Minimalism in Chord Progressions

I often wonder why many of the “Songs” chord progressions in Scaler “only” have 4 chords. For some reason (as a newbie) I assumed that “more is better”. Most of my early “songs” had never ending “unique” melodies, and the feedback was that the average listener is looking for regularity in music, to anchor on. The art of music seems in finding the right balance between repetition and variety.

When I go back looking at my various song prototypes/experiments, the ones that resonate most are the ones with just a few chords in. The extreme example being something like this, literally just 2 chords applied to lush pads (having their own builtin harmonies). Even the highly resonating filter is driven by the sound (not the notes) of the chord harmonies.

Another example that (to me) turned out surprisingly interesting sounding was a “cover version” to a track some friends of mine did. They used only one chord through the whole song, since it was an ambient drone based piece, and the variety was in the background effects applied. My cover version just added one more chord, which then carried the whole melody/song. Admittedly, it ain’t jazz or other sophisto stuff - electronic music (EDM, ambient?) seems more tolerant toward hypnotic repetition…

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Yes, one can’t imagine how good can be songs with just 1 chord

I am testing that with dream-like atmospheric instruments like VB3 and Lounge Lizard EP4
I’ll upload a proof-of-concept a day or another

I like minimalistic stuff myself, to listen to. I can listen to Soma FM’s “Drone Zone” all day. But as I’m composing for slideshows, the content of which I am aware most people aren’t terribly interested in (medieval cathedrals, abbey and castles ruins, English churches), I feel a certain compulsion to add movement and melody to keep the thing reasonably engaging.

I have found some of my simpler passages, though, also have a more direct and accessible appeal to them, probably because I’m not a very fluent melodicist and I find more complex progressions are difficult to write musically coherent melodies to. Usually in those cases, I’m just trying to stay in key (or properly harmonize the chord), which is fine, but the “music” isn’t terribly interesting. At least to my ears.

If I find myself wedded to an odd progression, I’ll usually just layer the heck out of it and leave a leading melody voice off completely.

We embrace our limitations, and do the best we can.

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