Sometimes All You Need Are Some Chord Progressions that Work

by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website

Gary Ewer's Songwriting E-booksIf chord progressions mystify you, Gary Ewer’s e-books will give you hundreds of progressions you can use right now, as is, or modify them to suit your latest song. Click here to read more.

My main duties in the Dalhousie University Department of Music center on the teaching of ear training, along with some music theory and the conducting of the choral ensembles. But I often get the opportunity to work informally with students who are interested in songwriting. Getting their songs to work usually means helping them understand issues regarding form: helping verses, choruses, bridges, etc., to work well together.

Beyond straightening out these kinds of song-structure problems, what most students are missing is a good understanding of how chord progressions work. For many, problems with how one chord proceeds to the next causes the song to fall flat. When a set of chord changes has problems, it doesn’t matter how great the melody is. An otherwise great tune can totally miss the mark because the underlying chords are not working.

One of the best ways to improve your ability to create good progressions is to simply study ones that work. In that sense, it’s like the chess champion who becomes better by studying past games by the masters. The more they would see how good players reacted to opponent’s moves, the better a chess player they would become.

So… here are some progressions that work. I’ve presented them in A major, but you can transpose them into any key you want. (If you want help with this, please feel free to write me.) Chord progressions are not protected by copyright, so feel free to use them, modify them, add to or subtract from them:


A  D  E7  A
A  Bm  E7  F#m
A  D  A/C#  Bm  A
A  E/G#  F#m  E  D  Bm  E  A


A  Bm7  A  Bm7  A  G(add9) C
A  C  F  D  G  C  E7  A
A  G  A  G  C  F  G  A
A  D  G  C  F  E  A

12-BAR BLUES (Play each chord for 4 beats):
A  D7 A  A7 / D D7 A  F#13/ Bm  E7  A  E7

Read everything you need to know to make your songs into winners! Click here.

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