Guitar chords can be considered the foundation for rock music. Many times, a songwriter will put together a chord progression, which is just a sequence of chords that is repeated in the song verses, the chorus, or both. From that initial chord progression, every other aspect of the song can be imagined and written – the bass line, drum riffs, tempo, guitar lead, etc. You get the picture.
To illustrate this point, this is how The Beatles began writing. Early in their careers, John Lennon and Paul McCartney would get together with their guitars and come up with the chord progressions and riffs that would later turn into some of the most memorable music of all time.
As a guitarist songwriter, whether you start a song with a guitar riff or a chord progression, you will be working with chords early in the songwriting process. Sometimes the tune will call for a different tone, one that a basic chord doesn’t provide. This is why it is important to build your arsenal of guitar chords.
I’ve talked about basic guitar chords and their forms in previous articles. You’ll find once you’ve learned these, there are some additional forms that you will want to learn to round out your tonal palette. For example, there are sustained chords, diminished chords, minor seventh chords and barre chords. All in all, there are thousands of potential chords.
Fortunately, you don’t have to learn them all. As long as you memorize the handful of chord forms (check out my other articles), you’ll have no trouble coming up with interesting chord changes and substitutes for basic chords in your songs. It will take some time to put your knowledge into practice, but it is time well spent.