Practical Chord Progressions

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or you’ve never written a song in your life, the following exercises can help you build, expand, and rethink your songwriting.

If you want to become a great songwriter, you have to practice writing music.  But you’re going to make greater progress faster if you practice with purpose and intelligence.  That’s where my Practical Chord Progressions series comes in.

Does the word “theory” send chills down your spine?  You’re in luck.  If you follow this series from start to finish, you’ll develop a working grasp of the theory that matters without memorizing arcane formulas.  You’ll be spending your time creating music instead of reading.

All the chords you need to know are listed here. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry.  They’ll be introduced one at a time.

I encourage readers to submit their results. I will post one audio file per reader per exercise along with a link to your music website (if you have one).

I. Chords in the Home Key

    1. An Overview
    2. I (The Tonic or “Home Chord”)
    3. V (The Dominant or “Magnet Chord”)
    4. IV (The Subdominant or “Neighborhood Chord”)
    5. vi (The Relative Minor or “Shadowy Twin”)
    6. ii (The Supertonic or “Magnetic Tunnel Chord”)
    7. iii (The Mediant or “Moody Chord”)

II. Light and Shadow

    1. Light and Shadow Part 1: Verse and Chorus
    2. Light and Shadow Part 2: Creating Depth through Contrast
    3. Light and Shadow Part 3: Reversing the Polarity of a Chord Progression

III. Secondary Dominants

    1. Secondary Dominants: Introducing the Seventh Chord
    2. II7 (V of V): Portal to Another World
    3. VI7 (V of ii): A Chord Cycle

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