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CHAPTER 6:
How Chords and Chord Progressions
REALLY Work
  
6.18 Ten Chord Progression Guidelines

 

The information in this book is organized sequentially. So  this section on Ten Chord Progression Guidelines will probably make more sense if you first read Chapter 3, Chapter 4Chapter 5. and the first parts of Chapter 6.

  

PAGE INDEX
  

6.18.1  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#1): Start with the Circular Harmonic Scale as Your Basic Chord Progression Framework

6.18.2  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#2): Learn How to Use Chase Charts to See How a Song’s Chord Progression Actually Works

6.18.3  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#3): Use the Chord Progression Chart (Appendix 3) to Save Time and Avoid Frustration

6.18.4  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#4): Take Advantage of
     Tonic Chord Stability
6.18.5  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#5): Take Advantage of
     Dominant Chord Instability
6.18.6  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#6): Make Structured Use
      of Chords of the Same Type
6.18.7  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#7): Take Advantage of

     Major Triad Consonance to Progress to Chords Built on the

     Same Root

6.18.8  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#8): Try Not to Commit the Sin of Monotony—Use Modulation, Variant Chords, Chromatic Chords

6.18.9  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#9): Keep in Mind the Emotions People Associate with Chords

6.18.10  10 Chord Progression Guidelines (#10): Use a Roedy Black Chord Chart to Save Time, and to Avoid Interrupting Your Creative Flow

 

~ • ~ • ~ • ~

 

 

Use these 10 guidelines or rules of thumb as you craft your chord progressions. If you do, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever create an unpalatable progression.


Here’s the first guideline.

 


6.18.1

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#1): START WITH THE CIRCULAR HARMONIC SCALE AS YOUR BASIC CHORD PROGRESSION FRAMEWORK

To secure and preserve harmonic unity, always use the harmonic scale as your starting point, a basic chord progression framework.

     In popular music, you only have three or four minutes to make a complete musical statement. Using the harmonic scale as your basic organizing framework makes it easy for you to establish tonality. As already mentioned, that’s the purpose of a four- or eight-bar instrumental introduction to a song.


     If you don't establish tonality, the ear just hears random chords and tones, and gets confused or bored quickly.


     Establishing a harmonic centre early also enables you to create harmonic contrast (see Guideline #4 below).

 


6.18.2

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#2): LEARN HOW TO USE CHASE CHARTS TO SEE HOW A SONG’S CHORD PROGRESSION ACTUALLY WORKS


A Chase chart is a diagram that maps how the chord progression for any song actually works, revealing the nature of its effectiveness—or lack of effectiveness.


Use Chase charts to map the chord progressions of your own songs, or songs you’ve heard that intrigue you.


     As you’ve seen in this chapter, you don’t need to know how to read or write music notation. Chase charts are easy to sketch and will save you a lot of time while providing you with some real insight on how to create palatable-sounding chord progressions for your own tunes.

 


6.18.3

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#3): USE THE CHORD PROGRESSION CHART (APPENDIX 1) TO SAVE TIME AND AVOID FRUSTRATION


Roedy Black’s Chord Progression Chart, reproduced in Appendix 1, shows the harmonic scales, including Nashville Numbers, for all 12 major and minor keys.


Use the Chord Progression Chart to quickly sketch Chase charts and work out chord progressions for your own material.



6.18.4

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#4): TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TONIC CHORD STABILITY

Here's another good reason to make sure you do establish tonality right away (see Guideline #1):


Moving to any chord—even to a chromatic chord—from the tonic chord sounds palatable to the ear, once you’ve established tonality.

 

     The tonic chord is the stable bedrock chord of the key. So if you move to a chromatic chord from the tonic chord, like this


C – B♭ – C (in the key of C major)


it’s usually a good idea to return to the tonic chord (or at least to a chord in the harmonic scale) right away to preserve the sense of tonality (assuming you’re not modulating).



6.18.5

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#5): TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DOMINANT CHORD INSTABILITY


The dominant seventh chord is inherently unstable (all dominant-seventh type chords contain the tritone; minor sevenths do not) and can therefore serve as a transition chord to another chord. The dominant seventh is probably the most useful and versatile of all chords.

 

Any chord can always progress to any dominant seventh chord without sounding unpalatable.


     But watch out when you go the other way. Moving from a dominant seventh to its own major or minor chord does not sound palatable. For example, try to avoid doing this:


G7 – G


or


G7 – Gm


or at least have a very good reason for doing it.



6.18.6

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#6): MAKE STRUCTURED USE OF CHORDS OF THE SAME TYPE


You can use sequences of the same type of chord any time:

 

Moving from any chord to any other chord of the same type sounds palatable to the ear.

 

You should do it in some organized manner, such as progressing in intervals that are the same distance apart.


For example:


C – G – D – A – E (the classic song, “Hey Joe”)


sounds palatable, even though it’s moving against the “natural” (clockwise) flow of the harmonic scale, because all the chords are of the same type (major triads).


     If you reverse the chord sequence, like this:


E – A – D – G – C


the progression sounds more natural because it goes with the flow, the natural direction around the harmonic scale. The chords of most great songs progress in this general direction.


     Another way to string together three or more chords of the same type is to progress along a scale of chord roots (up or down). For example, going up:


C9♭5 – D9♭5 – E9♭5 – F9♭5 – G9♭5


or going down:


G9♭5 – F9♭5 – E9♭5 – D9♭5 – C9♭5


     Yet another way to do this is to use a sequence of chords—one set of chords followed by a second, different set of the same chord type, repeated in the same pattern. Like this:


Cm7 – Dm7 – Fm7


followed by (in a parallel phrase or sub-phrase):


Bm7 – C♯m7 – Em7


     When you string together three or more chords of the same type, the chord type itself doesn’t matter. You can even use extended chords such as 9th, 11th, or 13th chords, so long as you preserve the same chord type throughout the progression.


   

6.18.7

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#7): TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MAJOR TRIAD CONSONANCE TO PROGRESS TO CHORDS BUILT ON THE SAME ROOT

  

Progression from consonant to dissonant works.

 

Moving from a major triad to any other chord built on the same root sounds palatable to the ear.


     For example:


C – C9


or


C – Cm7


     A major triad is a consonant chord, so moving from a consonant chord to a dissonant chord (i. e., any chord except a major or minor triad) built on the same root (in the above examples, the root is the note C) does not introduce the potential problems of harmonic confusion that dissonant-to-consonant progressions (built on the same root) create, such as C7– C or C7–Cm.

    


6.18.8

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#8): TRY NOT TO COMMIT THE SIN OF MONOTONY—USE MODULATION, VARIANT CHORDS, CHROMATIC CHORDS


 There are several ways to create variety in your chord progressions:

 

Without losing harmonic cohesion, go for some variety in your chord progressions.


Here are some ways and means, covered in this chapter:


1.  Modulation:

 

Once you’ve established tonality, you can use at least four tasteful methods of modulating (changing keys):


     1.  Pivot chord modulation


     2.  Relative key modulation


     3.  Parallel key modulation


     4.  Sequential modulation

 

     Avoid using shift modulation unless you really know what you’re

     doing and have a good reason for doing it

 

2.  Chord Variants:

 

You can make a chord progression harmonically interesting simply by replacing the default chords at any of the seven harmonic scale degrees. You have upwards of 30 variant chords to choose from for each scale degree.

 

You can use more than one chord variant at each harmonic scale position in the same song.


 

3.  Chromatic Chords:

 

Using chromatic chords is not difficult, but you have to be careful not to go overboard, or you’ll blur tonality. Review the examples earlier in this chapter.


     These are only guidelines. You don’t have to try to modulate or use chord variants or chromatic chords every time you sit down to compose a tune. As you know, many many excellent songs only have two or three chords—a couple of simple triads and maybe a seventh. But they usually have something else going for them, such as a knockout melody or a gripping lyric.



6.18.9

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#9): KEEP IN MIND THE EMOTIONS PEOPLE ASSOCIATE WITH CHORDS


Refer to the list of descriptors in Table 52 once in a while.

 

As you create your progressions, keep in mind that most people associate certain harmonies with more or less identifiable emotions.


6.18.10

10 CHORD PROGRESSION GUIDELINES (#10): USE A ROEDY BLACK CHORD CHART TO SAVE TIME, AND TO AVOID INTERRUPTING YOUR CREATIVE FLOW

 

Two reference charts provide instant access to the fingering diagrams for all the different types of chords in each key. They also show the chords of the harmonic scale for every key, together with their Nashville Numbers.


Use Roedy Black’s Complete Guitar Chord Poster or Complete Keyboard Chord Poster to avoid wasting time looking up chords in books, computers, or chord-finder gizmos.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~

 

This is the end of the 400-page FREE part of How Music REALLY Works!, online edition. Click on the "Next" arrow below to see what's in the rest of the book.

 

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~ • ~ • ~ • ~

 

        
 

 

 

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 TABLE OF
 CONTENTS

  

 PART I

 The Big Picture    Introduction

   1. W-5 of Music
  
2. Pop Music
   
    Industry

  
 PART II
 Essential
 Building Blocks
 of Music
   3.
Tones/Overtones
   4. Scales/Intervals
   5. Keys/Modes
 
 PART III
 How to Create
 Emotionally
 Powerful Music
 and Lyrics
   6.
Chords/
  
      Progressions

   7. Pulse/Meter/
  
      Tempo/Rhythm

   8. Phrase/Form
   9. Melody
 10. Lyrics
 11. Repertoire/
     
  Performance

  

 PART IV
 Making a
 Living In Music
 12.
Business of
   
     Music

 
 Appendixes

   

 Notes

   

 References

  

 Index
  

 

   Top

 

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