Mumford and Sons

3 Verse-Chorus Chord Progression Partners: Changing Key

Most of the time, if there is a difference in key between a verse and chorus, it’s the kind of thing where a verse will be in minor, switching to the relative major for the chorus.

Then you get songs like “Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons, which switches quite freely back and forth throughout the verse between minor (D minor) and the relative major (F major).


Writing a Song From a Chord ProgressionIf you like to start the songwriting process by working out the chords, you need to read “Writing a Song From a Chord Progression.” It will show you the pros and cons of this method, and help you get the best out of the chords-first process.


Switching keys subtly like that gives your music a nice sense of contrast, and keeps listeners interested. The relative major/minor relationship is the most common.

But what about songs where the chorus introduces a new key that’s not so closely related? When you change to a chorus key where the relationship to the verse that’s just happened isn’t quite as obvious, it can give the chorus a nice shot of musical excitement.

What follows is a list of  three chord progressions that do that very thing: they put the chorus in a new, less-than-closely-related key. They’ll work in any musical style, tempo and time signature, so feel free to experiment with them.

DESCRIPTIONS

  1. The first progression starts in Am, visiting the relative major key of C major, before jumping into E major for the chorus. There’s a bit of a tag on the end of the chorus progression that takes you back to the verse key.
  2. The second progression is mainly in C major, then leaps to Eb major for the chorus. The chorus progression ends on a Bb (V) chord which is reinterpreted as a lowered-seventh of the verse key, to get you back to C major.
  3. The third progression moves a bit, from C minor to Eb major, then sounds like it wants to move back to C minor for the chorus. But instead it moves to E major. The final Ab sounds like a VI chord of C minor, and that’s what gets you back to the Cm verse.

PROGRESSION 1

        /   /  /  /   /   /   / /  /   /   /   /  /   /   /    / 
VERSE: Am  Dm  C  F |Am  Dm  C  F|Bb  Gm  Am  Dm|Bb  Gm  Asus  A|
        /  /  /  /   /    /  /  / /  /  /  /    /   /  /  /  /  /  /   / /
CHORUS: E  A  E  B  |C#m  A  E  B|E  A  E  B  |C#m  A  E  B|E  Am  E  Am G||

PROGRESSION 2

        /  /   /  /    /   /    /   / /  /  /   /   /   /  / / 
VERSE: C  Dm  F  Em  |Am  Am/G  F  G|C  Dm  F  Em  |Am  F  G   ||
         /  /  /        /  /  /       /  /   /       /   /  /
CHORUS: Eb  F  Bb     |Eb  F  Bb    |Cm  Ab  Bb    |Cm  Ab  Bb    ||

PROGRESSION 3

        /   /  /  /   /   /   / /  /   /   /   /  /   /   /    / 
VERSE: Cm  Fm  Ab  G |Eb  Fm  Ab  G|Ab  Bb  Eb  Ab|Fm  G  Cm  G|
         /   /   /   /   /    /  /  /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /  /  
CHORUS: A/E  E  A/E  A |A/E  E  Ab    |A/E  E  A/E  A  |A/E  E  Ab    ||

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Essential Chord ProgressionsLooking for lists of progressions you can use in your own songs? “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle has 2 main collections, plus eBooks on how to harmonize your own melodies, and more.

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