Understanding Chord Progressions
A common mistake beginner guitarists make is thinking that songs are made of randomly chosen chords. Almost as is every song learnt is a completely unique chord progression that has nothing in common with any other song.
When we understand that songs are made up from chords that are in a key we begin to understand song construction and how to write songs and how to work out songs by ear.
Understanding the circle of 5ths is a big help in understanding song keys.
Circle or cycle of 5ths is a fancy way of telling us to count up in 5’s. We’ll come back to that later.
Key of C the notes in this key are C D E F G A B the chords made up from these notes are:
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim (simple rule: I IV V are major rest are minor except last which is diminished)
You Cant Always Get What You Want C F
Dont Look Back In Anger C G Am E F G C Am G (Em has been changed to E)
God Gave Rock N Roll To You C G Am C F C
Common chord progressions are I IV V I Vi IV V ii V I
Not all songs begin with a major chord. In the key of C the Am chord is the sixth chord. This is referred to as relative minor key.
So the key of C has the same chords and notes as the key of A minor.
Take for example :
All Along the Watchtower Am G F G
This song is in A minor and using the IV and V chords
Key of G
The next key in our circle of 5ths is the key of G.
Counting 5 places from C we get CDEF key of G.
The notes in this key are G A B C D E F#
Chords in this key G Am Bm C D Em F#dim (again I IV V are major the rest minor and last diminished)
Take It Easy G D C G D C G again using I V and IV chords
Nine times out of ten the beginning chord tells us what key the song is in. Take a look at the following two songs and see if you can work out I IV and V chords.......confused?
Sweet Child of Mine D C G D
Crazy Little Thing Called Love D G Cadd9
These songs are actually in key of G and start on the V chord. Many famous songs start on the V (fifth chord)
Key of D
Counting up 5 places from G we get to D
Chords in this key are D Em F#m G A Bm C#dim
Thorn In My Side D Dsus4 D Dsus2 D G A although sus4 and sus2 chords are being used they are still a variant of D so considered to be a I chord moving to G and A which are IV and IV chords.
Strong D G Em A
Everybody Hurts D G D G
With Or Without You D A Bm G
Tambourine Man D Bm G D
I Want It All (relative minor key of B minor) Bm A Bm G D G A G A Bm A
Hopefully this has been an introduction to understanding chord progressions and keys.
For further progress check out the circle of fifths which takes into account sharp keys and flat keys
helpful links http://www.guitar-chords.org.uk/chords-key-c.html
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