What is a chord progression?
You can learn to hear the roman numerals
Watch These Videos
Hear a chord progression as numbers
Start by finding a key center
All songs have a key center, this means that a song is “in the key of”. Every key has seven chords and you can number them from one to seven using Roman Numerals.
In the key of C, we have these chords: C – Dm – Em – F – G – Am – Bdim. To replace these with roman numerals you simply number them, like this:
C (I) – Dm (II) – Em (III) – F (IV) – G (V) – Am (VI) – Bdim (VII)
Let’s take the song The Drugs Don’t Work as an example.
The verse chord progression is C – Am – Em, followed by F – G – C
This makes the roman numerals: I – VI – III and IV – V – I.
Whenever you learn a song, you should always work out what its Roman Numerals are.
Hear the roman numerals
As there are only seven chords available, you will soon start to see different combinations that pop up in songs, these are called chord progressions.
For example, the IV – V – I progression that we had at the end of The Drugs Don’t Work is super common and can be found in thousands of popular songs.
By seeing them as numbers you can start hearing them as sounds. Do this and it doesn’t matter what key we are in. A – B – E, for example, is the same progression as F – G – C, just in a different key.
As long as we translate a chord letter to a number we can start this journey of understanding music. Eventually, you’ll be able to hear and even predict chord progressions.
What’s important to understand is that every chord, seen as a number, has a certain sound.
We examine this concept further in the guitar course using actual songs.
Explain Any Song
What you’ve seen here is the foundation to understanding music. It is the chord progression that supports the melody, it’s the chord progression that determines the key and hints any modulations or variations.
In intermediate chord progressions, you find out about possible variations to these seven chords. Together, with these first seven chords, they can explain any song, no matter what style.
The secret to understanding chord progressions, lies within taking note when playing actual songs.
Only this will make the connection between the Roman Numeral and the actual sound clear. Only now can the language of the chord progression be understood.
Talking About A Revolution – Step 1
We simply apply the same pattern to Em, D, and Cadd9.
Redemption Song – Step 1
Before we look at all the different chord progressions, let’s first establish what chords are available in the key.
Go to Redemption Song – Step 1.
Robin Hood – Step 1
We touched on this as you played Redemption Song with the G/B, today we learn a D/F# as we play the verse from Robin Hood.
Go to Robin Hood – Step 1.
One More Cup Of Coffee – Step 1
Only four chords are used in this song. Instead of feeling at home with chord I, we find our home in chord VI as this song is “in minor”.
The Drugs Don’t Work – Step 1
Today we start looking at a new song in The Verve’s monster hit The Drugs Don’t Work.
The chords are all from the key of C. Let’s start by looking at the chord progression and how we can extend the chords.
Time Of Your Life – Step 1
As the chord progression is pretty fast, take your time. It’s much better if you can play it well at a slow speed than fast but not accurately.
Go to Time Of Your Life – Step 1.
Wonderwall – Step 1
This will enable you to more clearly hear the difference the extensions make, once we add them.
Go to Wonderwall – Step 1.
Rewind – Step 1
In this step, we focus on the chords and the progression. Just like in One More Cup Of Coffee, chord III has become IIIx.
Go to Rewind – Step 1.
Ain’t No Sunshine – Step 1
This is a modern standard, expect it to come up in many jam sessions and gigs.
Go to Ain’t No Sunshine – Step 1.
What exercises should you practice to warm-up and improve your technique? How do you understand and change the key of a song?
Go to Beginner Guitar Exercises.
Not only will learning songs help you with switching between chords and improve your rhythm playing. Songs also hold the key to how music works theoretically.
Go to Beginner Guitar Course.
Beginner Acoustic Songs
Go to Beginner Acoustic Songs.
Including detailed, but bite-sized explanations on how the music theory of each song is applied to the neck.
Go to Monthly Subscription.