How To Write Chord Progressions - Songwriting Basics [Music Theory- Diatonic Chords]

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How to Create Chord Progression for a Song

This article will provide you with an introduction to building guitar chord progressions for a song. If you have learned 15–20 basic chords, then you may have noticed that some sound better together than others. The question therefore is, “Which ones?”


  1. Use the major or minor scale in whatever key your prefer to find potential chords for your progression.The C-Major scale, for example, contains the following notes in the following order:C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.This means that the following chords can all be a part of a song in C-major, so you can (and should) use them to create a chord progression in the key of C.
  2. Use Roman numerals to number the chords in your major scale, allowing you to make easy progressions.In this fashion, a pattern in any key can be represented “generically.” For example -- a common chord progression is I-IV-V. This just means that, no matter your key, you hit the 1st note/chord in the major scale, then the 4th, then the 5th.
    • For example:In C-major, the I is a C, the IV is an F, and the V is a G.
  3. Kick off your song with the root, or chord that matches your key.The I chord is called the root or tonic chord. It forms the base to which the other chords in a progression relate. Many books and other websites go into great detail about music theory, and there are many terms that you should ultimately learn and understand, but basic chord progressions always start with this "tonic."
  4. Learn common chord progressions to get used to the flow of songs.The first, the fourth, and the fifth (I – IV – V) are chords that sound good together in a progression for most genres of music. So, for the example in the Key of E-major, your thumb (I) would be E, your ring finger (IV) would be A, and your pinky (V) would be B. In time, you will learn these “chord sets”, but for now you should feel free to experiment. Other common progressions include:
    • I-V-vi-IV -- here, the sixth chord (vi) is played as aminor chord.This is why it is lowercase. It is sometimes switched up (in the chorus, or bridge) to vi–IV–I–V.
    • vi-V-IV-V -- Great over many genres.
    • The 12-bar blues.
    • ii-V-I -- here, the IV chord is replaced by its submediant, ii. The ii chord is a very commonly used replacement for IV. ii-V-I also makes the foundation for descending fifths.(iii-vi-ii-V-I)
  5. Change the type of chord (minor, blues, minor seventh chords, etc.)to change the feel of the song without changing chord progression.. Sadder songs often use minor chords. You can adjust the type of chord while still following the root notes in your chord changes to make a great song in any genre, while still keeping the progression simple.
    • So, to play the blues in C using the 3-chord theory, strum C for four bars, F for two bars, a couple more C, then a bar of G7th, a bar of F, and back to C again… C///, C///, C///, C///, F///, F///, C///, C///, G7th///, F///, C///…
  6. Use the minor scale to create progressions, instead of the major.Once you have chord progressions down with the major scale, how do they sound with a different one? Note, however, that the classic I-IV-V chord progression is the exact same in major and minor keys..
    • The C-minor scale is:C-D-E♭-F-G-A♭-B♭-C.The I-IV-V chord progression is then C-F-G, just like before. But what happens with an I-V-vi-V progression? How do the progressions sound different with just one changed chord?

Community Q&A

  • Question
    In a music session, if someone calls a tune in C, what chords do I play?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You can choose from: C major (7th), D minor (7th), E minor (7th), F major (7th), G, G7, A minor (7th) and B half diminished, The most common are C, F, G, A minor, E minor and D minor.
  • Question
    How do I find the chords of songs without using instruments?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    There are two ways to do this. 1.) If you have the recessive gene for perfect pitch, lucky you! 2.) Determine the chord by looking at the notes and matching the name of the chord. This may take some practice, but you'll get used to it.
  • Question
    Can I create chord progressions without using bar chords?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, although certain chords have to be played barred. There are always alternatives to a chord, but it's best to learn how to play a bar chord instead of trying to avoid it.
  • Question
    How do I create a jazz song?
    ArcherArcade Wizard
    Community Answer
    For the chords, you should first look into chord extensions, like sevenths. A lot of music theory is involved with jazz, so you should learn that. If you have a jazz song in your head, you could record your voice singing the melodies and arpeggiating the chords.
  • Question
    Does the same apply for a minor keys with chord progression?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes. If you want to know better how to write chord progressions in minor keys, major keys, and every other type of key, you can use a "circle of 5ths" to figure out the notes you should use.
  • Question
    Can someone explain the concept of a key? What does it mean?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    A key says what notes we sharp/flat. For example, in G, you'd play F#, not F, unless a natural sign is next to it.
  • Question
    Why do I need minor chords in a chord progression?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You do not need minor chords in a progression. The only things you need in a chord progression are chords.
  • Question
    What kind of key would the D7 to A minor to E minor chords belong? Also what is the Roman numeral progression for those chords?
    Rene Wolthuis Johnson
    Community Answer
    You could use these combinations instead: Key of a minor, use am, dm or DM, EM or E7: i, iv or IV, V or V7. For a key of DM, use DM, em, A7: I ii V7. For a key of dm, use dm, em, AM or A7: i, ii, V or V7 and finally for a key of em, use em, am or AM, BM or B7: i iv or IV, V or V7.
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  • Take time to practice; with repetition, it becomes easier and faster.
  • Keep on trying if you don't get the hang of what you are doing.

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Date: 15.12.2018, 03:26 / Views: 84465