Pairing Up Verse and Chorus Progressions

Most major progressions work well when they’re transposed as-is into a minor key.


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Justin Timberlake - MirrorsJustin Timberlake’s 2013 hit, “Mirrors,” demonstrates the power that comes from creating a chorus progression that is strongly linked to the verse progression. The progressions move from being minor in the verse to being in the relative major key in the chorus. But that’s not at all unusual; many songs do that as a natural way of 1) brightening the mood of a song, and 2) helping the chorus melody to move higher.


Cm  Gm  Fm  Ab


Eb  Bb  Ab…

As you can see, the first three chords of the chorus are simply the relative major transposition of the first three chords of the verse. In that sense, the music benefits not just from the natural brightening and energy boost of moving minor to major, it also benefits from the root movements of the chords as a motif – a bass line that starts on one note, moves down four, then one more.

If you’ve got a good chorus progression in a major key, and you’re stuck trying to come up with something useful for a verse progression, try moving it to the relative minor. In all likelihood it will work well.

To find the relative minor of a major key, either:

  1. Find the 6th note of the major scale and build a minor scale on that note. (Ex: the 6th note of Eb major is C, so the relative minor is C minor); or
  2. Count 3 semitones down from the root of a major scale. (Ex: C is 3 semitones lower than Eb).

Once you’ve created a minor scale, build chords on top of each note. You will notice that the chords that result will all have a different quality from the equivalent ones in major:


  • I- major
  • ii- minor
  • iii- minor
  • IV- major
  • V- major
  • vi- minor
  • vii- diminished


  • i- minor
  • ii- diminished
  • III- major
  • iv- minor
  • v- minor (can be modified to be major)
  • VI- major
  • VII- major

Now take your major key progression and move all chords down by 3 semitones, and you now have a minor key transposition of your original major key progression. The process, of course, also works in the other direction.

Here are some examples for you to try (In minor verses, try also changing the Gm to G):

VERSE: Cm  Fm  Ddim  Gm  || CHORUS: Eb  Ab  Fm  Bb  Eb

VERSE: Cm  G  Ab  Eb  Fm  G  Ab  Bb  Cm  || CHORUS: Eb  Bb  Cm  Gm  Ab  Bb  Cm  Ddim  Eb

VERSE: Cm  Eb  Fm  Cm  Gm  Fm  Ab  G  || CHORUS:  Eb  Gm  Ab  Eb  Bb  Ab  Cm  Bb


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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