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Chord Progressions
Theory Guide

7-STEP

minor and seventh chords). B. each of the twelve starting on one of the 12 notes listed above.com TrueFire.TrueFire’s 7-Step Chord Progression Theory Guide Many beginning players and songwriters believe that you need to know hundreds of chords to play or write lots of songs. and how to interpret a simple chart.com C D E F G A B 3 . The Major scale is comprised of 7 notes. E. Ready? Lets dig in… 1 DO RE MI There are only 12 notes in all of Western music: A. To get the most out of this guide. There are only 12 Major scales. show you how they are formed. a Major scale. this guide will get you up and running very quickly. See the C Major scale spelled out below: Key of C C D E F G A B The popular Do-Re-Mi song represents the notes of a Major scale: Key of C Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti 2 TrueFire. You can play or write thousands of songs with just a handful of chords AND a basic understanding of chord progressions. you should also know the basic open position and barre chords (major. C# or Db. superficial shortcut to understanding chord progressions and the theory behind them. Nonetheless. C. The Major Scale can be viewed as the foundation from which ALL scales and ALL chords are formed. They would be 100% correct. NOTE! This guide assumes that you know the names of the notes on each fret of the low E and A string on your guitar. Many music teachers would argue that this guide is an oversimplified. A# or Bb. and teach you how to construct and apply them in any key easily and quickly. This simple theory guide will explain what a chord progressions is. a simple numbering system. all you need to learn are just a few musical terms. F. and F# or Gb. D. D# or Eb. Not so.

So. G and B note at the same time. E and G note all at the same time. you are playing an E Minor chord. Use this formula with any note and you will have the Major Scale in the key of that note. you’ll note that the distance between C and D is a whole step (2 frets) but the distance between the E and the F note is only a half step.com TrueFire. you are playing a C Major chord. For example. Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti 2 3 4 5 6 7 The distance between those 7 notes is specified in Whole Steps and Half Steps where a half step equals one fret and a whole step equals two frets. C D E F G A B 7 Half 1 fret 4 TrueFire. If you play an E. if you play a C. 3 Minor chords and 1 Diminished chord (don’t worry about this chord type for now).2 1 SCALE DEGREES The sequence of notes in the scale are referred to as Scale Degrees.com 5 . C D E F G A B Key of C steps Half 1 fret Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti 1 Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Whole 2 frets 2 frets 1 fret 2 frets 2 frets 2 frets C D E F G A B 2 3 4 5 6 7 Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dim. The first note of the Major scale also is the name of the Key. Chords are made when a combination of notes from a scale are played at the same time. the C Major scale and all of the corresponding chords built from that scale are all in the Key of C. Each scale degree has a Chord Type associated with it: 3 Major chords. and are numbered from 1 to 7: 3 CHORD TYPES Key of C There are two basic types of chords: Major and Minor chords. In the chart below.

which is still a Major Chord but it will be referred to as G7. F and G or C. and thousands upon thousands of songs are played with these same chord progressions.com 7 .Add the name of the corresponding note to the chord type and you’ll have all of the Major and Minor chords associated with that scale. There are only a few chord progressions used in popular music. Key of D Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor D Major E Minor F# Minor G Major A Major B Minor Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dim. C D E F G A B 7 A Minor B Dim. chorus or bridge. instead of using the C Major scale as the foundation. in the key of C. To play a song in a different key. Songs can also change keys within the framework of the song. 6 TrueFire.com TrueFire. which is repeated throughout a song as a verse. consisting of the chords C. For example. built from the same Major scale. F and G7. Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor C Major D Minor E Minor F Major G Major Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dim. thousands of popular rock. The relationship between the scale. Key of C For example. the D Major scale is used. 5 TRANSPOSING CHORD PROGRESSIONS The 5th degree chord (in this case the G) is often times a Dominant 7th chord. D E F# G A B C# 7 B# Dim. Songs consist of one or more chord progressions. a song might need to be transposed from the Key of C to the Key of D to accommodate the vocalist. 4 CHORD PROGRESSIONS A Chord Progression is a sequence of chords from the same Key. To transpose a chord progression from the key of C to the key of D. the scale degrees and the chord types remain consistent -. folk and blues songs are played using a chord progression. the chords have to be transposed to the new key. Musicians and singers play songs in different keys to either accommodate the instrumentation or more usually to accommodate the pitch range of the vocalist.only the notes and the chord names change.

where chords are indicated by a scale degree. the vocalist would simply call the same I-ii-V progression but ask for it in the key of D. 7 A Minor B Dim. the progression is spelled I-ii-V and spoken as a “One. as you’ll start to recognize the visual patterns of these chord progressions on your fretboard and can simply move the progression up or down on your neck. E Minor and A Major.com 9 . D Minor and G Major. You’ll also quickly be able to do the translations of the numbering system to chord names without having to reference a chart especially if you play barre chords. instead of writing a progression as C Major. vii° This numbering system makes it extremely easy to write out chord progressions and transpose songs to other keys.6 NASHVILLE NUMBERING SYSTEM To make quick transposition of chord progressions easier for musicians. in the key of C. For example. you simply apply the formulas that we’ve provided for you in this guide. Key of C C D E F G A B Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor C Major D Minor E Minor F Major G Major A Minor 1 I 2 ii 3 iii 4 IV 5 V 6 vi Dim. Use the following blank charts to chart out ALL of the keys for your own reference. 7 VISUALIZATION & MEMORIZATION To apply this system to any progression.” If the vocalist needs a different key. You’ll quickly learn that certain keys are used much more frequently than other keys and these will be come second nature to you. This evolved into a system where upper and lower case Roman numerals are used (minor chords are indicated with lower case Roman numerals). B Dim. in any key. The musicians would know to play a D Major. This will really help you understand and apply the principles presented in this guide. 7 vii° 8 TrueFire. Key of C Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor C Major D Minor E Minor F Major G Major Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti 1 I C D E F G A B 2 ii 3 iii 4 IV 5 V 6 vi Dim. Five in the key of C. Two. a method known as the Nashville Numbering System was devised.com TrueFire.

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