Learning to play music is exciting, but getting started can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming. Where do you start? Where do you go next? What do you do when things get tricky? What should you be focusing on?
These are all common bits of feedback we hear from those looking to get started with learning to play their instrument.
Introducing the Melodics Guided Path – a structured map through the Melodics Courses to help you find your way and improve your skills on the keys, pads, or drums.
The Guided Path gives you an overview of the areas you should focus on when starting your musical journey with Melodics. Working your way through each Course in the Guided Path will help you lay a solid foundation for you to build upon further.
We’ve designed this path for you to follow, but try moving both ways. Forward through the courses to master new concepts, but also back to lessons you’ve passed so you can see the improvements you’ve made, increase your scores and get those perfects. One of the joys of music learning is the satisfaction of easily re-playing a lesson you once found super hard.
“That song sounds so familiar, I’m trying to think what it reminds me of….”
Chances are it’s another song with the same chord progression. There are certain progressions that have been used over and over again in popular music. In this post, we will look at a few examples of the most common chord progressions and the corresponding lessons from the Common Chord Progressions course in Melodics for Keys.
What is a chord progression?
A chord progression is the sequence that chords are played in. Sometimes pop songs will use only one chord progression that repeats for the entire song. This can be as simple as three or four chords. The chords to many of the most popular songs of all time are no more complex than the examples in the Common Chord Progressions course.
Throughout the history of Pop music, a number of especially popular and common chord progressions have appeared, and even if you might not have realised it yet, you probably know dozens of songs that use the same sequence of chords.
Each of these progressions has a name written in Roman numerals. A brief explanation about what these mean is provided at the bottom of this post. This is not essential knowledge but rather included for those who are interested in reading further.
Listen to the preview from the Melodics lesson Celebration Time. Sound familiar? This chord progression has strong associations with positive, high energy music.
There are endless examples of this chord progression stretching right back into classical music, but its usage in Pop music is heavily rooted in Blues and Rock & Roll. Listen to this classic example: Wild Thing by The Troggs.
In the lesson Celebration Time, this progression is in the key of C, so the chords are:
Another immensely popular chord progression, but this time in a minor key. This automatically brings about associations with heavier or deeper themes. On that note, listen to Rolling in the Deep by Adele and compare it with the lesson Reflections.
The lesson Reflections is in the key of A minor, therefore the chords are:
A MinorG MajorF MajorG Major
Here are a few examples of the same chord progression in other eras and styles:
Perhaps the quintessential Pop music chord progression, this chord progression belongs to so many different sentiments, but at its core lies the same four chords. This famous video from comedy group Axis of Awesome addresses how broadly this progression is used:
In the lesson Always & Forever, we return to the key of C Major, meaning that the chords are:
C MajorG MajorA MinorF Major
By now you are probably noticing that the same chords are recurring in slightly different orders for each chord progression. If you try playing one chord over and over, you’ll notice that it doesn’t seem to express much. Yet the motion created when we arrange a few chords creates a whole range of possibilities.
It could be said that this progression has strong associations with sentimentality, and here are a few examples that reflect that. See if you can think of others.
When dealing with themes that are more intense, melancholic or brooding, a classic technique is to use a chord progression that ‘rises’ into a minor chord. This gives a feeling of resolution, but the resolution is serious and intense.
The lesson here is riffing on a classic example of this progression, Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush.
In the lesson, we are in the key of A Minor again. The chords are:
F MajorG MajorA Minor(A Minor)
There are numerous other examples of this chord progression, sometimes with the last chord substituted for another VI or VII chord. Here are some other examples:
This chord progression is essentially the mirror of chord progression 2 (Reflections), with the crucial difference being that it is in a minor key. This means that although it has a ‘happy’ moment when it reaches the third chord, it continues to resolve back to a more melancholic home chord.
A classic example of this chord progression is the song Zombie by the Cranberries, in which the chord progression repeats without variation underneath the whole song.
In the lesson Familiar Faces, we are in the key of A Minor, so the chords are:
A MinorF MajorC MajorG Major
Another classic example of this chord progression can be found in the chorus of the song Hello by Adele.
The final chord progression in this course is a little different to the others. It is not often used as a chord progression to underpin an entire song, but rather as a short section to end or resolve others.
This chord progression and its many variants are a significant feature in Jazz and are heavily utilised in the music of the Beatles. Listen to the first four chords of the song Into the Great Wide Open by Tom Petty and compare it to the lesson.
You might have noticed that the name of the chord progression is much more confusing than the others too. Worry not! Further information on this can be found at the end of this post.
In Treading on Heels, we are in the key of C Minor and use these chords.
C MinorC Minor/BC Minor/BbC Minor/A
Notice that every chord is actually a variant of C Minor, only the note written after the ‘/’ is changing.
Here are a few more examples, some using slightly different variations, and usually only in certain sections of the song. Challenge your ears and see if you can figure out where this progression appears in each song.
Loss Ageless – St Vincent
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles
I See Monsters – Ryan Adams
Further information regarding the use of Roman numerals
The numerals correspond to the root note of the chord in relation to the key. For example, in the key of C, we would have:
If the numeral is upper case (I) it is a major chord, if it’s lower case (i) then it is minor. So the chords for C Major are:
C MajorD MinorE MinorF MajorG MajorA MinorB Mino
Applying this system to the key of A Minor, we have:
A MinorB MinorC MajorD MinorE MinorF MajorG Majo
Notice that the chords are identical in C Major and A Minor but appear in a different order and have different numerals. This is because these two keys use the exact same notes but have a different home chord. They are known as relative keys.
The reason we name the progressions as with roman numerals is because even if a song was in G Major, it could be using the exact same chord progression as a key in C Major. Here is an example:
In C:C MajorF MajorG MajorF Major
In G:G MajorC MajorD MajorC Major
This means that if we know the numeral names, we could play the same chord progression in any key, and you’ll find that many of the songs in this post aren’t just in C Major or A Minor, yet the sound of the progression is the same.
In regard to the last lesson, we have some chords that use a ‘/’. In theory, this is simple; if a chord has a ‘/’ in it, the numeral on the left is the chord played and the numeral on the right is the root note played underneath it. We call these slash chords or compound chords. When the notes played underneath do not come from the key of the song, we can alter the numeral with a sharp (#) or flat (b) symbol.
So if we have:
A MinorA Minor/GA Minor/F
Then adding an extra passing note before the G would give us:
A MinorA Minor/G#A Minor/GA Minor/F
ii/#VIIi/VIIi/VI If you are interested in learning more about music theory, a good place to start is the Melodics Music Theory course, and you can also read on here: link
Melodics uses the principles of a method of learning called ‘Deep Practice.’ It’s the process of slowing things down, zooming-in with focus, and deliberately building a great result step-by-step. These ideas draw heavily from the research of Anders Ericsson and Daniel Coyle and although they’re often applied to sport and athletic training, they work just as well for building muscle memory and developing musical skills.
Here’s how Deep Practice works within a Melodics lesson:
1: Pick a lesson and listen to it as a whole. It’s important to get familiar with the music you’ll be performing using preview mode and then orientate yourself to the finger placements.
2: Divide the song into small steps or components and practice and memorize these separately. Then, link them together in progressively larger groupings. You’ll notice that in the early grades we do a lot of the dividing into steps for you. As the grades increase and the steps become more difficult, you might find it useful to divide them up even further using practice mode and setting loops.
3: Play with time, first slowing the action down and then speeding it up. Slowing down helps you to focus more closely on errors, creating a higher degree of precision. Use features in practice mode such as auto-bpm or wait-mode to build up your muscle memory and reflexes. Be patient with yourself, this can take a while!
4: Pick a part of the song you want to master, reach for it then evaluate the gap between your target and the goal and start again. You can track your progress each session and see how you’re progressing. Detecting mistakes is essential for making progress. This error-focused element of deep practice makes it a struggle, a process of ‘brain stretching’ which is likely to be slightly frustrating but which leads to growth.
5: Keep practicing like this every day. This is the crucial part that so many people forget but even a small amount (5 minutes) of this deliberate and focused practice every day will lead to better results than large infrequent practice sessions that don’t have a structure and focus.
Give it a go and let us know how you get on.
To learn more about the ideas and research on this subject, check out the following books: Anders Ericsson ‘Peak’ and Daniel Coyle ‘The Talent Code’.
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