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Turning One Good Progression Into Two That Work Well Together

I’ve mentioned frequently lately that it’s become a thing to create entire songs based on one chord progression. That may work for top-40 kinds of songs, but if you’re into creating interesting music with lyrics, chords and melodies all partnering well together, the one-chord-progression song may not work so well.

But let’s say that you’ve got a chord progression that you really like, and now you’d like to create another one that’s different, but pairs up well with it.


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Let’s take the following progression as an example:

F  G  Am  Em
IV  V  vi  iii

There are interesting possibilities for creating new ones that will work well as a chord progression partner. Here’s one option: use it as your chorus progression, and then create a minor version which would work well as a verse progression.

Here’s how to create a minor version of a major progression that will always work. The four chords you see above (F, G, Am Em) all belong to the key of C major. So find the relative minor of C major (here’s a handy list), which will give you the key of A minor. Now, find the IV, V, vi and iii of the key of A minor, and you get this progression:

Dm  Em  F  C
iv  v  VI  III

That progression will work well as your verse progression. Let’s say that you run through that verse progression 4 times, changing the final C chord to a G, just to make the transition to the C major version work better. You wind up with this:

Verse:

Dm  Em  F  C  |Dm  Em  F  C  |Dm  Em  F  C  |Dm  Em  F  G

Chorus:

F  G  Am  Em… etc

This method has allowed you to take what works — the chorus progression — shift it into a minor key, keeping all other pitch relationships the same (i.e., using the same Roman numerals), and you will always wind up with something that works.

And more than just working, you’ll find that the minor-major relationship of the two progressions makes them perfect partners for using as a verse-chorus pairing.

You will find that any major key progression can be moved into the relative minor (or vice versa), and it should always work. Here are some examples to experiment with:

  1. MINOR: Am  Em  F  C  Ddim  Em  Ddim  Am  ||MAJOR: C  G  Am  Em  F  G  F  C
  2. MINOR:  Em  F  C  Am ||MAJOR: G  Am  Em  C
  3. MINOR:  F  Ddim  Em  Am  ||MAJOR: Am  F  G  C

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.Songwriting eBook Bundle - Gary Ewer


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One Comment

  1. Any thoughts or ideas for chord progressions that dont fit neatly into one particular key? As i was reading this, i realized the song i was listening to and like very much features the same chord progression throughout. (Army of One, Coldplay). I think it takes a real gift for melody to craft an engaging, interesting song from three or four triads.

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