How do I create a chord progression by myself?

There are a few different ways to create a chord progression. I am going to assume you understand the use of Roman numerals to represent chords: I, ii, iii, IV, etc.

The first thing to notice is that the V chord has a strong pull to the I chord. V7 has an even stronger pull.

Functional Harmony In Major Keys:

You can thwart the expectation that V will go to I, by having it go to vi or to IV.

I, vi, ii or IV can lead to V

I or vi can lead to ii or IV

IV can lead to ii

I can also lead to iv

For example, in the ’50’s, a popular progression was: I, vi, IV, V

Another example would be: I, IV, ii, V7, I

Here is a functional harmony chart that outlines what I wrote above:

When moving rightward on the chart, you can skip as many chords as you wish. Follow the arrows when moving leftward.

Another approach is to create a sequence.

Harmonic Sequence:

This where you move around the circle of fifths in even steps.

For example, if I started with an E chord, I could go counterclockwise: E A D G C

or go clockwise: C G D A E. IIRC, that’s the progression to “Hey Joe”.

For a more exotic sounding progression, you can skip a couple of steps: E G Bb Db

Hopefully, this will keep you busy for a while.

©2016 Stephen L. Martin

Painting: Music by Henri Matisse

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