Chord Progressions: Everything You Need To Know

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Many still fail to describe and grasp the importance of a chord progression on a musical sequence, which is even I ‘am guilty of.

Most people will tell you that a chord progression is a series of chords that will simply describe the relationships between the chords in terms of note intervals like 1, 4, 5, or I, IV, V, but the thing is, simply learning this fact won’t make you truly understand what its concept is.

That’s why we prepared a simple gift for you to better understand the wonders of chord progression, let’s all start with one of the most common questions in our arsenal:

What Are Chord Progressions?

Is your music composed of more than one note at a time? What about playing a piece that consists of more than two notes? Is it more difficult than just a simple melody? Does it move from one chord to another?

If all of your answers to these questions are yes, then what you’re doing is simply what we called a chord progression. Chord progressions can either start with a minor, or a major key, but in most cases, major keys are commonly used to achieve overall balance within a piece.

We have A, B, C# minor, and E as the commonly used chords within the music industry due to their simplicity, harmony, and flexible ability to adapt to every genre of music.

Progressions in every part of a musical piece, commonly categorized in numeral numerals such as V–I-vi–ii, will decide the overall tonality, counts, and how will the music play from top to bottom.

It is also crucial to understand that in chord progressions, your applied knowledge is a power that you can advantage of, the more chords you know to play with, the better your progression will be, and the better your progressions are, a richer and a complex structure of your music will naturally follow.

Expert Tip: In addition, with the help of knowing what chord progression is, you will easily learn and identify the backbone of your favorite songs much easier, not only it will help you better understand how music can be structured in many ways, but you’ll also learn some valuable techniques that you can apply when constructing your own tune.

Identifying the Key for a Chord Progression

Before diving into ways to find the keys for a chord progression, let’s first define why is it important to even find it in the first place.

Young fellow Musicians need to understand that a key, is what represents a whole progression is, it also identifies that each particular table has its own unique records while ensuring that a pair of tables have corresponding matching values.

Now, some chord progression keys can be easily defined at a glance, some can be traced by our chord progression charts, whereas others are difficult to figure out and simply defies conventional analysis.

If it’s the latter, then you can try to look for cadences as it is one of the best ways to find a key. But if you’re not sure yet on to how to use cadences for finding a key, then here’s a quick overview:

Identifying the Key for a Chord Progression
Identifying the Key for a Chord Progression

Generally, the melody and the chord progression will cadence in the same place, but not always, so hunt for a comma or a period implied within the lyric if there’s one.

Another type of typical cadence is what we commonly refer to as the closed cadence or full cadence, this type of cadence typically ends on the I chord, which indicates our possible key, we also have the V part / Authentic cadence, the IV part / Plagal cadence. (We suggest doing thorough research in this part.)

Besides utilizing the cadence method for finding our key on a progression, it is also commonly known to look for its key signature that you can easily find right after the clef indication.

Remember that the number of flats and sharps on a key signature will naturally tell you what is the key used on a musical piece while having no sharps nor flats indicates that the key is either C or A minor.

How to Play a Chord Progression in Any Key

The short answer is, Absolutely! In creating a piece of art, you can try to use as little as primary colors, up until to a crazy wide variety of colors in your arsenal, in similar terms, a chord progression is also a smooth way of blending/transitioning to one chord from another.

For starters, you may want to start off with our fundamental primary chords while slowly building your skills up to the secondary chords, this will not only help you to know what a particular chord looks like, but will also improve your muscle memory by simply repeating the same chords over and over again.

After gaining a substantial amount of understanding of what every chord sounds like, you can try to have some fun experiments and list down every chord that you think is a great fit for each other, just remember to start and always end your chord progression on the chord I.

In summary, just like how other colors don’t blend well with each other, we strongly advise starting off with chords that sound well individually, while at the same time are pleasing to hear when in a progression.

Do your research on a chord progression that is commonly used on a musical piece, you may also use circle progression for a more easily structured piece.

What is the best chord progression?

There really is no such worst or the best chord progression in existence, remember that each chord has different sets of value and varying emotions that can add to the overall theme of a progression.

In addition, it is not that important to always have the most perfect and pleasing piece when it comes to creating one, what’s more, important is the purpose of the progression, the views of the listener, genre, culture, or even the story that it tells.

But here’s a common guideline to follow if you want to improve your ability when it comes to creating a promising chord progression:

I – Major scale
II – Minor scale
III – Minor scale
IV – Major scale
V – Minor scale
VI – Minor scale
VII – Minor scale

You can also get a lot of valuable insights by following famous chord progressions such as:


How do you use a chord progression chart?

At first glance, chord progression charts may appear to be very complicated math equations, but we assure you that they are not. You just need a little bit of background information to follow through those difficult musical note pieces.

Now, I want you to think of a chart as your foreign book on one of your grandmother’s shelves. When we take a look at it, all we can see are those weird symbols that your brain can’t process nor even understand.

That is how chord progression charts are. In similar terms, without fully understanding what every symbol means in a chart, you won’t be able to read or play a single piece.

Expert Tip: It is crucial to understand and familiarize yourself with each of the keys that you’ll find in a chord progression and also fully learn how the “Nashville Number System” can help you work out those complex chords.

The Nashville Number System was invented by Neal Matthews to quickly find the structure of a chord in a musical piece. Note that the number that each chord denotes greatly varies if it is a major or minor.

We also need to remember that playing a chord progression chart doesn’t mean that you need to fully memorize each chord every time instead, you need to look to see if there is a similar chord or a pattern of chords that it follows.

With a great deal of effort and the right information to guide you on your journey, you’ll be able to learn how to play each chart with minimal effort. You may also refer to a veteran musician or your music teacher at class to help you if you reach a bottleneck somewhere along the way.

Now that you know what a chord progression is, how to find keys, and how to read a progression chart, it is now up to you if you want to continue walking down the path of being a musician, either just for enjoyment, popularity, or to make a living out of it.

Remember to not just memorize, but to apply. It is easy to forget what’s written on your mind, but the learning that you put into your heart won’t fade ever so easily.

Our aim is to help you learn and be a great music enthusiast in the healthiest way possible. We hope that all of these simple lessons from this article will become your first building blocks to becoming a greater person.

Have any questions? Don’t be shy and ask for our help. We’ll be more than happy to assist you. Till next time!

About Rencel Leyran