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Guitar Chord Progressions - Turn Chords Into Songs

Welcome. There are two key benefits of learning about guitar chord progressions on this site...

1)  You'll be able to write your own songs by stringing chords together into something meaningful. There are certain chord relationships that you can use to make writing compelling songs of your own easier - relationships behind some of the world's most loved music and used by the world's greatest songwriters.

2)  You'll be able to pick up chord progressions by ear and know exactly how to accompany them in any key (e.g. for soloing and vocals). This naturally ties in with your knowledge of scales.

Obviously I don't want to tell you what to play, but I hope this series of lessons will leave you feeling more confident with both identifying and writing your own chord progressions on guitar.

Note: this section is still expanding. It's a huge subject and I intend to make this the most comprehensive course available... anywhere!

Basic Guitar Chord Progressions

small chevron Three-Chord Progressions  A good primer. How to create simple three-chord progressions in any key. Gets you playing around some key relationships used in popular music.

small chevron Basic Guitar Chord Progressions  Shows you how to use those basic open position chords you learn as a beginner to craft meaningful guitar chord progressions based on a few important relationships.

Diatonic Chord Progressions & Scale Harmonization

The word diatonic, in the context of chord progressions, is just another way of referring to a system of chords built around the degrees of the major scale. It's the formula behind countless songs, old and new. It also gives us the most common major and minor key centres.

Think of the major scale with chords built on each of its 7 degrees. The result is a harmonization of the scale, or what I prefer to simply call a chord scale.

Watch the video below for a great introduction to scale harmonization and the concept of building chords from a parent scale...

There is also a lesson to accompany the video - see chord scales on guitar.

This scale is by no means the limits of your songwriting, as we'll be expanding out of it in later stages. However, it has been the backbone of many chord progressions and music in general for hundreds of years. It's the basis of countless hit songs, old and new.

Major Key Progressions

I W ii W iii
H IV W V W vi W vii
Tonic Supertonic Mediant Subdominant Dominant Submediant Leading

So, the above chord scale uses the same intervals as the major scale. All we're doing is building chords on each degree of the scale, from 1 (tonic) to 7 (leading). These chords, their function and variations are covered in the lessons below...

small chevron Tonic Dominant Relationship  Introduces us to one of the most important relationships in music - the tonic (I) and dominant (V).

small chevron Dominant Variation  Looks at modifying dominant chords to make them work more effectively as natural tension chords.

small chevron Subdominant  Introduces us to subdominant chords (IV), to add to that tonic-dominant relationship.

small chevron Subdominant Variation  Looks at the different ways you can enhance the subdominant chord.

small chevron Supertonic  Adds the supertonic chord (ii) to the scale, immediately showing us just how easily many of those "hit" songs you hear on the radio have been formulated - just from 4 simple chords.

small chevron Supertonic Variation  Shows us how we can modify the ii chord for some interesting variation.

small chevron Submediant  Adds the submediant chord (vi) to the scale. Now we have a 5 chord scale with a new minor chord function. Later, you'll see how the submediant becomes the natural tonic chord (i) of minor key progressions.

small chevron Submediant Variation  Gives us some ideas for modifying/enhancing the submediant chord.

small chevron Mediant  Adds the mediant (iii) chord to the progression, a commonly used link between the tonic chord and other chords in the scale.

small chevron Mediant Variation  Shows us how to modify the iii chord by using major, dominant 7th and augmented variants in your guitar chord progressions.

small chevron Leading Tone Chord  Introduces the final chord in the scale, built on the 7th degree leading tone (vii) which makes use of those tense sounding diminished chords.

small chevron Tonic Variation  Looks at enhancing the major key tonic chord (I), and which types of major chord work well in the tonic position, including using the tonic as an "ending chord".

Minor Key Progressions

i Wii HIII
Tonic Supertonic Mediant Subdominant Dominant Submediant Subtonic

The minor key chord scale can be seen as chords built on the degrees of the natural minor scale, or starting from the 6th degree of the major scale. So the vi chord becomes the tonic i, and the sequence continues from there.

small chevron Minor Key Tonic  Introduces us to minor key relationships, establishing a new minor tonic chord (i) using the same chord scale as before.

Chord Progressions Function

small chevron Chord Resolution  Learn about the use of tension and resolution in chord progressions.

small chevron Relative Key Changes  Learn how to change between relative keys to make your music structurally more interesting.

small chevron Parallel Key Changes  Another simple key change option that helps to take your listener on more of an emotional journey.

small chevron Dominant Key Changes  Learn how to use the dominant to change to ANY key, major or minor, even distantly related keys.

small chevron Blues Chord Progressions  Takes you through the common "1 4 5" blues forms including 12 bar, 8 bar and the less common 16 bar blues, plus typical jazz blues variations.

small chevron Major Key Darkness  How major keys can offer an undercurrent of tragedy, loss and foreboding, in this unique lesson.

small chevron Major 7th Chords  Learn the function of major 7th chords in progressions, including key changes.

small chevron Extended Minor Function  Beautifully soulful ways to use extended minor chords in progressions.

small chevron Suspended Chords  Learn how suspended chords can function in progressions.

small chevron Augmented Chords  Learn how augmented chords can function in progressions.

small chevron Diminished 7th Chords  Learn how diminished 7th chords can function in progressions.

small chevron Backdoor Progression  Uses a bVII or "subtonic" degree chord to resolve to the major tonic.

small chevron Minor ii V i  A common minor key three-chord turnaround. Learn the chords and scales to play through this sequence.

small chevron Transpose Chords  How to transpose a sequence of chords to another key using a simple visualisation method.

small chevron Basic Chord Substitution  Learn how to replace chords in a progression for added variation and reharmonise a melody. This lesson shows you the safest chord substitution options based on shared notes.

small chevron Borrowed Chords  Here we focus on how certain "outside" chord changes can be connected to their own scale or mode.

small chevron Dominant Substitutions  Learn how to replace the dominant with other chord degrees and qualities for more variation and colour.

small chevron Substituting with Diminished 7th Chords  Learn about the dominant-diminished 7th connection and how to use dim7 chords in place of dominant 7ths to striking effect.

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