How to Write Calming CHORDS • Music Theory from Portishead "Roads"


How to Write Calming CHORDS


Within seconds of hearing the opening chords in Portishead “Roads”, you can feel your cortisol levels dropping and your body’s tension releasing. This intro has to be one of the most calming moments in the entire popular music catalogue.


Unlike the mad rush that songs are in nowadays to grab your attention with a catchy hook (in order to avoid the dreaded skip!), the “Roads” intro unfolds at a pace so leisurely that it feels delightfully pre-internet. Aaah… Remember those days? Back when humans had attention spans longer than goldfish!


On that note. According to Spotify data, about 25% of listeners skip a song within five seconds. If those people skipped “Roads” a mere five seconds in, they wouldn’t even get halfway through the chord progression. Oh well, their loss.


In this dizzyingly fast-paced world, if you want to cater to the distracted listener, then it’s impossible to create a calming atmosphere, as that takes time. For almost the whole first minute of “Roads”, all your hear is the legendary sound of a Fender Rhodes organ. Rumour has it that the song is actually named after the Rhodes.


The vintage sound of a Rhodes organ obviously adds to the atmosphere, but in terms of music theory, what makes these chords so relaxing? Well, it’s not just one thing, it’s many! And in this tutorial you’ll learn them all, as well as our 5-step method for making your own calming chord progression. But first… Tea!


Download PDF Tutorial


Lastly, are you new to music theory? Or are you experienced, but you want a refresher? Then download our FREE BOOK (link opens in new tab). It only takes 30 minutes to read, then you’ll have a solid theory foundation that you can instantly apply to your songwriting and producing. Enjoy!

Ray Harmony
Multi award-winning college lecturer