Guitar Chord Progressions: Different Genres, Different Styles
Howdy! We are now discussing chord progressions. What is a chord? How can I make a chord? Memorizing hand shapes for your basic chords will help you a lot. Make sure that you can switch between chords in time. You will want to be able to switch from an A minor chord to a B minor chord in the fastest time possible. If you’re still struggling with doing barre chords, you will have to practice that first! Last but not the least, you have to be familiar with a lot of chords by now, and the different ways to play it. If you’re unsure of how to play a chord, you can use our Guitar Chord Chart article to run you through the standard ones first.
Chord and Scale Degree Review
So to look back, a chord is a group of three or more notes played together at the same time. They can either be in minor or major, and some others can be augmented or diminished. To determine which type of chord goes with another, you will need to know the degrees of each note in a scale. Since we always use C major as an example in our articles, let’s do a diagram in F major this time. Take note that the key of F has a B-flat by default:
In light of that, a song in the key of F major can have chords such as an F major (I); G minor (ii); A minor (iii); Bb major (IV); C major (V); D minor (vi); and an E diminished (vii°). Take note that the numerals that indicate its scale degree can either be major or minor. Minor chords are indicated with the small letter “m”. There are also other indicators such as the diminished symbol (°) and the augmented symbol (+).
Introduction to Chord Progressions
Since the scale diagram is just a reference for which chords are related to that key, you won’t hear songs in that linear pattern of chords. So far, I have not heard of any songs with the chords I-ii-iii-IV-V in that specific order. Most of the time, these chords are mixed up in a specifically-built pattern. Chord progressions are built for specific types of music or genres.
Take for example “Hey Jude” by the Beatles – this song is in the key of F major. Check out the tab below:
The first verse of this song uses the chords F-C-C7-F (I-V-V7-I) / Bb-F (IV-I) / C-C7-F (V-V7-I) progression. The V7 chord is just a C major triad with a 7th – C-E-G-Bb.
These roman numeral scale degrees have each their proper name. It goes as follows: Tonic (I), Supertonic (ii), Mediant (iii), Subdominant (IV), Dominant (V), Submediant (vi), and the leading tone (vii). The subtonic is the leading tone for a minor key
All in all, most songs follow a specifically built pattern of chords, or what we call “chord progressions”. These have been tried and tested over centuries and it is what everyone is comfortable hearing. Sure, you could try making your own, but it might not fly that well with the public. This is the same reason why you can create a medley of different songs from different genres without changing the chord progression. This chord pattern was built to succeed and to sell.
Ever wonder why some songs sound similar to other songs? It is because they follow the same chord progression. Well, all songs are differentiated by their key and tempo. If you follow the same progression, they will surely sound familiar. Watch the medley by Axis of Awesome below and you will see what I mean.
Should I make my own or should I follow suit?
As mentioned earlier, common chord progressions are already built to succeed. The music industry has succeeded for hundreds of years with just a handful of chord progressions. If you’re looking to become a popular musician, then standard chord progressions are for you! However, if you’re more of the experimental type, you can always mix and match your own chords and see if it works!
But since almost all types of music are built on chord progressions, let’s discuss some of the most used ones first.
Famous Chord Progressions
The Popular Progression (I-IV-V)
This chord progression is ancient! Composers from the Classical period were using the I-IV-V progression because it has a very welcoming sound that pleases the soul of everyone listening to it.
Here are some songs used in nursery rhymes: “Beverly Hills” by Weezer, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Happy Birthday song.
The Emotional Progression (I-V-vi-IV)
Such as in the video above, this progression is one of the most common. Simply put, the minor 6th (vi) chord adds the “twist” to the major tonality.
Songs that follow the I-V-vi-IV progression include “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga, “Hey Soul Sister” by Train, and “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi.
The 12-Bar Blues (I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-V)
This is simply an expansion of the Popular I-IV-V progression, but with a swing feel to it. Once you get the hang of the standard blues rhythm, you can jam or even compose your very own blues song!
Famous songs with this progression include “Welcome to My Life” by Simple Plan, “Wild Thing” by Jimi Hendrix, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones, “Good Riddance” by Green Day.
The Jazz Progression (ii-V-I)
Basic Jazz music uses this type of progression. Starting on the 2nd degree of the key, or the ii, gives the feeling of the song being in the minor key. However, it goes on to the major dominant and to the final chord which is both major. The resolution to the major chords give it a “happy ending”.
Some examples that include this progression are “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5, “If I Fell” by The Beatles, and “Autumn Leaves” by Joseph Kosma.
Andalusian / Flamenco (vi-V-IV-III [major]; i-VII-VI-V [minor])
The Andalusian cadence is the sweet sound you will hear in a Flamenco music. Flamenco has a specific groove into its structure. Most people categorize it in the dance genre. You can also call it a Diatonic Phrygian Cadence if you want to sound like a pro. You’re welcome.
This progression was used in these songs: “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz, “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera, “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin, and “Wild World” by Cat Stevens.
50s Progression (I-vi-IV-V)
This cadence was popularized in the 1950s and is still used up to date.
Songs that use this cadence include “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston, and “All My Loving” by the Beatles.
The Turnaround (V-IV-I)
This sequence of chords originated from the last part of the 12-bar blues. This progression is also called the blues turnaround. It “unwinds” the solid ending of a dominant-tonic or V-I by adding a subdominant (IV) in between them.
Examples include “Back In Black” by AC/DC and “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses.
Importance of Chord Progressions
First off, all these will prove useful later on especially when you’re suddenly put into the spotlight. Even if you don’t know that song, being familiar with the sound of the chord progression should easily get you in the groove.
Secondly, chord progressions are the bases for solos. You won’t know where your solo is going unless you know exactly what chord comes next. Knowing the sequence of chords gives you the freedom to move within that scale!
Last but not the least, chord progressions are the formulas to all types of songs. This is your foundation to becoming the song master in your music circle. You’ll easily learn any song on the go, just because you know what chord will come after another.
It’s won’t be that easy at first, but being familiar with these formulas should help train your ear as well. Apart from that, you also learn songs easier! You can even use these progressions to make your own song.
I’m a composer – how do I *not* sound like everyone else?
Simply put, you’ll only need to think about three things:
- Key – are you going for a D major key or an A minor?
- Genre – what type of music do you want to create?
- Tempo – are you doing a fast-paced song or a slow one?
- Rhythm – Should you go for a steady downbeat rhythm or a swingy feel?
All in all, chord progressions are essential to being a guitarist. This is the foundation for almost all songs, and familiarization with this should help you learn songs in the fastest time possible. We have in-house guitar teachers to help you step up your chord progression game! Join our community here in Guitar-Elite!