Scales And Chord Progressions In Electronic Dance Music



i’ve seen this youtube clip before. i don’t remember it being very helpful.

first off, most dance music today is in a minor key. the 1-6-2-5 is more a major key progression.

essentially, just about any note in the minor scale could be a good note to put a chord on. In C minor, here are some examples:

C minor triad (C, Eb, G)

D minor triad (D, F, A)

Eb major triad (Eb, G, Bb)

F minor or F major depending the sound you are going for - try f minor triad (F, Ab, C)

G minor triad (G, Bb, D)

Ab triad (this works great in dance music, Ab, C, Eb)

Bb triad (Bb, D, F)

try different combinations. for example something involving C triad, F triad, G triad, Ab triad, Bb triad - not in that order (experiment).

eventually you can build beyond triads and add more tonality to the chords.


hmm. i’ll have to re-visit the youtube clip. it’s been awhile since i saw it.

most of my knowledge is from a book called ‘how to write songs on keyboards’ by rikky rooksby but that book goes way beyond what i was described. definately worth checking out though if you want to go deeper…


perhaps pick a song that has a chord progression you like, post the youtube clip and let’s take a look at it as an example.

I tend to use Cmin, Bb Maj, Ab Maj, Gmin, Fmin for 90% of the stuff im working on.

lots of classic records use these chords.

BBE 7 days one week, Pjano, Robert miles Children, Cafe Del Mr, Faithless Insomnia, Chicane Off Shore etc.

then just use a Cmin or C pentatonic scale over it… cant go wrong.

Then if you want a bit of variation or you want the bass to sit better from track to track just transpose it once you got the chords and riff in.

tbh im not really that experienced in music theory… i dont really know what that pdf does.

i just know enough to sit at a keyboard and jam out some chords and a riff. it might take 2 days to come up with something half decent but i dont think knowing more theory will change that.

to me its more a feel thing than a knowledge thing.

Yeah im sure it could be a good way to learn and i certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

I really enjoy just listening to tracks figuring out the chords and borrowing ideas.

Helps with training your ears and keyboard skills too.

You also can really tune in on the sounds too.


you probably want to hear from phil but here is my take on the kid 'n play song:

the intro imo has no chord progression rather it seems like some kind of eastern scale with E played in the bass.

the strings section seems to alternate between a bar of Emaj and a bar of Amaj, where in the first bar after the tonic on beats one and two there is an Ab in the bass for beats three and four; in the second bar of Amaj there is a E in the bass for bars one and two then back to the tonic (A).

the part where there is a decent bassline just seems like it is an E minor. I hear the strings running down some notes in the E minor scale while the bass runs up.

while the song is great, i don’t think it is by any means rich in chord progression.

i didn’t realize the pdf had minor scales in it. so i think the forumlas provided could be a good tool to developing a song…but read on…

i’m not sure alot of people on this site use theory. i only chimed in on the subject because i studied jazz bass which involves alot of chord progressions. i played more than understood theory though. i do recall though that my teacher told me learning the rules is good but learn how to break the rules in a pleasing way. i non-jazz terms i think radiohead is a good example of what he meant.

regardless, i like how phil describes how he develops chord progressions.

anyway, i think i’ve helped about as much as i can if i have at all. good luck!

I made a little midi FX rack where ive put all the chords from the Cmin scale in the PDF on single notes so its easier o play around with progressions.

For me this whole approach isnt really where i would personally be heading in terms or a way to come up with dance music chords and melodies… it sounds very “classical” especially the use of the diminished chord.

I very rarely hear them in tracks.

I see Add9 cropping up more in progressive and trance stuff and min7s in deep house.

I think getting a good bassline or melody and fitting the chords in after is a better approach… it can be more trial and error but focusing more on the main hook of the song first will set you up better in the long run.

And definitely for me working out other peoples stuff has been key in me understanding what chords are being used.

The original notes are irrelevant think of it as just triggering samples… I just copied each chord from the Cmin scale on your PDF and put them sequentially.