What are the essential chord progressions?

MikeMcK

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,802
The history of a lot of pop & rock can be boiled down to:
I - IV - V
I - vi - VI - V
I - V - vi - IV

I wouldn't want to try it, but I'd bet someone could get away with an entire 4-hour gig doing nothing but those. And someone who's just getting into soloing could play major pentatonics over all of it.
 
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dconeill

Member
Messages
1,856
None. Do your own thing. Make your own essential.
So: pay no attention to what has gone before, ignore all the work of others, and redevelop 3000 years of musical knowledge from scratch. I don't think I agree with that. Sure, strike out on your own with new stuff, but to do that you have to know at least some of the old stuff.


My real answer is, see YouTube for
7 super common chord progressions and why they work
 

rumbletone

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,272
So: pay no attention to what has gone before, ignore all the work of others, and redevelop 3000 years of musical knowledge from scratch. I don't think I agree with that. Sure, strike out on your own with new stuff, but to do that you have to know at least some of the old stuff.


My real answer is, see YouTube for
7 super common chord progressions and why they work

IMO, the key is to understand why/how those common progressions work - including understanding the harmony and voice leading - and then make your own that also work and that serve your particular melody, style, etc.
 

rmackowsky

Member
Messages
32
So: pay no attention to what has gone before, ignore all the work of others, and redevelop 3000 years of musical knowledge from scratch. I don't think I agree with that. Sure, strike out on your own with new stuff, but to do that you have to know at least some of the old stuff.


My real answer is, see YouTube for
7 super common chord progressions and why they work
I prefer to look forward not back. I don’t see why you need to know old stuff to create new stuff.

I mean sure if your looking to write hits that appeal to the masses, then rehash the progressions. But if your looking to create something that represents your thoughts/mind/spirit/intellect etc, just let it flow and see what comes out.
 
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muzishun

Member
Messages
7,400
So: pay no attention to what has gone before, ignore all the work of others, and redevelop 3000 years of musical knowledge from scratch. I don't think I agree with that. Sure, strike out on your own with new stuff, but to do that you have to know at least some of the old stuff.


My real answer is, see YouTube for
7 super common chord progressions and why they work

BUT ignoring works and starting from skratch is not possible is it? Unless on an island.
 

rmackowsky

Member
Messages
32
BUT ignoring works and starting from skratch is not possible is it? Unless on an island.
Sure it is. I took my first guitar lesson as a class in high school. Once I knew the basic chords, and before they started teaching us about any sort of progression or melody, I started writing my own stuff. Of course maybe I was influenced by some music that I liked at the time, but that’s different than being influenced by chord progressions that you know on the guitar. The OP‘s question was what are the essential progressions you need to know. My answer is still you don’t need to know any. You can create without knowing anything about progressions.
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate therefore I am...
Messages
649
♭ii - I
♭III - I
♭VI - I
♭VII - I

While it’s certainly debatable whether any of these are “essential”, they are at least far less predictable than playing V-I or IV-I or even vii°-I all the time.

They can be used to “pivot” songs in new directions or as stand alone resolutions when effectively “setup” (conditioning the listener to desire that particular resolution).

While it’s somewhat difficult to explain the “setup” part in such a limited post (without videos to demonstrate), all it really involves is emphasizing those chord sequences enough that the listener anticipates it, therefore, actually desires it.

The real trick is to not have the Dominant (V) chord anywhere near the final resolution, which allows the listener to appreciating the non-standard resolution just as much - since resolution is the ultimate goal and the listener doesn’t really care how it happens as long as it’s satisfying.

Anyway, just something to keep in mind if you’re ever looking for a non-diatonic departure from the norm…


 
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dewey decibel

Member
Messages
11,335
I prefer to look forward not back. I don’t see why you need to know old stuff to create new stuff.

You don’t need to, but it sure can be helpful. I’m sure if I’ve never cooked before and someone gave me a couple ingredients in time I could come up with something tasty, but it’s going to take a heck of a lot longer than if I’d learned how to make a couple of basic dishes already.
 
Messages
2,893
Sure it is. I took my first guitar lesson as a class in high school. Once I knew the basic chords, and before they started teaching us about any sort of progression or melody, I started writing my own stuff. Of course maybe I was influenced by some music that I liked at the time, but that’s different than being influenced by chord progressions that you know on the guitar. The OP‘s question was what are the essential progressions you need to know. My answer is still you don’t need to know any. You can create without knowing anything about progressions.

However the implication of the post is not about creating in the first place. It is about comprehending common popular music to play along with it.

I could go further and likewise say you don't need to know about chromatic divisions of the octave, but this wouldn't be the place for it.
 

fenderlead

Member
Messages
4,858
All using D in a casual non theory way.

Natural Minor based

Andalusian Cadence ala Sultans Dm C Bb A(7), very common ie Good Vibrations and countless other songs.

Watchtower/Stairway Dm C Bb (related to the above)

Dm/Gm

etc etc

Also the Rock (major) Natural Minor variant D C Bb ie Gimme Shelter/Pinball Wizard etc

Parallel Rock/Pop progressions, probably originally open G based, Brown Sugar, Dock Of The Bay etc

Parallel Rock D F G progressions ie High Voltage chorus etc etc.

The Parallel progressions are used in electronic stuff as well.

Metal Parallel I to bII ie D Eb

Metal Parallel I to bV to IV ie D Ab G (or more likely put in E, E Bb A).

Dorian based

Dm G in a lot of Funk ie The Wall etc, very common.

Dm C in Smoke On The Water etc etc, very common.

etc etc

Mixolydian based progressions, Beatles etc

The Beatles II7 ie D E7 G D (E7 is V of V or comes from D Lydian)

The V7 placed before Diatonic (scale step based) chords ie D B7 Em etc etc

iim V7 I's and the minor iim7b5 V7(b9) Im

Dm7 G7 Cmaj7 (Major) (tritone sub version Dm7 Db7b5 Cmaj7)

Dm7b5 G7(b9) Cm (Minor)

Blues D7 G7 A7 etc which can be extended with song based cycles ie the V7 placed before Diatonic chords, iim V7 I's and the minor iim7b5 V7(b9) Im etc etc

The old IV to IV minor routine, in D it would be G to Gm

Basic Major progressions ala Country etc, Lynyrd Skynyrd etc.

Basic Minor progressions ala Country etc.

Rhythm changes, especially the bridge, in D it would be F#7 B7 E7 A7 back to D (back cycling from D).

Mixtures of the above

For example Dm7b5 G7(b9) Cm (which is Minor) can be played over the relative Major of Cm ie Fm7 Bb7 Ebmaj7

So Fm based ideas can be played over Dm and G7 for a different sound (very common).

etc etc

Songs/Music can use mixed elements of modes, progressions etc.

For example a song could use Dorian for the verse part and then switch to Natural Minor for the bridge.

Loads more.
 
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rmackowsky

Member
Messages
32
You don’t need to, but it sure can be helpful. I’m sure if I’ve never cooked before and someone gave me a couple ingredients in time I could come up with something tasty, but it’s going to take a heck of a lot longer than if I’d learned how to make a couple of basic dishes already.
See, to me the basic dishes would be the basic guitar chords. The guitar, strings, amp, etc are the ingredients.
 
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