How to Compose with Diatonic Chords like Todd Rundgren - YouTube

01 February 2019 in Motion -

Striking a Chord on YouTube.

Diatonic Chords on YouTube.

Hi, welcome to an episode of “Striking a Chord” on Noah’s Ark. In the video, we’ll focus on diatonic chords as a powerful tool for songwriting. Diatonic seems like a daunting word but all it means is using a simple rule of using chords that are only composed with notes contained in the scale of the song’s key.

So let’s say your song is in the key of C major, diatonic chords in this key are chords that only contain naturals meaning no sharps or flats at all. On a piano keyboard it would only be the white keys. A lot of popular songs are composed only of diatonic chords and sometimes knowing what these chords are allows for experimentation by purposely avoiding them or the contrary.

Let’s start with triads or three note chords. The diatonic chords using Roman numerals are: I Major, II Minor, III Minor, IV Major, V Major, VI Minor and VII Diminished.

If we convert these to four note seventh chords, the chords would be: I Major 7, II Minor 7, III Minor 7, IV Major 7, V 7, VI Minor 7 and VII Minor 7 Flat 5.

These can also be applied to minor keys by shifting the chords three semitones down starting on the VI degree. This is called the relative minor where the Flat III degree is going to be the corresponding relative major’s starting point with the same chords as seen before.

When borrowing chords from outside the diatonic world, interesting harmonies can arise and composition can modulate to different keys.

To find out more about diatonic chords, you can watch the video above or on YouTube here.


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