Some Common Chord Progressions

There's nothing wrong with going back to the basics for songwriting.

One great advantage of using common chord progressions is that you are giving familiar ground to your listener. Generally, they will relate to your song far quicker than something more departed. Also, for a beginner songwriter it can be a challenge knowing just which chords to put together. Often it's a process of trial and error or borrowing ideas from other songs. Both of those techniques are fine. They really work.

Sometimes a beginner wants to feel more in control or more creative. Sometimes they want to write a song in such a way that it sounds 'composed' in a more professional way, and less like someone was fumbling over their instrument trying to get something to work. Or they might have sounds in their head and need some direction on how to get them out of their head and onto their instrument.

And, of course, those who are already proficient at songwriting don't want to get caught in a rut. We all need new influences, new inspiration. How many times have you heard of a huge artist stating they wanted to go back to their roots for a while? To explore where it all began for them. Often that brings great results too.

As you have most likely worked out  in today's post we're getting down to the basics of putting some chords together. If you have a grasp of music theory up your sleeve then you're probably a few steps ahead already and are hopefully thinking, "what if I tried this with 7th chords", or, "you know I haven't really used a diminished chord. I might try that." So, my skilled chordists (that's a word, right) I leave you to it and will focus on learner songwriters. Let's take a look at the chart.

 chart of common chord progressions

You can see that the top part is divided into two main sections - Major keys and minor keys. The panel to the left shows you which chords out of all the possible chords in any key are used to make that progression. It should be easy enough to see that a First-Fourth progression uses the first and fourth chords of a particular key. In music chord increments are given in roman numerals, I, ii, iii, IV and so on.

Click on the image to learn more about songwriting.

Click on the image to learn more about songwriting.

Skip down to the bottom chart. It gives a few examples for you. You can use that as a base for working out chord progressions. If you check along the C Major row of that bottom chart you can see that the 1st chord (I) is C Major and the fourth chord (IV) is F Major. Therefore the first and fourth chord combination is C Major and F Major. A first and fifth combination is C Major and G Major.

You can now use the top chart to work out some common chord progressions for any key whether Major or minor. If you don't know how to work out chords in different keys that's a different subject which takes a while to explain. See how you go with the examples in the bottom chart.

Because the 12 Bar and 8 Bar blues are also common progressions we've thrown them in too. You can also create versions of those progressions using the examples at the bottom of the diagram.

Okay, then. Hope you got some inspiration out of this. Happy Songwriting.

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