Using Scales For Chord Progressions

A lot of beginners have absolutely no clue on how chord progressions are formed, or any of the theory behind them. Luckily for you, I am going to show you an easy way to construct chord progressions, that requires minimal theory or heavy duty music knowledge.

14
Intro: Hello, and welcome to another CPDmusic guitar lesson. I'm sorry I haven't published a lesson in a while, but I'm back in business! Today's lesson will be about how to use scales to make an in-key chord progression. A lot of beginners have absolutely no clue on how chord progressions are formed, or any of the theory behind them. Luckily for you, I am going to show you an easy way to construct chord progressions, that requires minimal theory or heavy duty music knowledge. The only thing you will have to have knowledge on before we start iswellhow to play chords, as well as how major and minor scales work. If you don't know about major and minor scales, read this lesson: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/major_vs_minor.html A Scenario: Well, lets think up a scenario. Lets say a bunch of your friends wanted you to jam with them. You're down with that, it's a cool. But, when you're about to start, someone says okay, lets start in A major! WHAT! People jamin KEY!? What do you do now, you don't know any chord progressions! Or at least you don't think you do! There is an easy way to think of chord progressions on the fly! The Root: Okay, you're about to jam in A major. So, you will want a chord progression inA major! So, lets make your first chord of this chord progression A major:
E||--0----||
B||--2----||
G||--2----||
D||--2----||
A||--0----||
E||-------||
Okay, now what? Are you just going to play A major over and over and over and over again? No! What you are going to do next is build off that A major using a scale. What scale? WellA major! Using The Scale: Okay, so we know how a major scale works. It starts at the root and goes tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. So, than the A major scale is A B C# D E F# G#. And guess what? The same thing applies to chords! So, lets take some chords we already know really well out of there. How about D and E major:
E||--2----0----||
B||--3----0----||
G||--2----1----||
D||--0----2----||
A||-------2----||
E||-------0----||
So, now we have three chords to use in our chord progression, A D and E! Building The Progression: Now, you have three chords that you can play around with. First of all, you shouldn't feel restrained to play them in the order they are in the scale. So, how about we change this progression to A E D. Secondly, feel free to repeat any chords. So, how about we repeat the root chord at the end, to make our progression A E D A. And finally, feel free to stray away from major. As long as the root stays major or minor, the chord progression should still sound good. Likehow about we try changing the D to Dsus4. So, if you remember to not be restrained by order, feel free to repeat chords, and not be restrained by major of minor, you should get a pretty rockin' chord progression! Try playing our A E Dsus4 A progression:
E||--0----|--0----|--3----|--0----||
B||--2----|--0----|--3----|--2----||
G||--2----|--1----|--2----|--2----||
D||--2----|--2----|--0----|--2----||
A||--0----|--2----|-------|--0----||
E||-------|--0----|-------|-------||
Pretty sweet, eh?
Don't Stop At The Top! You thought you were done, didn't you. Wellyou're not. You can get even better with you chord progression! There are many more things you can do other than add a pretty little strumming pattern to this progression. One thing I should defiantly mention is that you should know what style you're playing in. If your friends are playing with a kind of jazzy feel, for example, you probably won't be tuning down to drop C much. If it's blues, change the progression to A7 E7 D7 A7, and maybe add a bit of swing to your strumming pattern. If it's metal, play them all as power chords, A5 E5 D5 A5, and maybe add some palm mutes. Be aware of your style! Secondly, I'm just going to challenge you to take it to the next level. I'm not going to say anything, I'm just going to link you to one of my previous lessons, here. Add THAT to your chord progressions (but only if the style allows it!) andwellyou're looking pretty cool in front of the ladies! (or the guys!) Closing: Well, that's all for today! I hope you had as much fun as I did! A few things before I go: if you haven't checked out my YouTube channel yet, check it out here. It has some interval training videos, some transcription training videos, and the backing track for my harmonization lesson. Also, I will upload a short video so you can hear the stuff you can do with that basic A E D A chord progression. Finally, if you have the time, become my friend! I won't bite! And hey, join the War Against Pre-Manufactured Pop! Or ready my blog! I do more than write lessons you know! Well, that's all! Goodbye! Did You Like This Lesson? Check Out My Last Lesson, Tips For Transcription. More Lessons Coming Soon!

21 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    mrddrm
    I thought the article was really well written for beginners who have no theory, or limited theory knowledge. The only thing I did not like was, "So, if you remember to not be restrained by order, feel free to repeat chords, and not be restrained by major of minor, you should get a pretty rockin chord progression!" How you phrase this, it comes off that it doesn't matter if you change major to minor when each scale degree actually has a specified major/minor sound IN a major mode. If you change one it changes the key (with an exception of leading tones and such). Obviously you are trying to encourage creativity, but perhaps this could have been said better? Like maybe a footnote or a small sentence stating that each scale degree does indeed have an associated major/minor sound with it. I IV and V in a major key are the major chords and everything else is (essentially) the minor chords. That was the other thing I did not like was you used the I IV V example. I think it is a great first example, but you could have expanded onto a different chord progression that included changing major chords to minor chords and back? I V vii IV for example or something, and this then could go into minor and how it relates to major keys (where III VI VII are major now and everything else is minor) and leading tones and what not. Again, I'm being really picky since you seem to know what you are talking about, and I don't want someone to read it and get the wrong idea that major and minor chords don't matter as long as you are hitting a note in the scale, y'know? Great article for a beginner to read, though!
    CPDmusic
    AlexRB wrote: So many exclamation marks...can't...handle...the ENTHUSIASM!
    What are you talking about? There's only 25!
    CPDmusic
    mrddrm wrote: Hahaha... blunt reply. I hope you didn't take me as negative.
    Oh, sorry. I didn't take that as negative lol.
    micromountain37
    micromountain37 wrote: sickman411 wrote: You're in A minor, I believe. That F# in Esus2 is not on the scale, which is totally acceptable. Your Esus4 is actually an Asus2 (same notes in it). Also, you'll notice that G# is also not on the scale, despite being in the E major chord. According to this lesson, E minor should belong in the scale, not E major! However, it's very commonly done (you'll see it in loads and loads of songs) because it leads better to the root chord (for more info, check some stuff about the "leading tone"). The trick is: take the 5th chord (which should be minor) and play it major, usually right before the root chord. If you add a 7th, as you did, it even leads better into it. Dude, F# and G# are totally in the A Major scale.
    My bad. I totally thought you were talking about the article.
    CPDmusic
    jodogg wrote: Whoops, typed out what I wanted to say in the quoted section! "This guy is completely right. It would have helped to put that down. Otherwise, people think you can just played everything as either major or minor, even though the rest of the people that person is jamming with will be following the I ii iii IV V vi VIIo I pattern (VIIo being the diminished 7th)."
    Sorry about the triple post, but I'm the author, and I can do that! Anyway, sorry about that, I'll try and be more clear next time.
    mrddrm
    I look forward to seeing more of your work, because you do explain basic theory extremely well where I would just ramble on and on. I mean, (and here I go) what you said is perfectly ligament, but also not strictly sound in theory. I'm one to believe learn theory, at least basic theory, then break it to suit your needs. It's a language, and the more you know, the more you can correctly break it and use it to express your thoughts and musical concepts. So any sight of good music theory makes me happy on a site like ultimate-guitar.
    amosrock
    This lesson has really helped me with my understanding of chord progression. To be entirely honest I didn't even realize there was much of a method to it. I kind of figured people just messed around until they found a progression that sounded good. This definitely makes it easier! Thank you!
    HellFury
    sickman411: Thanks for your answer! I'll try to work on that song, and maybe someday, when it's done, I'll let you hear the result Also, thank you for the "Leading note". It will add to my ever growing knowledge of song building
    CPDmusic
    mrddrm wrote: I look forward to seeing more of your work, because you do explain basic theory extremely well where I would just ramble on and on. I mean, (and here I go) what you said is perfectly ligament, but also not strictly sound in theory. I'm one to believe learn theory, at least basic theory, then break it to suit your needs. It's a language, and the more you know, the more you can correctly break it and use it to express your thoughts and musical concepts. So any sight of good music theory makes me happy on a site like ultimate-guitar.
    Ya, I'm actually a pretty hardcore classically trained musician, and I did a lot of theory before I even go to pick up an instrument. To me, I felt people could learn better with a of instrumentation and theory, so thats what I try to do.
    micromountain37
    sickman411 wrote: You're in A minor, I believe. That F# in Esus2 is not on the scale, which is totally acceptable. Your Esus4 is actually an Asus2 (same notes in it). Also, you'll notice that G# is also not on the scale, despite being in the E major chord. According to this lesson, E minor should belong in the scale, not E major! However, it's very commonly done (you'll see it in loads and loads of songs) because it leads better to the root chord (for more info, check some stuff about the "leading tone"). The trick is: take the 5th chord (which should be minor) and play it major, usually right before the root chord. If you add a 7th, as you did, it even leads better into it.
    Dude, F# and G# are totally in the A Major scale.
    SilverSpurs616
    Cool article I'd like to see another, perhaps dealing with chord progressions in other scales such as the harmonic minor
    CPDmusic
    HellFury wrote: Okay. So, on the subject of chord progression. I was playing around with some chords, and made the following chord progression: E, E7, Esus4, Cmaj7 E, Esus2, E, Esus4 For the life of me, I can't find the right scale, though it does sound like it's correct. I must admit that my knowledge of scales is very little, so further than an major and minor scales I'm a n00b
    Well, sickman411 has pretty much answered your post for me lol.
    sickman411
    You're in A minor, I believe. That F# in Esus2 is not on the scale, which is totally acceptable. Your Esus4 is actually an Asus2 (same notes in it). Also, you'll notice that G# is also not on the scale, despite being in the E major chord. According to this lesson, E minor should belong in the scale, not E major! However, it's very commonly done (you'll see it in loads and loads of songs) because it leads better to the root chord (for more info, check some stuff about the "leading tone"). The trick is: take the 5th chord (which should be minor) and play it major, usually right before the root chord. If you add a 7th, as you did, it even leads better into it.
    HellFury
    Sorry for the double post, but just to make sure that the fingering is clear, those chords would be: E = 022100, E7 = 020100, Esus4 = 002200 (A5, but played with 6 strings), Cmaj7 = 032000, Esus2 = 024400
    CPDmusic
    mrddrm wrote: I thought the article was really well written for beginners who have no theory, or limited theory knowledge. The only thing I did not like was, "So, if you remember to not be restrained by order, feel free to repeat chords, and not be restrained by major of minor, you should get a pretty rockin chord progression!" How you phrase this, it comes off that it doesn't matter if you change major to minor when each scale degree actually has a specified major/minor sound IN a major mode. If you change one it changes the key (with an exception of leading tones and such). Obviously you are trying to encourage creativity, but perhaps this could have been said better? Like maybe a footnote or a small sentence stating that each scale degree does indeed have an associated major/minor sound with it. I IV and V in a major key are the major chords and everything else is (essentially) the minor chords. That was the other thing I did not like was you used the I IV V example. I think it is a great first example, but you could have expanded onto a different chord progression that included changing major chords to minor chords and back? I V vii IV for example or something, and this then could go into minor and how it relates to major keys (where III VI VII are major now and everything else is minor) and leading tones and what not. Again, I'm being really picky since you seem to know what you are talking about, and I don't want someone to read it and get the wrong idea that major and minor chords don't matter as long as you are hitting a note in the scale, y'know? Great article for a beginner to read, though!
    Yeah, I see what you mean. Okay.
    mrddrm
    Hahaha... blunt reply. I hope you didn't take me as negative.
    jodogg
    Whoops, typed out what I wanted to say in the quoted section! "This guy is completely right. It would have helped to put that down. Otherwise, people think you can just played everything as either major or minor, even though the rest of the people that person is jamming with will be following the I ii iii IV V vi VIIo I pattern (VIIo being the diminished 7th)."
    jodogg
    mrddrm wrote: I thought the article was really well written for beginners who have no theory, or limited theory knowledge. This guy is completely right. It would have helped to put that down. Otherwise, people think you can just played everything as either major or minor, even though the rest of the people that person is jamming with will be following the I ii iii IV V vi VIIo I pattern (VIIo being the diminished 7th). The only thing I did not like was, "So, if you remember to not be restrained by order, feel free to repeat chords, and not be restrained by major of minor, you should get a pretty rockin chord progression!" How you phrase this, it comes off that it doesn't matter if you change major to minor when each scale degree actually has a specified major/minor sound IN a major mode. If you change one it changes the key (with an exception of leading tones and such). Obviously you are trying to encourage creativity, but perhaps this could have been said better? Like maybe a footnote or a small sentence stating that each scale degree does indeed have an associated major/minor sound with it. I IV and V in a major key are the major chords and everything else is (essentially) the minor chords. That was the other thing I did not like was you used the I IV V example. I think it is a great first example, but you could have expanded onto a different chord progression that included changing major chords to minor chords and back? I V vii IV for example or something, and this then could go into minor and how it relates to major keys (where III VI VII are major now and everything else is minor) and leading tones and what not. Again, I'm being really picky since you seem to know what you are talking about, and I don't want someone to read it and get the wrong idea that major and minor chords don't matter as long as you are hitting a note in the scale, y'know? Great article for a beginner to read, though!
    HellFury
    Okay. So, on the subject of chord progression. I was playing around with some chords, and made the following chord progression: E, E7, Esus4, Cmaj7 E, Esus2, E, Esus4 For the life of me, I can't find the right scale, though it does sound like it's correct. I must admit that my knowledge of scales is very little, so further than an major and minor scales I'm a n00b