BackReturn Home

Basic Chord Progressions

There are generally two types of Chord Progressions:

1. Cyclic Progressions
2. Sequential Progressions

Cyclic Progressions - As the name implies, these are Chord Progressions that repeat in a loop. They are usually fairly short, anywhere from four-to-eight Chords in length.

Sequential Progressions - This is when all of the Root Notes of the Chords within the Chord Progression shift up or down by the same Interval throughout. This shifting is called "Root Movement".

There is some overlap between the two types (e.g.: a Sequential Progression might be used to connect together two Cyclic Progressions). Either way, a Cadence can bring either of them to a stop whenever necessary. [Some styles of music, especially Pop and Electronic music, have a tendency to focus exclusively on Cyclic Progressions without even considering Cadences. Sometimes we want to repeatedly loop something rather than change it up (e.g.: as a stylistic choice, out of convenience, due to the limitations of our tools, etc.).]

We will give some examples of each type below...

Common Cyclic Progressions:

• "The Three Chord Trick" (IV → V → I)

• "The Blues Turnaround" (V → IV → I)

• "The Jazz Turnaround" (ii → V → I)

• "The Doo-Wop Progression" (I → vi → IV → V)

• "The Four Chords" (I → V → vi → IV)

Common Sequential Progressions:

Descending 5ths or Ascending 4ths (I → IV → vii° → iii → vi → ii → V → I)

Descending 3rds (I → vi → IV → ii → vii° → V → iii → I)