Can Use “Maps” of Harmonic Scales to Create Beautiful,
6.8.2 What’s a Chase Chart?
6.8.3 What Does a Chase Chart Look Like?
6.8.4 How to Sketch a Chase Chart
6.8.5 Sources of Harmonic Scale Chords with Nashville Numbers
for Every Key
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In the following sections, you’ll find out how
you can use visual “maps” of harmonic scales to:
strong chord progressions that move by fifths,
thirds, seconds, chromatically, or in combinations.
2. Modulate from any key to any other key and back again.
endless variety in chord progressions by substituting chord variants at any of
the seven positions in the “default” circular harmonic scale. (You can
substitute 30 or more different types of chords at each of the seven
positions—chords such as minor sixths, minor sevenths, major sevenths, ninths,
and so on.)
4. Use multiple chord variants at any of the seven positions in
the harmonic scale within the same song.
also learn a fast, easy way to visually differentiate chord progressions that
sound strong and appealing from chord progressions that sound weak and
To do all this, you need to learn how to draw a little map-like
diagram called a Chase chart.
It’s a circular harmonic scale diagram, a “map”
of a chord progression, that enables you to eyeball a chord progression for any
With a Chase chart, you can actually see chord progressions at
charts are easy to learn to sketch, and wickedly effective. You don’t need to
know anything about reading music. If you use Chase charts in your own
songwriting, the results will amaze you.
You can sketch a Chase chart for any of your own songs or any
other songs you choose. Suppose, for example, you hear a song
that has a particularly striking, compelling chord progression. Want
to know exactly what makes it striking and compelling?
You can find out in a only few minutes by doing a Chase chart.
can use Chase charts to visually explore the chord progressions of any kind of
song, any genre—pop, rock, jazz, country, folk, blues, you name it. Even
The discussion coming up shows you examples of Chase charts
for the following selection of great songs of diverse genres (Table
46), most from the GSSL.
Chase Charts of a Selection of Songs (Comin’ Up)
“All Along The
“Bridge Over Troubled Water”
“Five Foot Two”
“Free Man In Paris”
“Georgia On My Mind”
“Girl From Ipanema”
“Heart And Soul”
“I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’”
“I Heard It Through The
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
“It Was A Very
“Midnight Train To Georgia”
“One Fine Day”
“Return To Sender”
“Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay”
“Star Spangled Banner”
“Three Bells (Jimmy Brown Song)”
“Tracks Of My Tears”
“Trouble In Mind”
“Walking After Midnight”
“When A Man Loves A Woman”
Using Chase charts, you will soon see precisely how and why the
chord progressions of these brilliant songs work. And how you can
apply the chord progression techniques in your own songwriting.
To do a Chase chart of any song’s chord
progression, you need the following:
1. A pencil or pen and some paper.
lyric sheet showing the chords for the song. You can use a lead sheet if you
want to, but you don’t need the melody. Just the chords.
3. Instructions on how to do Chase chart. Coming up
first, here’s an example of what a Chase chart looks like (Figure 59). As you
can see, it’s just an innocent-looking little diagram—a harmonic scale diagram
that “maps” the pattern of the song’s chord progression. Small and simple—but it
packs a powerful punch. (Chase charts can get pretty elaborate.)
Chase Chart of “Heartbreak Hotel” (Words and Music by Hoyt Axton’s Mom, Mae
Boren Axton, 1956)
of a Chase chart diagram as a “map” of a song’s chord progression. The above
example illustrates Chase chart basics:
circle is the harmonic scale for a particular key. You can use whatever key you
like. In this example, the key happens to be E major / C♯ minor.
• Numbered arrows point from one chord to the next chord in
first arrow (numbered “1") has a little circle at its base, signifying the
beginning of the chord progression.
makes Chase charts so useful in songwriting is that they reveal certain specific
patterns and characteristics, which you’ll learn from the upcoming examples.
These patterns visually disclose the strengths, weaknesses, and potential appeal
of various chord changes.
Draw a small circle, perhaps a couple of inches (5 cm) in diameter.
Make seven tick marks around the circle:
• One at the very bottom in the middle,
• Two at the top, like little horns,
• Two on the left side, and two on the right side.
Try to space the seven tick marks more or less equally, as in Figure
Chase Chart Outline
add the harmonic scale’s Nashville Numbers to the inside
of the circle. Draw a small circle around VIm and I. These are the
minor and major tonic chords (Figure 61 below).
IMPORTANT: The Nashville Numbers around the inside of the
circular harmonic scale never change. Ever. The Nashville Numbers around
the inside of the circle are the “default” chords. They serve as your reference
points. However, as you’ll see in a second, the chords around the outside of the circular harmonic scale can vary
quite a bit.
If you forget which Nashville Numbers belong to which tick
marks, you can look them up at the back in Appendix 1, Roedy Black’s Chord
Chase Chart Showing Nashville
Numbers and Circled Tonic Chords
Next, add the specific chords for the key of the song whose
chord progression you want to have a look at. These go around the
outside of the circle. You can get them from the Chord Progression
Chart, Appendix 1 (Figure 62):
Chase Chart with Nashville Numbers Around the Inside, and Chords for the Key of
E Major / C♯ Minor Around the Outside
So far, you have the harmonic scale for the key of the song.
Next, you will need to draw some arrows inside the circle,
connecting the chords of the song in sequence. But first ...
Roedy Black’s Chord Progression Chart, reproduced in Appendix
shows the harmonic scale chords and Nashville Numbers for all 12
pairs of keys (major and relative minor).
The Chase chart in Figure 62 above is the same as the first
diagram in the middle column of the Chord Progression Chart.
Another source of harmonic scale chords with Nashville Numbers
in every key is Roedy Black’s Complete Guitar Chord Poster, which
is available at
The left side of this large laminated poster shows the fingering
positions for the specific harmonic scale chords in every key.
(Harmonic scales are exclusive components of
series of music reference charts.)
63 below shows a segment of this poster (upper left, smaller than actual size).
Under the heading “PRINCIPAL CHORDS,” you can see the following Nashville
I (tonic chord of the major key),
IV (subdominant chord), and
V7 (dominant seventh chord).
the heading “RELATIVE MINOR,” you can see the following Nashville Numbers:
VIm (tonic chord of the relative minor key),
IIm (subdominant chord of the relative minor), and
III7 (dominant seventh chord of the relative minor).
The column under each Nashville Number shows the specific
corresponding harmonic scale chords and fingering positions for
each key. (Each horizontal color band shows the chords of a
Upper Left Segment of
Roedy Black’s Complete Guitar Chord Poster, Showing Harmonic Scale Chords
("PRINCIPAL CHORDS” and “RELATIVE MINOR")
Figure 64 below shows a segment of
Roedy Black’s Complete Keyboard Chord Poster with the same information as displayed in
Figure 63 above.
Upper Left Segment of
Roedy Black’s Complete Keyboard Chord Poster, Showing Harmonic Scale Chords
(“PRINCIPAL CHORDS” and “RELATIVE MINOR”)
These two charts also show you the Nashville Number for each
individual chord in each key (Figure 65 below). So you don’t have to figure
anything out or look anything up.
Close-up Section of
Roedy Black’s Compete Guitar Chord Poster Showing Nashville
Numbers for Each Chord
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