What are the essential chord progressions?

El Phaco

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I don't think you can create anything new ignoring all the stuff created before. Even the greatest musicians, the ones who effectively created something new, started from what was here before them. Mozart learned from Bach just like Hendrix or Page learned from the bluesmen. Knowing the rules is the way to break them later.
 
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I didn’t think that was implied, but if you take it that way then yes that makes sense. Matter of perspective I guess.

Hard to say, I realize now, as this was being asked by a semi-beginner with cultured tastes tending towards jazz it appears. They could be fishing for progressions to noodle in.
 

9fingers

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8,429
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 A 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.
Cool, actual info and ideas on the topic! Thanks.
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate therefore I am...
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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.

Yes, part of truly understanding how a (for instance) classic 50s style I-vi-IV-V progression works, includes making it NOT sound contrived and mediocre.

*Sorry if this is more info than anyone asked for, but since the metaphorical "can of worms" has just been opened, and the proverbial worms are now wiggling their way out of that aforementioned "can", well, why not elaborate, right?...

Understanding I-vi-IV-V PART 1
* What To Look For *

Just playing that “strict” chord sequence without a unique purpose will practically guarantee something predictable and boring.

I would probably try embellishing it quite a bit myself, making it purposely unrecognizable.

But, should a person choose to keep it straight-forward and true to the “50s sound”, the “understanding” part is both technical and musical.

The “technical” part of understanding the I-vi-IV-V progression is knowing that it often accompanies a cleverly memorable melody line - while the “musical” part is actually coming up with that cleverly memorable melody.

So if there is no cleverly memorable melody line, then it will undoubtedly fall into the category of “Un-memorably Mediocre” at the next Grammy Awards ceremony.

Therefore, if I were attempting to create something memorable using a 50s style I-vi-IV-V pattern, my first goal (aside from picking a key to play it in) would be to come up with a unique and interesting melody that really pops out…





Understanding I-vi-IV-V PART 2
* Looking For Patterns *


So, if composing in the Key of C Major, the chords that make up the I-vi-IV-V progression would be:

C Major
A minor
F Major
G Major

And below are the individual notes that make up each chord…

Notice a “pattern”?:

C-E-G
A-C-E
F-A-C
G-B-D

Hint:

C-E-G
A-C-E
F-A-C
G-B-D

Or:

C-C-C-B

And if you end on a C Major chord, the pattern would be:

C-C-C-B-C


C
-E-G
A-C-E
F-A-C
G-B-D
C-E-G

*(you could also go “C-C-C-D-C”…

C-E-G
A-C-E
F-A-C
G-B-D
C-E-G-C

…as you will see in next section below).

And this is one reason these chords flow so smoothly together…

…whatduyaknow,@rumbletone was extraordinarily spot-on about that fancy dancy “Voice Leading” stuff…


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Understanding I-vi-IV-V PART 3
* Voice Leading & Part Writing *

So, continuing with the "Voice Leading" theme, which is also known as "Part Writing", here is a short synopsis to get everyone started...

Music Structure examples based on "Parts" are often demonstrated in four-part harmonies based on the following ranges:

Soprano
Alto
Tenor
Bass

Which is abbreviated S-A-T-B and is used to develop a smooth flow of individual voices.

In the previous section of this blurb, I showed the following chords for the I-vi-IV-V progression in the Key of C Major as being C-Am-F-G.

I'm guessing that most people would probably play them something like this:


z 1.JPG




But to illustrate Voice Leading and Part Writing better, I decided to show them like this instead:


z 2.JPG



Which roughly translates to this, when transposed onto a musical staff:


z 3 I-vii-IV-V Voice Leading.jpg




Okay, don't strain your brain trying to decipher that too much. All I want to do is show the "smooth flow of voices". *Note: Bass parts commonly have larger leaps than other voices.

Notice how each voice has its own melody and, if you played them as separate melodies, you should notice how each one can actually stand on their own - individually making perfect musical sense.

If you want to go even deeper you may notice how I consciously avoided Parallel 5ths and Parallel Octaves, which is another goal of "Common Practice" conventions to Part Writing (Parallel movements are the same "interval types" that come one after another, with 5ths and Octaves being the ones most frowned upon).

Look at the Soprano voice on the V chord (the highest note in the G Major chord). It goes up to "D" but could have just as well went down to "B", but then the "B Octaves" in that chord would have been Parallel to the "C Octaves" in the final C Major chord.

I want to stop right here and point out that I am only mentioning all this to explain what Part Writing and Voice Leading is, NOT to force anyone into thinking that they need to strictly follow it.

When I write more complex pieces I do use some of these principles but ONLY TO MAKE THINGS SOUND BETTER, not to stay within some arbitrary structural boundary.

For instance, if I'm trying to tie in a short section that seems a little "clunky", I look at how each chord transitions with the others around it and find ways to make the individual melodies blend together in a more pleasing way.

As far as Parallel 5ths and Octaves go, I rarely (if ever) pay much attention to avoiding them, since I'm more interested in how the overall phrase "sounds" rather than how it looks on paper.

Anyway, I really hope this provides some insight on another way a person can look at harmony and progressions...


 
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amstrtatnut

Member
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14,405
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.
Absolutely. That said, I like to know why certain things work so, Im also interested in existing songs and progressions.
 

AxemanVR

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Absolutely. That said, I like to know why certain things work so, Im also interested in existing songs and progressions.

I like taking a certain pattern and seeing how many completely different songs I can create from it.

After all, the number and variety of different I-IV-V based songs out there is nothing short of amazing (assuming people are using more than just the three basic chords in that pattern)…


 

amstrtatnut

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14,405

I like taking a certain pattern and seeing how many completely different songs I can create from it.

After all, the number of different I-IV-V based songs out there is nothing short of amazing (assuming people are using more than just the three basic chords in that pattern)…



Yeah. I think writing I IV V based stuff is a pretty good idea in general. Not every song needs to be earthshattering. The harmony is solid and simple, but being creative within a simple framework can be good.
 

handtrix

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Messages
2,391
In you opinion, what are the essential common progressions every guitarist should know?

And why?
Why not *mesmerize the diatonic formula?
*memorize

I - Major
II - minor
III - minor
IV - Major
V - Major (Dom7th)
VI - minor
VII - Diminished

Then if you choose apply their respective mode

I - Ionian
II - Dorian
III - Phrygian
IV - Lydian
V - Mixolydian
VI - Aeolian
VII - Locrian

Then if you choose know what their sharps and flats are compared to the Major scale.

I - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
II - 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 --- (b3 b7)
III - 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 --- (b2 b3 b6 b7)
IV - 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 --- (#4)
V - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 --- (b7)
VI - (natural minor) - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 --- (b3 b6 b7)
VII - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 --- (b2 b3 b5 b6 b7)


You can do it!
 

RGW243

Member
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632
I - Tonic
ii - Super Tonic
iii - Mediant
IV - Sub Dominant
V - Dominant
vi - Sub Mediant
vii° - Leading Tone
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate therefore I am...
Messages
652
Why not *mesmerize the diatonic formula?
*memorize

I - Major
II - minor
III - minor
IV - Major
V - Major (Dom7th)
VI - minor
VII - Diminished

Then if you choose apply their respective mode

I - Ionian
II - Dorian
III - Phrygian
IV - Lydian
V - Mixolydian
VI - Aeolian
VII - Locrian

Then if you choose know what their sharps and flats are compared to the Major scale.

I - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
II - 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 --- (b3 b7)
III - 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 --- (b2 b3 b6 b7)
IV - 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 --- (#4)
V - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 --- (b7)
VI - (natural minor) - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 --- (b3 b6 b7)
VII - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 --- (b2 b3 b5 b6 b7)


You can do it!
`
A good reference, but I'd bet most people wouldn't know what to do with it.

 
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russ6100

Member
Messages
4,776
See, to me the basic dishes would be the basic guitar chords. The guitar, strings, amp, etc are the ingredients.
It's kind of arbitrary that you draw the line in the sand at learning chord progressions but are perfectly fine with learning chords in lieu of making them yourself.
 

dconeill

Member
Messages
1,856
I prefer to look forward not back. I don’t see why you need to know old stuff to create new stuff. ... just let it flow and see what comes out.
Let's say you're a highway engineer, you design and build roads. Now suppose you're building a high-speed highway.
So, given that you are willfully ignorant of all that has gone before, you "just let it flow and" have some people with rakes and shovels go out and carve a flattish line, maybe 3 meters wide, across the landscape and extending from, say, Cleveland to Detroit. Now put 50000 2022 cars a day on it traveling at high speeds, some going one way, some the other.

At this point you might be getting a glimmer of why it might be important to know about the body of knowledge accumulated to date. At the very least it can help you avoid mistakes that have been made already.
 

rmackowsky

Member
Messages
31
Let's say you're a highway engineer, you design and build roads. Now suppose you're building a high-speed highway.
So, given that you are willfully ignorant of all that has gone before, you "just let it flow and" have some people with rakes and shovels go out and carve a flattish line, maybe 3 meters wide, across the landscape and extending from, say, Cleveland to Detroit. Now put 50000 2022 cars a day on it traveling at high speeds, some going one way, some the other.

At this point you might be getting a glimmer of why it might be important to know about the body of knowledge accumulated to date. At the very least it can help you avoid mistakes that have been made already.
No offense, but that is apples and oranges. No one is gonna die from my guitar playing (hopefully), and there are no rules to music creativity, that’s the beauty of it.

We all have different creative paths. Some may find it helpful to use the past to help create. I don’t find it necessary. A base of music knowledge? Yes. But I don’t include chord progressions in that basic necessity.
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate therefore I am...
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652
I - Tonic
ii - Super Tonic
iii - Mediant
IV - Sub Dominant
V - Dominant
vi - Sub Mediant
vii° - Leading Tone
'
While knowing the name for each individual scale degree is important for advanced music study and to explain certain functions, just throwing out a list without any explanation doesn't really provide much inspiration for creating meaningful music...


`
 
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