How to add interest using 'pushed' chords

Rhythm isn't only defined by your beat patterns. It's also defined by where chords, stabs and harmonic elements fall

How to add interest using pushed chords
"'Pushing' chords so that they fall a little early or late can make a big difference, by keeping your listeners on their toes."

There's no doubt that the drums or percussion in any track are the main elements that define its rhythm, but the positioning of chords and even melodic notes will play a crucial role too. Consequently, if your chords fall on the down-beats of each bar, you may well find that the track's overall sense of rhythm is diluted or made predictable.

'Pushing' chords so that they fall a little early or late can make a big difference, by keeping your listeners on their toes. Better still, as soon as you're freed from the 'curse of the bar line', you have an opportunity to add something much more unique to your tracks.

Find more inspirational composition ideas, pick up issue 306 of Future Music.


Step 1: Here, we've got a little track formed of three instruments: synth chords, bass and a shuffling drum pattern. As the chords all fall on the down-beat of their respective bars, the overall effect is quite 'block-like' and rigid. It also becomes easy to predict where each chord will fall.

Step 2: Let's make things less predictable by pushing the position of some chords. Even a push of an eighth-note either early or late can make a big difference, and we're trying both approaches here, moving some chords before the down-beat and some after it. We're making the 'pushes' a little different the second time around.

Step 3: This works well, but the bass now sounds strange, as it continues to fall on the down-beat each time. By shifting the position of each note to match the pushed chords, things feel more complete. Pushing chords doesn't only work with downtempo music; try it with faster tracks too.

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