What is a chord progression?
You can learn to hear the roman numerals
Watch This Video
Hear the 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.
As you hear and see the chords played, sing-along saying the chord numbers of the verse progression.
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.
Chord progression summary
What you’ve seen here is the foundation for 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.
All scales, arpeggios, arpeggio substitutions, you name it, it’s always done in the language of the chord progression.
The secret to understanding chord progressions lie within taking note when playing actual songs.
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.
We all have to start somewhere, but for how long do you strum simple songs? What do you need to know to play real songs?
What exercises should you practice to warm-up and improve your technique? How do you understand and change the key of a chord progression of a song?
Go to Beginner Guitar Exercises.
Learning how to play guitar is best done through playing and learning from songs.
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.
Ain’t No Sunshine, The Drugs Don’t Work, One More Cup Of Coffee, Redemption Song, Rewind, Robin Hood, Talking About A Revolution, Time Of Your Life, and Wonderwall.
Go to Beginner Acoustic Songs.
Including detailed, but bite-sized explanations on how the music theory of each song is applied to the neck.
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