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Confusion about Chord Progressions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Jinro, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. Jinro


    Oct 9, 2011
    West TN
    Well, not really the chord progressions themselves (or maybe I am), but rather, how do you lump a whole song into one chord progression?

    For example, when someone says that a song is a I-V-vi chord progression, that implies to me that the entire song is composed of only three chords; the first, fifth, and minor sixth, and are played in that order. But when I look at the the actual chord progression of the song, there's a whole lot more than three chords, and there's more than one chord progression present. The verse may be I-V-vi, but then the chorus may be something different.

    If you have a song that's composed of eight chords and three different chord progressions (for verse, chorus, bridge), then how can you classify the entire song as being one chord progression consisting of three chords?
  2. You don't.

    However, there are many other songs that simply go I-V-vi-IV, over and over again.
    There are different songs that go I-IV-V-IV over and over again...
    As well as other songs that go I-vi-IV-V over and over again...
  3. Call up some fake chord and see what happens.

    Normally -- on a four line verse you will have two V-I cadences. Or two complete chord progressions in a four line verse. One for the first two lines and the same one repeated for the second two lines of the four line verse. Why? Well the verse starts a thought in the first two lines of the verse then in the last two lines of the verse discusses the thought and reaches a conclusion and closes that thought so--- verse number two can bring up another thought. Normally verse number two will keep the same chord progression used in verse one --- or not --- it's entirely up to the songwriter.

    A chord progression does two things. 1). Moves the verse from I rest to IV tension to V7 climax and then resolution or back to I rest. Why?

    You need to move the lyrics (story) along and then 2) harmonize the melody. You harmonize the melody by having the melody notes and the chord's notes share some of the same notes. Understand there are hundreds of chord progressions you could use, depending on what you want to accomplish.

    This video opened a few doors for me. Simple Melody Harmonization (Keyboard Tut. #8) - YouTube Harmonization was a little clearer after I saw this video.

    Chord movement is another story and deals with what chords like to move to what other chords and why.

    • The I tonic chord is major and can move to any other chord in the key, being the tonic or tonal center it can go anywhere it likes and it will sound good. Only problem being when you go to the I tonic chord you resolve all the tension you have built. Do you want to resolve and go back to rest? You should end each verse and the song with the I tonic chord - unless you have a reason for not doing so, i.e. like ending the verse just before the chorus with a V7 and let that pull you into the I tonic chord that is starting the chorus.
    • The ii chord is minor and one of the sub-dominant chords. It's task in life is to move to a dominant chord. The ii is also known as the minor super tonic as such can substitute/act as your tonic chord in a minor progression. I don't play that much minor key stuff so leave that with a grain of salt.
    • The iii chord is minor and likes to start a turn-a-round or think of it as the beginning of something new. The iii likes to drag the vi with it on this movement.
    • The IV is major and the other sub-dominant chord. It's task in life is to move to a dominant chord. As the ii and the IV are both sub-dominant chords and share the same want to move to the dominant chord, they can substitute for each other.
    • The V chord is the dominant chord. It's task in life is to move to the I tonic chord. When you add a b7 extension that makes the V into a V7 or dominant seventh chord and now that is a climax chord and it wants to get to the I tonic RIGHT NOW.
    • The vi chord is the relative minor chord. It's task in life is to move to a sub-dominant chord, i.e. the ii or IV.
    • The vii chord is the diminished chord it too is a dominant chord, however it differs from the V or V7 in that it being also the diminished chord it likes to lead somewhere, not necessarly straight to the I tonic. As in viidim-iii-vi-ii-V7-I the classic turn-a-round progression.
    • If you let the chords do what they want good things happen.

    Progressions give movement and harmony, gotta get both into the picture.

    Have fun.
  4. Jinro


    Oct 9, 2011
    West TN
    So it's those songs that just repeat the same progression for the duration of the song that people are referring to when they say "<insert song name> is just a <insert progression>"
  5. If a song has one section that predominates (eg. 4 verses, vamps at beginning and end, plus solos) - and only has smaller, shorter sections with other changes - ill usually refer to the main chord progression to identify the tune, and mention the others as a side note.
  6. And, very often the other sections might be highly predictable. Eg. a IV-I-IV-V(7) in a blues or r&b bridge comes up often enough that it usually isn't worth talking about beyond "there's a bridge".
  7. Yes, pretty much. Which brings up the question; "Doesn't that make all I IV V songs sound alike? True the harmony is the same, but, it is the melody notes that separate one song from the other.
  8. Mharris


    Sep 25, 2007
    Missoula Montana
    They will sound alike to a certain degree. There are still plenty of other elements to consider (like timbre and rhythm).
  9. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Neapolitan and Augmented Sixth chords? :eek:

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