Guitar Chord Progressions - Where Do They Come From?
By Ricky Sharples
Guitar chord progressions are like baby brothers - you cannot escape from them and they take some explaining. Let us do some analysis on the term "guitar chord progressions". In case you did not know, any time two or more notes are played, this is referred to as a "chord". You probably know that certain guitar chords sound good together. These are called guitar chord "families". Guitar chord "progressions" are certain sequences of chords that sound so good together that they are used as the musical basis of songs.
How to Play Guitar Chord Progressions DVD Sample
Chord progressions are derived from musical scales like C D E F G A B C. This is the C major scale which is used very often in music. It is just a sequence of notes with no sharps or flats which makes it easy to use to teach music students the principles of music. When we study chord progressions we think of these letters as chords instead of single notes. If we number the chords from one to seven we can work in a practical way with the chords in any key because the basic principles are the same.
If we write out the chords as numbers we have the problem of getting the numbers denoting the chords confused with numbers that are used in the names of the chords. If we are working with the chord B7 we do not want to have to stop and think what "77" means so we use Roman numerals to number the chords. That way B7 is named VII7. To a newbie that might still be confusing but it is a good way of fixing the problem.
So, now the chords are named I II III IV V VI VII. To save us from getting too bogged down in musical theory, let us take some simple ideas for granted. First, in any key the chord that the key is named after is always the I chord. So now you can go back and look at the notes in the C major scale and check out the new names of all the notes. Not that it will mean much yet.
Another thing we are going to take for granted is that I IV and V are the three most important chords in the scale. When you learn a song or instrumental piece, the chances are that you will be starting the song with the I chord and when you end the song, the chord you finish on is also the I chord. There are exceptions but there is no need to go looking for them. So we can take that fact for granted.
That is all the basic theory we need to learn guitar chord progressions without blundering around like an elephant in an outhouse. There is more you could learn but we are more concerned with playing the chords than explaining them. Now we can take a look at the some chord progressions. The most common progression you will come across as a guitar player is I IV V. You will find these chords referred to in music theory as "tonic" "subdominant" and "dominant".
You have probably heard that pop musicians only know three chords. This may or may not be true but they do mostly work with one chord progression consisting of three chords. The main variations come when for effect the composer or interpreter of a song might use the V7 or IV7 chords.
This chord progression is the basis of almost all pop, blues and rock songs. Many songwriters have made departures from this basic progression and jazz musicians have long ago abandoned sticking to this, or any basic form.
So there you have your basic chord progression for modern popular music. Other progressions that you could benefit from experimenting with are: I IV I V, I IV V IV, I V VI IV, I V IV V, I VI II V and I VI IV V.
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