May 11, 2023

Chord Progressions for Songwriters

Writing a song is no easy task, and one of the most important components of a great song is its chord progression. Chord progressions can create an atmosphere that reflects the mood of the lyrics or set up an exciting hook for listeners to enjoy. For new and experienced songwriters alike, understanding chord progressions is essential for creating successful music. In this article we will discuss some popular chord progressions used by top songwriters in a variety of genres.

Popular Chord Progressions

Songwriting is an art that has been around since the beginning of time. Each songwriter creates a unique blend of music, lyrics, and rhythm to create a beautiful piece that speaks to their audience. But what is the key to creating a successful song? Using popular chord progressions may be the answer.Popular chord progressions are common transitions between chords used in different genres of music. These progressions can be found in pop songs, rock songs, blues tunes, country hits, and more! Knowing these progressions can help give your song structure. A few popular examples include: I-IV-V (1-4-5), I-V-vi-IV (1–5-6-4), and ii-V-I (2-5-1).Uppercase numerals represent major chords while lowercase numerals represent minor chords. This notation helps songwriters recognize the difference between major and minor keys and creates an easy-to-read pattern that communicates the flow of the song.

Chord Progression I-IV-V (1-4-5)

One of the most used progressions in all genres of music is known as the I-IV-V (1-4-5) progression. It consists of three chords that are diatonic (contained within) the key of the song and can provide a great foundation for both experienced and novice songwriters alike.The I-IV-V progression typically consists of tonic (I), subdominant (IV), and dominant (V) chords in any given key. This pattern can be heard in classics such as “Twist And Shout” by The Beatles, “La Bamba” by Los Lobos, or even more recently “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction.

Chord Progression I-V-vi-IV (1-5-6-4)

The I-V-vi-IV (1–5-6-4) consists of the root (I), fifth (V), minor sixth (vi), and fourth (IV). This progression has been widely used in popular music over the years in many different genres such as pop, rock, folk and jazz. It provides a great starting point for writing catchy melodies and creating interesting harmonic structures for your songs.This chord progression is found in pop classics like Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and modern hits such as Taylor Swift's "All Too Well".

Chord Progression ii-V-I (2-5-1)

The ii-V (2-5-1) progression consists of three chords: a two chord (also known as minor), a five chord (also known as dominant), and a one chord (known as major). These chords create an ascending feeling that leads to resolution when reaching the one chord at the end.You can find examples of this progression in “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5 and "Wanted Man" by Johnny Cash.

Pop Chord Progressions

Pop music stands out from other genres because it relies heavily on catchy melodies and memorable hooks. Songwriters experiment with different instrumentation and vocal styles to create something truly unique and captivating for listeners.The pop genre's use of simple chord progressions makes it easy to remember and enjoyable to listen to. The I-V-vi-IV chord progression is one of the most commonly used progressions in pop songs.

Rock Chord Progressions

Rock songs often use the I-vi-IV-V chord progression. In its simplest form, it consists of four chords that are repeated throughout the song. In the key of C major, this would be C-Am-F-G.Chord progressions in rock often focus on power chords and open chords such as E major or A minor, playing off the low end of the guitar or bass to provide a strong foundation for the melody. Creative use of dissonance is also a common element in modern rock songs; this type of chord choice creates tension and helps drive the energy forward.

Country Chord Progressions

Country music favors the I-IV-V chord progression. It's a chord structure that uses three chords: the tonic (I), subdominant (IV) and dominant (V). This is a simple and effective way to create a catchy melody.The country genre often draws influence from traditional folk music. Generally speaking, country songs tend to be more conventional with their chord progressions and focus mainly on three-chord progressions.

Jazz Chord Progressions

Jazz contains many different subgenres such as swing, big band, bebop and more. Its roots are deep in African American culture.The major ii-V-I (2-5-1) is easily the most important jazz chord progression to get a handle on when it comes to jazz. The minor ii-V-i progression is similar to the major ii-V-I and has a similar function in a minor key.Some other common jazz chord progressions are the V-I (5-1), the ii-V (2-5), and the I-IV (1-4). A few of the chords even have nicknames. The Secondary Dominant is known as the "five of five," while the Tritone Substitution is often called the "Tritone Sub."

The Best Way to Learn Chord Progressions

Writing songs is a creative and rewarding experience. As a songwriter, understanding chord progressions can help you create better melodies. One of the best ways to learn chord progressions is by learning songs in that style.By analyzing existing material, you can quickly get an idea of what works in a certain genre. Strumming through familiar chords can give you a good starting point for experimentation.Learning well-known tunes will also help build up your repertoire of standard progressions. Once these become second nature, it’s much easier to move onto more complex patterns with confidence.

Learn Chord Progressions at Visible

Music has been a driving force throughout the ages, and it’s no surprise that aspiring songwriters want to learn more about creating chord progressions. Visible Music College offers songwriting courses in both a Certificate Program and Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Music. Students receive instruction on topics such as fundamentals of harmony, melody and rhythm writing, chord progressions, arranging techniques, improvisation, and music technology.

About the author