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Creating Verse and Chorus Progressions That Work

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If you’re having a day when it’s hard to come up with verse and chorus progressions that work well as partners, how about an easy method that will work every time. The method below uses C major as a sample key, but of course you can transpose to any key that suits your song:

  1. Write out the chords that occur naturally in C major: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim (I ii iii IV V vi vii)
  2. From that list, start the process of making a chord progression for a verse by writing out just the minor chords: Dm Em Am
  3. From those three chords, improvise a rhythmic pattern that uses mostly two of those chords, and occasionally the 3rd one, for example:
    Dm  Em  Dm  Em  |Am  Em  Dm  Am | repeat….
  4. You can throw in other chords from C major, of course, but focus mainly on the minor chords.
  5. Now time to create a chorus progression: Write out the major chords from the C major list: C F G
  6. From those three chords, improvise a progression, throwing in an occasional minor chord, for example
    C  F  Dm  G |C  F  Dm  G |Am  F  Dm  G  |Am  F  Dm  G

By choosing from that one list of chords, you simplify the process so that you aren’t spending all day trying to find chords that work. By focusing on minor choices for the verse and major for the chorus, you create a really important sense of balance between the two sections.

Major choruses, particularly after a mainly minor verse, gives the chorus a special feeling of brightness that almost always works well.

You may worry that because all of these chords come from C major, there won’t be any sense of uniqueness or innovation with your chords. But in the balance between predictable and unique, it’s often better to use chords that are solid and predictable, and leave the more innovative qualities to your melodies and lyrics.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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