Forming Basic Chord Progressions


So you got some scales down, but now you got to have something to play it over.  A lot of people want to know how to form some basic rock progressions.  Its actually quite simple.  We’re going to be making some progressions in G major in this lesson. The first thing you’re going to need to know are all of your options.  I’ve written out of of the diatonic triad in G major below.

G Major

5th

D

E

F#

G

A

B

C

3rd

B

C

D

E

F#

G

A

Root

G

A

B

C

D

E

F#

 

I

ii

iii

IV

V

vi

vii°

The Basic Progression

We are going to start off with a very simple 4 measure progression and then make easy substitutions to it to get the sound that we want.  The basic progression we will build off of is show below:

| I | V | IV | I |

or in the key of G Major

| G | D | C | G |

Easy enough huh.

Making Substitutions

That’s a very very simple progression and theres not much to it.  So to change it a little we can make so chord substitutions.  Let’s start with the last measure and change the Gmaj chord.  If we look at the chart above, we see that a G maj triad contains a G, B, and D.  There are 2 other chords that share 2 common notes with a G maj triad: E min (E, G, B; G and B in common) and B min (B, D, F#; B and D in common).  These chords are close to the G maj chord and can take its place in the progression. Let’s put in the E min, since its probably not a good idea to end on a iii chord. Are new progression is as follows:

| I | V | IV | vi |

or in G Maj

| G | D | C | e |

Now lets look at the D maj chord.  It contains D, F#, and A.  Let choose to substitute B min in for in. A B min triad contains two common notes with a D Maj triad: D and F#. Our new progression is as follows:

| I | iii | IV | vi |

or in G Maj

| G | b | C | e |

This progression is obviously a lot different sounding then the original progression that we had.  We can play the chords any way we want.  If you want to write a rock song, you’ll probably use power chords and play something like this:

e|-------|-------|-------|-------|
B|-------|-------|-------|-------|
G|-------|---4---|---5---|-------|
D|---5---|---4---|---5---|---2---|
A|---5---|---2---|---3---|---2---|
E|---3---|-------|-------|---0---|

Then again you might want to play something more folksy and do some finger-picking like this:

e|------------3---|---------------|-------------0---|-----------0---|
B|---3-----3------|---------3-----|---------1-----1-|------------0--|
G|-----0----------|---4-------4-4-|---0-------------|-------------0-|
D|-------0--0---0-|-----4------4--|-----2-----2-----|-------2-------|
A|----------------|-2-----2-------|-3-----3---------|-3-2-----------|
E|-3--------------|---------------|-----------------|-----0---0-----|

Obviously these are note rules. You not need to substitute a chord with tow notes in common.  But if you are a beginner and are struggling to crank out chord progressions try doing it.  Take a progression from your favorite song and make some substitutions to it.  See if you can make it your own.

If you have any questions or comments please email at mdguitarteacher@gmail.com.

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If you like the more music theory-oriented lessons tell me and I’ll make them more often.

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