Chord progressions are simply movement from one chord to another in a harmonic framework. Translated in language you will understand if you are a beginner piano or music student this means you will be playing chords which, when combined, sound "right" or pleasant to the ear when played and are "harmonically" correct.

You know how to form a major scale from any point (note) on the piano. You have also learned how to construct chords by combining various scale tones (notes) together. It is now time to put this knowledge to use by learning some chord progressions. Now, there are many, many different ways to combine chords to form a piece of music. We will focus on some of the more "popular" chord progressions so you can get the "feel" of what we are talking about.

When I say, "combine chords" you need to understand I am speaking of moving from one chord to another in this harmonic framework I spoke of earlier. All the chord progressions we will be learning are based upon major scales and the scale tone chords. This means that the the 1st, 4th, and 5th tones (notes) will always be Major chords, the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th tones (notes) will always be minor chords and the 7th tone (note) will always be a diminished chord. These will be our 3-note or triad chord progression chords.

A diminished chord is composed of a 1st, b3rd (flatted third), and b5th (flatted fifth) tones (notes) of a major scale. This means the 3rd and 5th tones (notes) are lowered one half step. Using the key of "C" as an example the B diminished chord (triad) would contain the tones (notes) B, D, and F.

For our 7th chord progression chords, the 1st and 4th tones (notes) will always be Major 7th chords, the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th tones (notes) will always be minor 7th chords, the 5th tone (note) will always be a dominant 7th chord and the 7th tone (note) will always be a half diminished 7th chord.

A dominant 7th chord is formed by combining the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and b7th (flatted seventh) tones (notes) of a major scale. This means you would lower the 7th tone (note) one half step. A half diminished 7th chord is formed by combining the 1st, b3rd (flatted 3rd), b5th (flatted fifth), and b7th (flatted seventh) tones (notes) of a major scale. This means you would lower the 3rd, 5th, and 7th tones (notes) one half step.

Using the key of "C" as an example a G dominant 7th chord would contain the tones (notes) G,B,D, and F and a B half diminished 7th chord would have the tones (notes) B,D,F, and A. Click on the links below to get a description of the different chord progressions and a chart showing the corresponding chords.


Now that you understand what Maj7 and min7 chords are, you're gonna want to apply them to your music. Here are few pointers on using Maj7 and min7 chords.

When you use the IMaj7 chord it is most easily followed by a IV or a IVsus2 chord.
IMaj7 - IV2
try this progression and feel difference between it and just a regular I-IV progression.

When you use a iimin7 chord try following up with a IV, or V chord.
(ii)min7 - IVsus2-IV-V

The (iii)min7 chord often leads to a vi chord or a IV chord. try it out and see which one you'd like to play.
iiimin7 - vimaj7- IV- G

When you get the hand of these progressions you can move on to more involved techniques. Heres a short video of what can be accomplished by learning various types of chords.

The vimin7 chord is usually followed by a V chord.

Many musicians like to stick to the regular Maj chords when they are playing. What I try to do is deviate from that rigid block like style of playing and use different types of chords as substitutes to make playing piano much more fun and interesting. Now I'd like to give you a few pointers on using "Major Seventh Chords." Ex. CMaj7, DMaj7 etc..

The Maj7 chord is nothing complicated. Just like when we covered Sus2 chords all we have to do is add the note that is indicated. In this case we just add the 7th note to the chord. For example: CMaj: CEG CMaj7:CEGB

The addition of this seventh note can serve as a great tool for switching between the I chord and IV chord (Ex. CMaj7 to F.)

Now this video gives you a graphic picture of what the chords look like and how to form them. If your still confused on the exact notes for certain Maj7th and min7th chords below is a list of the most commonly used ones in the key of C

the commonly used Major and Minor Seventh Chords are as follows
Dmin7: DFAC
Emin7: EGBD
Amin7: ACEG

Now that you get the drift of what a basic Maj7 and min7 chord is like you can try playing them in other keys as well.

Below is a perfect example of how you can use diminished chords in a song.

Notice how he Starlingsounds, uses his diminished chords as passing tones, never for very long but just as a filler. The second chord he shows in the video is a B diminished chord with the seventh note added.

Chord memorization is the more tedious and boring way of learning the various chords on piano. If you just focus on learning the structure of a chord, or in simpler terms, just how it's made up, then it will be easier for you to learn all of the major and minor chords. Let's cut straight to it then.

What are the Basic Chords?
In music there are basically four commonly used chords. These are:

What is a semitone?
A semitone is basically a half step i.e Eb to E, Ab to A etc... It is important to know what a semitone is, because we will be using the semitone sort of as a measuring stick.

How do I build a major chord?
For simplicity's sake we'll use the C chord to learn how to build a major chord. Now lets take a look at it
The rule for forming a major chord is simple. Just proceed 4 semitones from the root note to find the second note of the chord. Then move 3 semitones from the second note to find the third note. Now you can apply this to any note and you can find the major chord for that note.

How to play a Minor Chord
For a minor chord the 4 semitone- 3 semitone is simple reversed. From the root note move 3 semitones up for the second note of the chord, and then 4 semitones from there to find the third note of the chord.

What is a Diminished Chord?
For some musicians diminished chords are their bread and butter, and for others the sound is not so pleasing, it all depends on the person playing it and the context in which they play it. Now how do we determine the structure for a diminished chord? a diminished chord uses a 3 semitone-3 semitone rule. This simple means that you move 3 semitones to the right to get the second note and 3 semitones to establish the third note.

i.e. Cdim: C Eb F#
.......Fdim: F Ab B
and so on.

Augmented Chord
For an augmented chord simply move to the right 4 semitones for the second note and again move 4 semitones to the right for the third note.

And there you have it, not you can start applying these basic principles to find the chord structure for any chord in any key.

Good Luck.

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