Compose dreamy music – unlocking the magic of two major chords (Pt.1)

FMT

Updated on:

Our content relies on support from our readers. This means if you click on some of our links and make a purchase, we'll receive a small commission. You won't pay a penny more, so no worries!  Learn More


Major Chord Progressions – Dreamy, Upward Music

This is an excerpt lesson taken from Behind the Score. Full video lessons, PDF scores, and MP3 audio files on this topic can be found here: Creating Mood Instantly with Two-Chord Structures

Click here to access the music scores (PDF) and audio files used in this article.


In this post, we’ll show you how to effortlessly craft a dreamy and uplifting musical vibe using only two major chords. Our upcoming structure features two major chords positioned a whole-step apart, played one after the other, for example, D major to E major or A♭ major to B♭ major.

This pattern is frequently used by composers to generate a dreamy and uplifting sound, particularly when incorporating a pedal point in the bass. Interestingly, the addition of a pedal point can elevate this pattern from a simple chord progression to a more impactful musical element.

Let us begin by crafting a short piece using the D major and E major chords in Fig. C


Fig.C D Major & E Major (Major 2nd apart)


To be clear, to achieve the ‘dreamy’ effect, we should use the root of the lower chord (the note D) for the pedal point in the bass throughout our composition. Of course, the D major chord blends perfectly with D in the bass. In contrast, the E major chord will sound like it is superimposed over D. We will hear this E major chord in the context of a D major world, where D is the tonic. When we play the E major chord over D in the bass, we create the effect of a D Lydian mode. The “Lydian mode” is essentially a type of scale that sounds a bit brighter than a D major scale. Lydian often invokes a dreamy, uplifting quality. We will hear the notes of the E major chord as they relate to D major. Therefore, the G♯ in the second chord will give the impression that the fourth note of the D major scale has been raised (♯4). Further discussion on modes is available here – Applying Modal Color to Your Music.

This structure may sound familiar, as it is a common trope for uplifting music in films and video games.

Read 👉 Recommended Books for Film Composers

Dreamy Chord Progressions – Major Chords Maj. 2nd Apart [EX. 2-2-a]



The music below is written for piano and based on the DMaj – EMaj two-chord structure. Our piece begins by outlining the first harmony, D major. The bass plays the root (D) in octaves, followed by a chord in the treble staff on beat 2. As we progress, we perceive the top notes of the chords as a melody. This general pattern repeats throughout most of the piece with some variation.

Dreamy Chord Progressions



Starting in measure 2, we superimpose E major on top of D. Since the pianist uses the sustain (damper) pedal, the low D eighth note will sound like it sustains for the length of the entire measure. At this moment, we hear the color of the Lydian mode, as mentioned earlier. We play an E major chord on beat 2, while the bass notes from beat 1 sustain (D pedal point). For this reason, we can describe the harmony as “E/D,” or E major superimposed over D in the bass. By adding a little melodic variation to our two-chord structure, it’s pretty easy to fill out eight measures of music.


Dreamy Chord Progressions – Major Chords Maj. 2nd Apart [EX. 2-2-B]


Now, Let’s use this technique to extend our piece in a new key area. [EX. 2-2-B]

Dreamy Chord Progressions


Starting in m. 9, the melody explores a higher register more freely and even plays in octaves in mm. 11 and 15. It also assumes responsibility for filling out harmony. Meanwhile, the bass simply maintains the D♭ pedal point. The wider spacing between the melody and bass also creates an expansive feeling. Yet, despite all of these changes, this new section seems to retain something fundamental. Although the key change is musically refreshing, the two-chord structure lends musical consistency between the sections, helping them sound musically related.


In part 2 of the series, we’ll explore how to incorporate this two-chord structure into a complete orchestral composition!


More Two-Chord series:

Creating Suspense, High Tension: Minor Chords a Half-Step Apart

This is an excerpt lesson taken from Behind the Score. Full video lessons, PDF scores, and MP3 audio files on this topic can be found here: Creating Mood Instantly with Two-Chord Structures

Access the music scores (PDF) and audio files used in this article here.