A chord progression is a sequence of chords played in a specific order to create a harmonic framework within a piece of music. Chord progressions form the backbone of a song’s harmonic structure and contribute to its mood and emotion. A chord progression chart is a handy reference tool that lists the chords included in any given key.
They can be used for songwriting, composing, teaching students, and getting musical inspiration. They provide a great base for musicians to add their own unique elements. In this article we provide a chord progression chart for both major and minor keys, so you can use them to write music in any key.
Chord Progression Basics
A chord progression is a series of chords played in a specific order. These chords are built from the notes of a scale and are combined to create harmony. Chord progressions are important because they help define the changes in a song and guide its harmonic movement.
Chord progressions are often described using Roman numerals that correspond to the degree of each chord in a particular key. For example, in the key of C major, the I chord is C major, the IV chord is F major, and the V chord is G major. This system allows you to easily transpose progressions to different keys.
Lastly, different chord progressions evoke different emotions. Major progressions generally sound bright and happy, while minor progressions often convey sadness or introspection.
While common progressions provide a solid foundation, don’t be afraid to experiment and create your own unique sequences. Music theory can guide you, but your ear and intuition are just as important.
Related: Major Chord Progressions
The Difference Between Major and Minor
One of the biggest differences between major and minor keys is the chord qualities in their progressions. The difference in chord quality between major and natural minor scales play a crucial role in creating the characteristic emotional and harmonic textures associated with each scale. Here are the qualities of both major and (natural) minor keys:
Major Scale Chord Qualities:
- Tonic (I): Major
- Supertonic (ii): Minor
- Mediant (iii): Minor
- Subdominant (IV): Major
- Dominant (V): Major
- Submediant (vi): Minor
- Leading Tone (vii°): Diminished
Natural Minor Scale Chord Qualities:
- Tonic (i): Minor chord
- Supertonic (ii°): Diminished chord
- Mediant (III): Major chord
- Subdominant (iv): Minor
- Dominant (v): Minor
- Submediant (VI): Major chord
- Subtonic (VII): Major chord
***When harmonizing melodies or composing chord progressions in minor keys, variations such as harmonic and melodic minor scales can be used to introduce further complexity and color to the chords.***
Related: Minor Chord Progressions
How To Read The Progression Charts
Reading the chord progression chart is pretty self explanatory. Just pick a key, pick some chords, and play them! Don’t forget to add your own melodies and embellishments to make your song unique.
These charts can be used for many different purposes including:
Transposition: Say you are working with a vocalist whose range is not in the original key, transposing a song to another key is a way to make the performance sound better and work for your vocalist. Similarly, say a major progression just doesn’t fit the vibe you are trying to convey, transposing the progression to a minor key is great for getting a somber and introspective quality to your music.
Gaining inspiration: All musicians face writer’s block at one point or another, and having a visual tool to help with progressions takes out a lot of difficult decision making when writing a song.
Teaching Others: The major and minor chord progression charts are also a great way to get your students to visualize the relationship between all keys.
Major Chord Progression Chart
Minor Chord Progression Chart
***Note that in minor keys the V chord is often major, taken from the harmonic minor scale, instead of the minor v chord found in the natural minor scale***
Common Chord Progressions
Time to put what you’ve learned into practice. Use the chord progression charts above to play these common chord progressions in different keys!
I IV V I
I V vi IV
ii V I
I vi IV V
vi IV I V
Related: Lo Fi Chord Progressions
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common chord progression ever?
One of the most common chord progressions in popular music is the I – IV – V progression. The I – IV – V progression is prevalent in various musical styles, including rock, pop, country, folk, blues, and more. It is typically the first progression you learn when learning to play an instrument.
What is the 1 3 5 rule for chords?
Chords are built back stacking 3rds (ternary). To build a chord you use the 1st scale degree (the root), the 3rd, and the 5th. We skip the 2nd and 4th degrees.
Related: Synthwave Chord Progressions
What is the 1 5 6 4 chord progression called?
The I V vi IV progression is also called the “Stand By Me” and the Doo Wop progression, this progression is a cliche in 50’s style music.
Related: Chord Progressions List
What is the saddest sounding chord progression?
Any progression in the minor key has the potential to sound very sad. Try playing any of the above progression in a minor key and you will hear how drastically the mood of the progression changes.
Related: Circle Of Fifths Chord Progressions
Chord progressions serve as the foundational framework for music, providing both harmony and emotional depth to compositions. By utilizing these charts, musicians can efficiently experiment with transpositions, generate new ideas, and guide students in understanding key relationships.
The distinction between major and minor keys lies in their unique chord qualities, shaping the emotional and harmonic character of the music.
Ultimately, these progressions empower musicians to express a range of emotions, from joy to melancholy, while allowing space for creativity and individual interpretation.
Related: How To Read Chord Progressions