Why do chord progressions come before melody?

I play several instruments but have never had much training in music theory. I’m an amateur songwriter also. My question is about chord progressions. In section 3.5 (Melodic themes), it talks about when it’s okay to “break the rules” in adding melody with chord progressions (i.e. the modified repetition section of the chapter which says in part: "some songwriters will want to use repetition in their melody…a repeating pattern might sound great over one chord but not work at all when repeated over the next chord in the progression…make changes to fit the underlying harmony)

So for example, say you are three lines into the song you are writing… when you have a small section of your melody that doesn’t fit with your chord progression, why can’t you just change the chord for that measure?

[i.e. When I write a song, I write lyrics first because that’s what I’m strongest in, then I write the melody line, then I figure out what chords work with that melody line. So my chords don’t necessarily follow a set progression pattern, but I am aware of the basic rules of cadence chords, etc.]

You don’t have to start with chords first. However, some writers start off with them (i.e. fiddling with chords until they find something nice), then write melody and lyrics later. It’s based on the writer’s preference.

I’m with you. For me it’s a few word and a little melody, maybe a hook and then it’s find the notes and chords that feel good and work.

I write melody first, then bassline, then the chords follow more or less naturally.

I guess this is the best way

There are some interesting YT videos about imitating Hollywood Film Music, which aren’t really progressions, but useful. (I know one can argue a I-V movement is a progression, etc.) One of the reasons I like using ‘classical’ Chord Progressions because they enable the composer to surprise the listener in unexpected ways. In other words, produce the expected and then deviate :slight_smile:

I have never been able to write a good melody over a chord progression. I feel restricted. But surprisingly, whenever i come up with a good melody with a good structure, and i put chords to it, choosing the ones that feel more natural, the resulting chord progression usually makes a lot of sense too, sounds good and its consistent with the “rules”. To me it’s like two perspectives of the same thing, and you can approach from different angles. Some times it breaks rules, but sounds goods anyway. For example, I remember one time i got an odd number of bars, i tried hard to make it even but never sounded good. Finally I decided to go ahead with it and i loved the result. There are many great songs that break very basic rules. Often the songwriters didn’t know them! But we are free to experiment.