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The Game of Music Writing (alphabet)

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

Writing music can be fun, cathartic, frustrating, easy, stressful, quick, slow and many more things besides.

Why do you write?

Maybe you're on a deadline and being paid 100K to come up with a song by...well, yesterday?

So the day has come when you have to write a song, and you have zero inspiration.

Maybe you've just dried up and want to write, but can't think of any music that's exciting to you. New chords, new keys, new music!

Maybe you've some great lyrics and just don't know where to start musically.

Maybe you pick up your guitar and start playing the same old chords you always play and you just feel jaded.

Or, you stare at the piano keys with your hands in your lap feeling overwhelmed...or is that underwhelmed...fear not!!!

The Game is On

Use my game of finding the chords and music for your new song.

It seems complicated at first, but I have put examples under each step so that it becomes clear, easy, and fun, as well as working like magic.

Grab a pen and paper.

This exercise never ever fails.

Here we go:

1. Pick a number between 1 and 88. Today, let's say I am picking number 2.

2. Starting on A as number one, use a piano or keyboard to count up to the number you chose. Remember to include all of the black notes as well. You can use an online keyboard if you don't have one. Or just use this image below.

My note happens to be A# or Bb, which is number 2 on the keyboard.

3. Write this note name down as it will be the key of your piece. Hoorah!

I favour flat keys so I am going with Bb, and I know that the key of Bb can be major or minor so I'm keeping my options open for now.

Away from the game for a second

You may wonder what I mean by favouring flat keys. Just a quick off shoot here from the game to say that I think flat keys sound warmer than sharp ones.

So I do gravitate towards them although I know that most guitar players would probably gravitate away from them as they're harder to play...or just use a Capo.

Back to the game

4. Pick a word of at least 8 different letters.

I pick the word 'BRILLIANCE'.

5. Now, extract the musical letters from your word and write them down. These will be your chords.


6. Put the remaining letters from your word into alphabetical order.


7. Number these letters from where they are in the normal alphabet.

I L N R = 9 12 14 18

8. Starting on the letter name you chose from #3 (mine was Bb, so I'll use B), and using the musical alphabet, count out these numbers above to form new chords.

9 12 14 18 = C F A E

9. Pick the first 3 numbers that come in to your head from 1-8 inclusive.

1, 3 & 7

10. These can be another chord progression.

1 3 7 = B D A

11. So, now let's see what we have. Remember this is just a game, so if you want to change any of the chords as you get into the writing part, just change them.

I am going with Bb minor, because as I said I do love minor keys.

12. Adjust the chords to fit the key signature.

Key: Bb Minor – which has 5 flats! (Bb Eb Ab Db Gb)

Therefore, my chosen chords must change to make 'musical' sense:

13. B A C E now becomes Bb Ab C Eb

14. C F A E now becomes C F Ab Eb

15. B D A now becomes Bb Db Ab

These chord progressions will become my verse, my chorus and my bridge. I'm just not sure which ones are which just yet....One more thing to do before I decide...

If you don't know what key signatures have sharps and flats download our free guide here.

Music Key Flats and Sharps
Download PDF • 577KB

Away from the Game - Chords used in keys.

Stay with me here...If it is too complicated for you that is fine for now. I'll simplify it.

Songs use a mixture of major and minor chords and it's your job as the writer to choose them. Will a song sound right or wrong if I use a major or minor? Well there are 'rules' (see below), but as I always say, rules are meant to be broken.

Just use your ear to decide.

Complicated bit...Each key, based on its scale, whether major or minor, normally use set chords that will also be either major (written in capitals) or minor (in lower case).

For example: chord 2 in a major key would be be written as II, and in a minor key as ii

So if you are writing in a major key for example, and using chords I, IV and V, they are the only ones that will be major (if you're following the 'rules'). The rest will be minor or diminished.

Minor keys can use the minor natural scale, or the minor harmonic scale.

As I have said, there are no set rules in songwriting and exceptions are always being made by writers. I enjoy it when it happens as it is something different. But, if you want to stick to the 'rules' here they are:

Major: I ii iii IV V vi vii (diminished)

Minor natural: i ii (diminished) III iv v VI VII

Minor harmonic: i ii (diminished) III (augmented) iv V VI vii(diminished)

YOU DON'T HAVE TO MEMORIZE THESE! Because: your ear will guide you when you're writing.

Plus, there is another way to know what they are by using your ear and a keyboard...even if you don't play!

Just go to a keyboard and do the following:

1. Starting on a C major triad (C E G), just move your hand up step by step in the same position for one octave. That's all your majors and minors right there!

2. Similarly, for your minors do the same thing, but start on an Am chord (A C E).

Back to the game.

You can see that there are a lot of repeated chords which is great for my song.

Finally, I would like to add some major and minor chord varieties into my song.

Using the Minor natural scale 'rule', my chords will now be:

i ii (diminished, although I prefer minor) III iv v VI VII

In other words chords 1, 2 and 4 will be minor. So Bb now becomes Bb minor (Bbm), and so on.

Just one more -tiny- theory thing. The fifth chord of the scale -V- is often made major and I'm going to go with that. I just feel that it could be all a little dark and depressing sounding with too many minors in a flat key.

End of theory stuff I promise!!

Bb Ab C Eb now becomes Bbm Ab Cm Ebm

C F Ab Eb now becomes Cm F Ab Ebm

B D A now becomes Bbm D Ab

So as I am playing them through, I love the Cm section and want that for my bridge and the last 3 chords for my chorus. My verse will use the first 4 chords from my list.

Bbm Ab Cm Ebm VERSE



I'm pleased with these chords and will end up using some embellishments and inversions to make things even more exciting :)



How much fun was that? You've just made all the music for a song from one word!

I'm proud of you for sticking through the theory bits and getting to the end of the game.

So remember you need never feel 'stuck' again. You can use this game as your muse and even leave it half way through if your mind has started creating it's own wonderful music without the need of further 'muse-ment' :)

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