Goal-Oriented Chord Progressions: A Description, With 7 Examples

With songs in most of the pop music genres, you usually can’t go wrong with a solid, goal-oriented progression in the chorus.


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Keyboard & GuitarWhen something is goal-oriented, it means that the end or target of the job is clear and obvious at the outset. And it’s actually a bit more than that. A goal-oriented person is someone who not only sees what the completion of a job looks like even as they begin, but they also see the importance of being able to view the target clearly before even starting.

In chord progressions, a goal-oriented progression is one where a listener can tell where the chords are headed once they’re one or two chords into the progression. Most of the time, a goal-oriented progression is targeting the tonic chord – the chord representing the key of the song.

These kinds of progressions are typically found in song choruses. I like pointing to the verse of Paul Simon’s “My Little Town” as the epitome of the opposite of a goal-oriented progression. It meanders seemingly aimlessly, travelling through various key centres. It’s wonderfully creative, but not the sort of progression you’d typically want in a chorus.

The quintessential model for the goal-oriented progression is: C F G C (I-IV-V-I). But you may be looking for something more creative. Keeping in mind that goal-oriented progressions should be short, here are some examples that might help stimulate your imagination a bit more than the standard I-IV-V-I progression:

  1. C  Bb  Ab  G (I-bVII-bVI-V)
  2. C  Eb  F  G  (I-bIII-IV-V)
  3. C  F  D7  G  (I-IV-V7/V-V)
  4. C  Gm  F  Bb  (I-v-IV-bVII)
  5. C  Am  Bb  Eb  (I-vi-bVII-bIII)
  6. C  F  Bb  Dm7  (I-IV-bVII-ii7)
  7. C  Am  Bsus4  B  (I  vi  VIIsus4  VII)

There’s no reason, of course, that these or any other goal-oriented progressions couldn’t or wouldn’t work in a verse. You can almost never go wrong with writing music that presents a strong verse that leads to a similarly strong chorus.

But goal-oriented progressions in a chorus have the benefit of making your chorus sound a bit more “hooky”, being supported by a progression that is pleasantly repetitive and predictable.

______________Gary Ewer

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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  1. Pingback: Interesting Links For Musicians and Songwritiers – April 24, 2015 | Creative Music | Inspiring Musical Creativity

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