Understanding Chord Progressions

Understanding Chord Progressions

We spend quality time on understanding chord progressions with our students at Scottsdale Music Academy. Figuring out how to put notes together is one way to start, but the ability to put these notes together into chord progressions that make sense is the next step.

Sometimes our students play single note melodies over the root not of a chord, and that fits fine. What makes music interesting and alive is when you are able to weave different elements of a melody inside a chord progression that doesn’t seem to quite fit, but for the eventual song, does indeed fit. Let’s dig a little deeper into chord progressions.

Finding Chord Progressions

Using chord patterns that work from songs is often started with a key’s major scale. For instance, the C major scale includes the notes (ascending) C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. That’s the C major scale. Many beginning guitar players will often practice that sequence of notes for hours on end, going up the scale and then going down the scale.

Now, to find a suitable chord progression in the C major scale, you’d stack the notes from the sequence above. One chord progression might be the following:

C major — D minor — E minor — F major — G major — A minor — B major — back to  C major

To find chord progressions, a student musician should look for patterns starting from the major scale. Taking guitar lessons in Scottsdale can help you to get to know these musical patterns.

See the chart below to get a sense of the minor The types of chords used in these patterns relate to the scale as well.

Innovative songwriters can move chord progressions around from a major scale to a minor scale in the same song. For instance, The Beatles regularly used to move chord progressions from major to minor without batting an eye, and their listeners marveled at the sonic textures that provided.

Here are some further tips on understanding chord progressions:

  • Try playing chord progressions by changing the order of the chords and alternating the starting scale
  • Numbered patterns on the guitar fretboard formulate a chord progression that can be moved around and play in alternate keys
  • Since scale degrees are numbered, the chord progressions based on those scale degrees are numbered as well

When you develop a proper understanding of how chord progressions are generated, you can easily follow a song’s changes and compose your own music more fluidly down the road. At Scottsdale Music Academy in Scottsdale, AZ, we can help you learn new chord progressions that are inside your musical makeup. Our instructors are blessed with good ears, and have years of playing ability behind them. Consider joining us at Scottsdale Music Academy! Your first lesson is free!

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