Guitar - chords - songwriter

Minor Verse to Major Chorus – the Easy Way

If you like the sound of a minor verse moving to a major chorus, you’re in good company. Many songs move from minor to major. That natural “brightening” of the sound just seems to work really well.

To hear this in action, you might listen to Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors”, or Taylor Swift’s “Style.”

Minor-to-major songs will work in any genre. It makes your verse sound pensive and moody, and your chorus sound confident and optimistic.

Here’s an easy way to create chord progressions that will work for you. You can start by choosing any key, and then transpose what you come up with to get it into the key that’s right for your verse. So let’s start easy: choose a chorus key of C major.

C major gives you seven chords that occur naturally:

C – Dm – Em – F – G – Am – Bdim

Getting the Minor Verse Progression

The Am chord is the 6th chord, and that’s the one you’ll want to choose to base your verse progression on. There are any number of progressions that will work:

  • Am Dm Em Am (vi ii iii vi)
  • Am G F Am (vi V IV vi)
  • Am F Em Am (vi IV iii vi)
  • Am Dm C G (vi ii I V)
  • Am Em F Dm (vi iii IV ii)

Keep experimenting and you’ll find even more. In your verse you may choose to use two different progressions, one for the first half of your verse, and then another for the second. That’s songwriting for you… there are no rules, and you get to say what the plan is.

As you can see, they all either start and end on Am, or they end on some chord that moves easily to Am, so creating minor turnarounds is usually not difficult at all.

Getting the Major Chorus Progression

To create a major progression, simply take the progressions above and substitute the vi-chord (Am) with a I-chord (C).

That one small change to the first chord is all you need to make those progressions sound suddenly brighter and more optimistic. Those five sample progressions would become:

  • C Dm Em Am (I ii iii vi)
  • C G F Am (I V IV vi)
  • C F Em Am (I IV iii vi)
  • C Dm C G (I ii I V)
  • C Em F Dm (I iii IV ii)

It’s sometimes good to think about how to smoothly transition from the final chord of the verse to make for a polished switch from minor to major. But you may want to consider doing an immediate jump from minor to major — an abrupt modulation. In most cases, it will work just fine.

Dealing With Sameness

You’ve got one small issue that you may want to deal with, which is that both the verse and chorus progressions will be largely the same. It’s only a problem if you want something more contrasting.

An easy solution to the prevailing sameness between verse and chorus progressions done in this way would be to add a bridge section to your song that moves in some new direction, perhaps starting on the ii-chord.

There are many ways to create chords, and this is just possible way. The benefit to creating a verse-chorus chord partnership in this way is that creating the verse basically gives you the chorus, and you get quickly beyond the chord creation stage and into working on melodies and lyrics.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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