Chord Progressions Ultimate Guide: How to Arrange Chords for Songwriters

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Written by Tyree Smith

Chord progressions are essential to carrying a song. They are like the sentences that string together your song, so you need to understand how to make a list of chord progressions to make your song complete. When you look at a chord progressions chart, you may be confused as to what this all means, but after reading this guide, you should have a good understanding of minor chord progressions and solid ones to make your music. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for chord progressions for guitar or chord progressions for piano, the general concepts still remain the same.

What Are Chord Progressions

Chord progressions are considered to be made up of 2 or more chords in a series that are used in a musical piece. When written down, chord progressions are determined by the key used and represented by roman numerals. Using certain progressions at certain points of the song can have a significant impact on the narrative of the song. 

This means that you need to have flawless timing with the chord progressions in your song, allowing for the strongest emotional impact on the listener. You want to convey the right emotions, which is why the arrangement of chord progressions is such an important part of the songwriting process.

There are some basic chords that every songwriter must know to start off with. One of the most popular chord progressions used is the “I V vi IV” progression. In fact, this is the chord progression that is used for “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey as well as numerous other popular hits. Here is an example of this progression using C Major: C, G, A minor, F. The “I IV V” progression was popularly used in “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. Using C Major as an example again, this progression goes as this: C, F, G.

This can be as simple or as complex of a process as you want to make it. There have been some songs that have found success simply using 2 repeating chord progressions, though these are exceptions, not the rule. Fortunately, there are no real rules to how you arrange chords for songwriters. It’s all based on personal preference and achieving the sound that works for your song.

Where To Start

The important thing is to start with the basics, learning the basic chord progressions and then eventually build upon these to create something amazing. You can find numerous charts and diagrams online that show you the chords and common chord progressions in action. Learn how to make a chord progression using one key, but you will eventually want to learn how to use more than one key per song. This is all about practice. The amount of chord progressions that you can make is almost endless, so you can find something that is truly unique to your song.

Don’t be afraid to improvise when you are writing tracks. This will loosen you up and you may end up finding a unique touch that will make your song stand out from the rest.

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