Gary Hoey Column Vol.2 “Song writing Chord Families”

Hi to all my fans in Japan. It’s good to be back after finishing producing Lita Ford. Her new CD “Living Like A Runaway” will be out June 19th in North America. On SPV records. Working with Lita Ford was a great experience. She is a great guitarist and her new album is the best she has ever done. I will be on tour playing guitar in her band on the “Rock Of Ages” Tour with Def Leppard and Poison this summer in North America.  I wanted to talk about song writing in this column.

I’ve been writing songs for over 30 years and I had to write many bad ones before the good ones came. My approach to writing is to study the masters, The Beatles, Led Zepplin, Elton John, Van Halen, Journey, I would sit down with a note pad and write down the arrangement, how the song started, if it had a bridge, was there a pre chorus? Songs can be many chords or one chord. I’m a producer so I like to create a mood with a song. It has to tell a story with the words or with the music if it’s instrumental.

I learned my chord scales in all keys. I call them Chord Families, For Example #1 in C major it is C Major, D Minor, E Minor, F Major, G Major, A Minor, B Minor flat5, and back to C Major.  It also has roman numerals that help to change a song to a different key fast. I major, II minor, III minor, IV major, V major, VI minor, VII minor flat 5, and back to I major.

Then you can add 7ths to make the chords more colorful. Example # 2 C major 7 it is C Major 7, D Minor 7 , E Minor 7 , F Major 7,  G Dom 7 , A Minor 7, B Minor 7 flat5, and back to C Major 7.

This can help you to find what key a song is in. Or to help you find that missing chord to take you to the bridge.  When I learned this I realized that all songwriters use the same chords to write songs. If you analyze more songs you will start to unlock the secrets of song writing. The mystery is not so scary.

Example #3 is my Song “Only Human” from the CD Utopia. The Song is in the Key of E Major (but I tune down one half step to E flat) Notice how many chords are taken from the chord family of E major.


Example #4 is my song “Peace Pipe” from My Best Of Gary Hoey and “Bug Alley” It was produced by Roy Thomas Baker the famous producer who produced Queen. It is in the key of F# minor (one of my favorite keys) and the chorus goes to A Major which is the relative major to F# minor. I also put in a G major chord in the chorus which is not from the Key of F# minor but it works.

There are no rules in writing but if you learn the correct way is easier to break the rules. Good luck and remember keep writing and don’t worry about bad songs, the good ones will come. And you will learn something in every song you write.
Until next time all the best to my new Japanese friends.
Gary Hoey