during the creation of a song where you’re trying to figure out what chord should come next? Or, what’s missing? Experimenting with chords outside of your comfort zone can really help here. Bm7, anyone?
I’ve found it fascinating to actually try starting a song from one of my ‘weekly’ chords. Starting a song, riff, or melody from a chord that’s outside of my comfort zone seems to really cause my mind to move in directions that it normally doesn’t. The new chord may cause me to come up with a progression within a song that I would’ve never thought of before. This, in turn, causes me to grow as not only a composer, but as a player at the same time. Killing two birds with one stone!
Unlike hunting for plug-ins, software, etc, chords are bountiful in them there hills…or, internet. If you’re a guitarist, you’ll find a never-ending supply with websites like www.achordaday.com. Subscribe to the feed, and you’ll have a chord waiting for you every morning! If you’re a keyboardist, like me, try hitting up www.keychord.com once a week. There’s an amazing little app that shows you the keys to hit once you’ve selected the chord you’re trying to learn.
Also, keep in mind that Logic Pro (under Preferences) has the Chord Grid Library. This area allows you to do some craziness with your tuning, input your own chords... And learn from the existing ones!
Logic Pro's Chord Grid Library.
If you play a harp...I’m sure you can find something out there, too!