What are chord progressions? They are a series of two or more chords included in a music piece. Roman numerals are used to denote the chords in a progression, which are determined by the key.
Chord progressions, from Beach House to Beethoven, dictate how a piece of music develops over time. They also contribute significantly to the narrative of your song.
This helpful chart will simplify things as much as possible and give the fundamentals, along with a couple of great tools for those of you who aren’t musically trained.
The majority of contemporary music uses a variety of relatively common chord progressions, and some of them just sound better to the ear. While experimentation is a smart approach here, there are specific general guidelines to follow while looking for good chord progressions.
To begin, we must acquire a basic understanding of notation. Chords are denoted by the Roman numeral system, with lower case indicating minor chords and upper case indicating major chords. So, it is as follows:
Major chord: I, II, III, etc.
Minor chord: i, ii, iii, etc.
Augmented chord: I+, II+, III+, etc.
Diminished chord: vi°, vii°, etc.
Half-diminished chord: viiØ7, etc.
Extended chords: ii7, V9, V13, etc.
Altered tones or chords: #iv, ii#7
Now, we’re almost ready to use the chart to experiment with chord progressions, starting from our starting chord of choice.
But how to identify the Major chord I, II, III, etc. and Minor chord i, ii, iii, etc, for the starting chord?
Well, You figure this out by taking your root note (the first note of your chord) and counting semitones. Here’s a handy chart.
Assuming we opened with an AMajor chord (A being the root note) and want to get the minor 6th of this chord. We’d start at A on the keyboard and count up 8 semitones using the intervals chart. You will eventually arrive at F. Thus, Fminor is A’s minor 6th. (Forgot where your A, B, C, and so on are located? (As a refresher, here is a list.)
We may now begin using some common charts to assist us in determining chord progressions. Let’s use the chart below to create a Major chord progression. As you recall, we opened with an AMaj. Because this is our initial chord, denoted by the letter “I” on the chart. (Big “I” indicates that this is a Major chord) Following that, we may select any chord.
Let’s proceed to vi (you’ve learned to read this as a 6th because the Roman number is 6 and we want a minor.) As you recall from our last example, the minor 6th of our root note A is Fminor.
Now, looking at the chart, our remaining minor6 possibilities are ii or IV.
Let us start with IV. Our intervals chart indicates that a perfect 4th is five semitones from the root note. Thus, counting five semitones from our root note of A, we arrive at a D. Due to the size of the “IV,” we know we’re playing a Major chord. Thus, it is a DMaj.
Now, we have a choice between V and viio. Let us stick with V. We’d utilize the same procedure to determine this. Using the chart, we can count up seven semitones from A to reach E. Because the “IV” is so huge, we’re going to use a major chord. Therefore, EMajor.
Lastly, V takes us back to I
Our completed chord progression is as follows: I→vi→IV→V→I.
That’s excellent; now we can experiment with the different major chord progression choices available to us and find one we prefer.
What if we open with a minor chord?
Minor scale chord progressions are quite similar to major scale chord progressions.
A minor progression chart appears as follows:
Thus, if we began with an AMin and chose “III,” we want the Major 3rd of our root note. As we can see, a Major 3rd is 4 semitones higher than our root note of A. This brings us to C#. Due to the size of the “III,” we’re going with a Major chord. That is a C#Maj. And so forth.
Practice with this by obtaining a beginning chord, determining the iii, II, and so on using the intervals chart, and then determining the next progression using the progressions chart.
Over time, you’ll develop an affinity for certain patterns… and, unsurprisingly, are found in a large number of songs you’re already familiar with.
By the way, if you’re unsure how to create the next chord in your progression after using the interval chart to determine what it is, you may use this to determine where to place your fingers for each chord.
Finally, you are NOT REQUIRED to follow these charts – music allows for exceptions. However, this is an excellent approach to discover progressions that work and to begin developing a grasp of chord progressions, which may lead to your own exploration.
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