Guitarist - songwriter

5 Chord Progressions That Build Musical Momentum

In music, momentum is anything that builds energy. Every possible element within a song has the potential to affect momentum, and songs are good if all of those elements partner well.

You can hear energy and momentum growing in a song in any number of ways, including:

  1. if the music becomes louder;
  2. if the music becomes faster;
  3. if instruments move higher in basic range;
  4. if lyrics become more emotional;
  5. if backing vocals are added.

The chords you choose for your song also have the potential for building song energy. You’ll notice this:

  1. if progressions move from being mainly minor to mainly major;
  2. if progressions move from being tonally ambiguous (i.e., hard to tell what key they’re in) to tonally strong (i.e., easy to discern the key);
  3. if progressions move from being long and wandering to short;
  4. if progressions move from using lots of added tones to ones that use basic 3-note triads;
  5. if progressions change key;

In general, you’ll notice that song energy builds throughout a verse, and then is highest (or close to highest) during the chorus, or sometimes during the bridge. So it’s typical for verse progressions to be longer, more tonally ambiguous, using more inversions (“slash chords”) than the progressions you’d use in a chorus.

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If you find it hard to come up with chord progressions for your verse and chorus, take a look at the 5 sample progressions below. Feel free to use them as is, or change them to suit your song. Some suggestions:

  1. They’ll work in any tempo, style or time signature. I’d recommend starting by strumming each chord for 2 beats, and then experiment from there. Chords that have a long underscore after are meant to be held for 4 beats.
  2. Try taking any two chords and repeat them several times before moving on. So you might takes something like C  Am  Dm  G and repeat the first two chords, which might wind up giving you a verse progression like this: C Am C Am |C Am C Am |Dm G Dm G…
  3. Add or change chords as you see fit. No one can tell you what progression is perfect for your song, so feel free to use what you see below as a kind of “skeleton” upon which you add your own touch. So C Am Dm G might be C Am Bb G in your own song.


Chord Progression #1 (Moves from mainly minor to mainly major)

VERSE: Am  Bb  F  C  |Am  Bb  F  G  |Am  Bb  F  C  |Am  Bb  F  G

CHORUS: C  Dm  F  C  |C  Dm  F  C  |Em  F  C  G  |C  Dm  F  C

Chord Progression #2 (Moves from mainly ambiguous to tonally strong)

VERSE: Em  Bm7  A____ |Em  Bm7  A____ |E  Am7  Dm  E  |Am7  G/B  Dm  G  | (optional repeat)

CHORUS: C  G  Am  F  |C  G  Am  F  |C  G  Am  F  Dm  G  Dm  G

Chord Progression #3 (Moves from one with lots of added tones to simpler triads)

VERSE: Cadd9  Fadd6  Cadd9  Fadd6  Csus4  C  Am9  Am  Dm  G (repeat)

CHORUS: C  F  C  F  C  Am  C  G

Chord Progression # 4 (Moves from one with lots of inversions to one with mainly root-position chords)

VERSE: C/E  Dm7  F/C  C  |C/E  Dm7  F/C  C  |Eb/Bb  Bb  C/G  G  |C/E  Dm7  F  G/D

CHORUS: C  Bb  F  C  |C  Bb  F  G  |Am  F  C  G  |C  Bb  F  C

Chord Progression #5 (Changes key between verse and chorus)

VERSE: Dm  C  Am  G  |Dm  C  Am  G   |Am  F  G  Em  |Am  F  G  Esus4  E

CHORUS: A  E/G#  F#m  F#m/E  D  A  Bm  A (repeat)

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

Gary Ewer

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One Comment

  1. Pingback: 5 Chord Progressions That Build Musical Momentum — The Essential Secrets of Songwriting | Earl Leonard – Music for Kids

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