Talk:Chord progression

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Template:Former TAFI Template:WikiProject Music Theory

see short discussion at Talk:Harmonic progression

Common chord

--->ALSO A certain chord can be present in several different scales


      C E G bB  appears in the scales of   
               CDEFGA Bb ( C mixolydian )
               FGA Bb CDE ( F major ) 
               GA Bb CDE F#  ( G minor )    
               C Eb E F F# G Bb ( C blue scale ) 
                                       etc .... 

Therefore A chord is common to several tonalities

What you listed are scales. They consist of tones, not chords! And of course a certain tone can be present in several different scales, after all there are only 12 tones.

---> Especially modern jazz artists use these "characteristics " of chords by using chords progressions to create a constantly ongoing modulation ....

Theorists/ teachers (of this particular mode of playing ) include

            Nathan Davis 
            Hal Singer 

> Performers of these styles even fabricated so called " synthetic " scales

on several ( simple three chord ) progressions ( and a different one on "bridges" in anatole -pieces / ballad and tin -pan -alley material )

Sonny Rollins is an outstanding " player " of these linear approaches to motivistic and rapid scale- changing modes of improvisation


In the table, there under major IV, one of the progressions starts with a VI, I think this is a mistake, all the others start with the same as the title of the row but I don't feel as if I know enough to change it!

Under "Rewrite Rules," the link to "well-formed" doesn't go anywhere useful. I'm not sure what exactly it should link to. Maybe something should be added to the disambiguation page? Foxmulder 18:10, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

Same goes for "cyclic." Also changed the VI to a IV; I assume that was a typo. Foxmulder 18:40, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

Does "(assuming 12ET)" mean "assuming 12 equal tones?" This seems very unclear, why would it be written like that? BunDonkey 02:09, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Rewrite rules

The rewrite rules are quite unclear in the examples.

What does this mean:

1        2        3 4  5          6       7 8   9         10      11 12
bVi, bIII/bVII, IV/I/I//bVI, bIII/bVII, IV/I/I//bVI, bIII/bVII, IV/I/I//

I'm not sure what the slashes represent? 02:32, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

I added an explination. How's it look now? Hyacinth 07:12, 6 October 2006 (UTC)
Looks really good. I'm a beginner and it makes sense to me now. Initially I guessed the '/' were representing 'play chord again' or 'or play this chord' Thanks! 21:13, 11 October 2006 (UTC)


  • "In music of the common practice period, generally only certain chord progressions are used. Many of the other unused progressions are not traditionally considered tonal. It should be noted, however, that in most styles of music, chord progressions are resultant from voice leading patterns; thus the preceding observations are merely generalizations."

I removed the italicized portion above as it is a reply and thus belongs on the talk page and the preceding material already reads "generally". Hyacinth 10:34, 30 May 2006 (UTC)


  • A chord progression in its most basic definition, stands as an antonym for retrogression.

I removed the above as its unexplained and there is no article on retrogression. Hyacinth 06:59, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

  • Chords often relate to each other in some phenomenological, tonally-coherent way—though this may not always be the case, especially when discussing more complex tonal music after 1840.

I don't know what "phenomenological, tonally-coherent way" means. Hyacinth 07:11, 6 October 2006 (UTC)


I find this page confusing. Granted though, I am a novice in music theory.

I understand the notation used for the most part, but I am confused by the notation "ii6°".

The "ii" should indicate a supertonic root with a note a minor third above this. This makes sense. However, the "6" indicates a note a sixth above the root, while the "°" should indicate a diminished quality.

Does this indicate:

  1. a diminished 5th *and* a 6th
  2. only a diminished 5th
  3. only a 6th (if this is figured bass notation)

In semitones, these possibilities would be:

  1. 3-3-3
  2. 3-3
  3. 3-6

In the key of A minor (harmonic), the notes for each possibility would be

  1. B-D-F-G#
  2. B-D-F
  3. B-D-G#.

If I were to name these, I would call these

  1. ii°7
  2. ii°
  3. ii6

So, what is the correct interpretation? -- 11:10, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

The notation ii refers to the pitch classes in the chord, in this case, B-D-F. The ° refers to the chord's diminished quality. The 6 refers to its inversion (see Inversion (music)), which means that this ii chord contains a 6th above the bass instead of a 5th, which is the case in first inversion (second inversion includes also a 4th instead of a 3rd, so is called 6/4). So, the first inversion of B-D-F is D-F-B. - Rainwarrior 17:07, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the quick reply. From Chord (music): Roman numerals indicate the root of the chord as a scale degree within a particular key .... From Inversion (music): In this system, inversions are indicated by a digit or digits written below a given bass note. My confusion was due to thinking that the root had to be the same as the bass in this context in order to work as a figured bass. It appears that this notation could be called figured Roman The portion of the Chord symbol article discussing this was lost when that article was merged into Chord (music). Obviously, your interpretation is completely correct, and makes a lot of sense. However, it still raises some questions for me:
  • What does the footnote in the table refer to? It seems to be talking about this, but the places where the asterisks are have no figured notation.
  • Could not all chords be inverted as seen fit? It would make sense that this was done more commonly for certain chords, however the table as it is now seems to imply that there were only certain valid transitions, including particular inversions.
  • Why was all mention of figured Roman removed? Strictly, Roman notation cannot be used with figured bass as it is described, since Roman describes the root and not the bass.
It seems to me that there is room for improvement in these articles. Does it make sense to discuss chords in the table without inversion, and then have an addendum discussing common inversions, and other additional details? Also, does it make sense to attempt to organize the discussion of figured notation somehow? I am not quite sure how to best do this, as figured notation is discussed in (at least) Chord (music), Inversion (music), and Figured bass -- 04:43, 26 October 2006 (UTC)
In answer to your questions:
  • Umm, it looks like the footnote appears to be trying to explain how to build the particular chord. Do you take notes from the harmonic or melodic minor, and if melodic, which version do you use? In common practice music, there is a particular version that is used much more often than the others for each of these possibilities, so that's why the footnote is there, I suppose.
  • No, the inversions aren't arbitrary. The table itself doesn't explain why those particular inversions are used, however. The reason comes from the practice of counterpoint. There are certain ways to write chord progressions smoothly, and if you take a study of counterpoint in classical music you'll find that in most progressions one particular form is extremely dominant. (For instance, try to find a 6/4 chord that's not part of I 6/4 - V - I.)
  • I expect mention of "figured Roman" was removed because it is not a very widely used term. I've never heard anyone use it before. I've actually never heard a name for the use of roman numerals with figures (other than the ambiguous "chord symbols", or banal "roman numeral analysis"), but often the figures themselves are refered to as the "inversion" (e.g. "the 6/4 inversion").
As for improvement of the article, I would say that this article is pretty bad. I've only come to it recently, and haven't taken any time to work on it yet, but offhand I'd say that we should leave the inversions in the table, but it is very worth discussing the meaning of those inversions (which would be a good place to explain the inversion notation briefly as well). Also, the "rewrite rules" section is badly notated, and I'm not certain it belongs in this article at all (is it referred to anywhere but in that one book?). - Rainwarrior 05:28, 26 October 2006 (UTC)
Actually, looking at the table, I'm not sure the inversions used are the correct ones (but I still stand by my general statements before about there usually being one form for a progression, even if the table doesn't show the correct ones at the moment). I'll have to check over this later. - Rainwarrior 05:33, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

More confusion

I find it confusing, because it contains none of the information I am conversant with. Chord progressions are a series of whole numbers -- nothing else. They are not complicated with numeric names for chords. Rather, those progressions are 'given' names according to who discovered them or whatever culture uses them, but they are not complicated with the names we've given to the simplest ratios like three to two or four to three.

Let me give you an example. A series of four perfect fifths begins with the number eight. Why eight, because that's the lowest number that you can divide three times by two, so the whole series is 8,12,18,27. THAT is a chord progression: Nothing but a series of numbers. Give it a name, like one of the names given to a chord on the guitar if it plays big in someone's piece.

Let me show you how simple it can be to prove numeric names to be nonsense.

A perfect fifth is 2/3 (usually it's called the reciprocal, but think about it).
A perfect third is 4/3 (sometimes this is called a fourth, but that's new to me).
A perfect eleventh is 8/3

See the series? They're exactly an octave apart. The reference pitch is three, which is not practical, until I explain fundamental frequency to you.

But no relation is between the names for those ratios.

Number the names, not the other way around, then this article might become instructive. I also see the roman numerals in here, and that just extends my confusion. I grew up with Arabic numerals. Those are what i calculate with. So, perhaps I would be repeating myself if I asked you to define IV as (what?) 8:6:3:2 (a perfect third, a perfect eleventh, a three to one, a double octave, and an octave)? I don't even know how many notes are in this IV chord.

I don't hav a convenient tool for this analysis, but write a chordhere, and I can probably figure it out. If you're not conversant with constructed languages, then you can fax me. BrewJay 21:04, 26 August 2007 (UTC)

It's usual in Wikipedia to post below the other comments in the section. Thus I moved yours here to avoid confusion.
Methinks you have done too much physics (or possibly guitar playing) and not enough music theory. I'm by no means a theory expert (I still don't know what the flat symbols on this page represent), but I can see a lot of problems with your argument.
Your statement that "8,12,18,27" is a chord progression is amusing, and shows that you have missed the entire point of the page. Let me carefully explain. Start by imagining a series of 8 boxes (the white piano keys make an admirable set to imagine, if you can play the piano). Now, imagine that these boxes represent the notes in the C major scale. Sometimes there will be an interval of a whole tone between two boxes (eg. C and D). Other times it will be a semitone (eg. E and F).
Now, having imagined that, imagine that there is a roman numeral written under each box, ie. I II III IV V VI VII. You'll notice that I stopped at VII. Please grey out the eighth box in your mind.
Now, suddenly imagine that the boxes are empty. The way it works is, if you fill in those boxes with any major scale (just put the notes in in order), the numerals still refer to the same boxes. So "I" always refers to whichever major key you're in (C, in our original case), and VI always refers to whichever minor key you're in (if you put C in the I box, then the VI box will contain an A). There's no VIII, because that is exactly the same as I. It doesn't matter where on the keyboard/guitar you're playing it, or which inversion you're using (or, in guitar terms, what the base note is), it's still a I chord. Hopefully you're starting to see why your references to "8,12,18,27" are irrelevant. It's like claiming that GH is a hexadecimal number. I presume you're using them to refer to frequency multipliers.
Now hopefully you can understand a little of what the roman numerals refer to. But there's more! Imagine that you tried to build a major or minor chord based on each of the notes in the little white boxes. So on the C, you would build a C major chord. But on the D, you would have to build a D minor, because you have an F, but no F#.
Now let me address your final point -- that of Roman numerals. Using roman numerals for chord progressions has been done from the time of the Baroque era until now, and the theory books I looked at in the 1990s continued to use them. As well as being accepted practice, there's a reason for it, and that is that music uses Arabic numerals for other purposes, and using roman numerals makes it easier to distinguish between chord progressions and eg. fingering indications.
I can also understand your confusion in claiming that a perfect fifth is 2/3. The problem is that you're using the wrong reference point. A perfect fifth is indeed 2/3 of the way between a note and the note an octave up. But the people who refer to 3/2 are using pitch multiplication. So if we start at eg. 440Hz (the A below middle C), then multiply that by 3/2, we get 660, which is the next E up. But if you multiply by 2/3, you get 293, which is the D below, or a 4th down.
If you're interested in further reading, I'd recommend
If there's anything that's still unclear, feel free to address it below my comments.
-- TimNelson 01:46, 27 August 2007 (UTC)
You seem to be bent on trying to immerse me in the difference between logarithmic and scalar mathematics. You do addition and subtraction. I do multiplication. You suit the third grade. I suit fifth graders who might know the sieve of erastosthenes, or the numbers that are rarely on their multiplication tables (because you strike them out the second time they occur). My rebuttal is an offer. You propose a triad. I'll reduce it to a simple fraction. Maybe I can do it with four-part harmony, too, but more than likely I'll need context. Maybe I'll even figure out how to write it into score that isn't mechanical. Here's why: progression is a synonym for series, and I hav a fourth part to go with three other parts that I really want to calculate (if I ever get the three parts working nicely by ear). BrewJay 04:40, 27 August 2007 (UTC)
Hmm. I'm trying to figure out a way to cast some light on the disjunction between our mental maps of the situation. Maybe I'd better check that we're using the basic assumptions. My assumptions are:
  • A chord is a set of notes played at the same time but different pitches. The notes in the chord may be part of the same harmonic series, or not.
  • A chord progression is a series of _chords_ played one after another, at different times.

Chords to Series by example.

I agree that any differences between a "series" and a "progression" are irrelevant here -- both are essentially an ordered set. But I have a lurking suspicion that you're referring to a set of either notes or intervals represented along the axis of pitch/frequency/whatever, whereas I (and the Chord Progression page) are referring to a set of chords along the axis of time. But I could be wrong here -- if so, let me know.
I'm having serious trouble understanding how the letters relate to musical ratios,

but we are talking about the same thing: How to describe a polyphonic trend. BrewJay 16:07, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

I believe you when you say you can reduce chords to numbers, but until I understand what the numbers mean, I guess I can't see the point. But I'll suggest two triads, and see what you get from them -- that may help to cast some light on the situation.
  • Triad X: C E G
  • Triad Y: D F# A
You start "A series of four perfect fifths...". This may be the point where our thinking departs. A perfect fifth is not a chord, but an interval.
-- TimNelson 06:21, 28 August 2007 (UTC)
I prefer "ratio" to "interval". "Interval" might be a more physically correct description of equal temperament, but harmony deals with whole numbered ratios. If it's more than two notes in parallel, then it's a chord. As I recall, you didn't understand how 3/2 could be the same as 2/3. In series, this is understandable. In parallel though,

you might be pressing C and G, simultaneously. So, again, I see a series in the dominant ratios, but I see no series in their names:

2/3 Perfect fifth. 4/3 Perfect fourth. 8/3 Perfect eleventh.

Incidentally, you finished your first comment with "If you're not conversant with constructed languages, then you can fax me." I'm not sure what relevance this has to the conversation (I have a basic familiarity with conlangs, but can't see how it relates).
-- TimNelson 06:31, 28 August 2007 (UTC)
musixtex is a constructed language. I now realize that conlang normally represents natural languages.

A chord is an interval (synonymous with ratio in music) with more than two notes in it. In Triad X, above, C and G are at the ratio 3/2, and according to whatever temperament MicroSoft used for QBasic in 1992, E is the mean. To check this I audited it. My default C is at 1050Hertz. My default G is at 1575 Hz, and E is at 1312.5.

What lies between three and two is, in relative terms, a mean: 2.5. 1575 is to 3 (G) as 1312.5 is to 2.5 (E) as 1050 is to 2 (C), but the harmonic series is composed entirely of whole-numbered ratios, so the trick is a minimal increase of the ratio. Doubling them all eliminates that pesky fraction.

In practical terms, I could assume a basis (fundamental) frequency of 525 Hz and program with six, five, and four as notes if my work had only three notes in it.

C E G is equivalent to 4:5:6 (It doesn't reduce or simplify. Dividing four by five by six is meaningless in this context). So, with MusixTeX I mean to put yellow numbers on top of blue notes.

It should be possible to find a series of notes that represents that same three-numbered ratio, but is a transposition from one key to another. Perhaps this is what is meant by minor and major. A minor shift in chord would not change the ratios.

For triad Y, I'm assuming that you are rising in pitch. It is also 4:5:6.

The sheer number of notes in a full-length composition might force some of these notes upward to maintain the relation, much as considering a work with both chords in it would, but in practice, I see a typical limit to this upward drift, and I speculate that it's less than a hundred.

Maintaining the relation seems to be the sensible way to go. Then, later in the work, I will compare transpositions -- same chord in a different key, like this: 6 12 36 5 10 30 4 8 24

It can be done in a serial work, too. A basis frequency could be provided for an alternative method of rendition. It also forms a basis for analysis in combinatorics or non-linear dynamics. I've heard that some music has been condensed into nifty little loops that predict most of the notes. Mathematicians that didn't think they could write music could go: "Oh, so that's how this stuff works. I see this pattern."

Sometimes it seems like the obfuscation starts with letters and continues with names for ratios that bear no obvious relation to those ratios. OTOH, many musicians might travel down dead ends if they even wrote their music. BrewJay 16:07, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Harmonic/Melodic Minor Scales

What about #vii° in harmonic scales? Would someone add or authorize me to add the chords in the other minor modes?

Natural minor: i ii° III iv v VI VII
Harmonic: i ii° III+ iv V VI #vii°
Melodic: i ii III+ IV V #vi° #vii°

Hangfromthefloor 01:19, 8 November 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia authorises you. WP:BOLD -- TimNelson 03:15, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

More about understandable musicology

Tables are good, I think. I'd like some of those chords spelt out on a staff, but I don't know that I wouldn't be asking for a scale commonly known to music students. I hav no *good* works in parallel harmony of my own to illustrate how yellow Arabic numbers printed on blue quarter notes are easier to understand, so I will (Eventually. I hav many pots on my stove.) apply what I know to someone else's work. It seems like this would be drowned! If I were a music teacher, I'd be doing a few examples, handing this out as assignment along with tables of just intonation (perhaps even different works to each student for the sake of security) and hiding the fully-specified answers.
I see that more art is in this than some people might want, and that no table lists all of the ratios one might want to use. I touched up an old tune with notes that are on the harmonic series, but not on western scales and instruments. The harmony doesn't work, anymore, so I want to giv the whole thing an arrangment that isn't written -- not an exercise with a short time limit. I should start from scratch and resist tweaking the piece, but fun is in tweaking the piece. It's not how much you write. It's how much you chuck.

BrewJay 15:37, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Sources for common progressions

It is unclear to me where the chart of common transitions came from, does anybody know? I would like to find that source. I did not see it in the links, I'm in the process of hunting down the books now.

→The chart is extremely similar to the progression chart in Ottman's Elementary Harmony. It actually looks like a direct copy of the chart and the text wasn't credited.

Please sign your posts on talk pages per Wikipedia:Sign your posts on talk pages. Thanks! Hyacinth 15:54, 27 June 2007 (UTC)

I removed the unreferenced information from the section. Hyacinth (talk) 04:33, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Why? While it may not have been linked to, that information was invaluable to me while it was up here. I verified through writing and listening that those chord progressions are what they said they were. (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 19:50, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

Unattributed "quotes" are Wikipedia:Copyvio. However, I probably should have tagged the section as in need of referencing. Hyacinth (talk) 03:45, 19 April 2008 (UTC)

Explanation of notation

The table on this page says "See the article chord (music) and chord symbol for an explanation of the notation used in this table." Obviously this was written before the two articles were merged together.

Somewhere along the way it seems that the description of this notation was lost, because I can't find any explanation of the difference between uppercase and lowercase Roman numerals (e.g., III and iii). Could someone explain what these mean, either here or in the Chord (music) page? -- Sakurambo 22:22, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Uppercase would be major, lowercase would be minor. Hyacinth 10:44, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
Ah yes. I should have read the Chord article a bit more closely. Thanks :-) -- Sakurambo 21:17, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
I can't see any explanation of what the flats are, though. -- TimNelson 03:59, 30 July 2007 (UTC)

An explaination of the flat signs can be seen on the "Borrowed chord" article,there should be a link to it on the chord article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Vinylmesh (talkcontribs) 21:07, 29 September 2007 (UTC)

Reference to blues-modal harmony should be a direct quote.

Dear Wikipedia,

I welcome, on this page, the reference to my original work on the analysis of 20th century harmony as noted in

However, the section (as indicated below) is a direct quote from my copyright work (apart from a short incorrect insertion) and should be indicated as such. I am happy for you to quote this section but I would appreciate it if you would please amend this to indicate that it is a quote. i.e as follows:

According to Tom Sutcliffe (2006: )

“… during the 1960's some pop groups started to experiment with modal chord progressions as an alternative way of harmonising blues melodies. . . . This created a new system of harmony that has influenced subsequent popular music.”

“The use of modal harmonies to harmonise the blues came about because of the similarity of the blues scale to modal scales . . . by experimentation with the possible uses of major chords on the guitar. This phenomenon thus probably derives from the characteristics of the guitar and the way it is used in popular music. This is also linked to the rise in the use of power chords.”

If you want to mention modal chords correctly, and make the point clearer, then it would be a good idea to add something like:

Sutcliffe’s hypothesis is that major chord combinations such as: I , bIII , IV, V and bVII cannot be explained in pure modal terms as, in this combination, these don’t exist in the usual modes. They have to be explained as a new harmonic system combining elements from the blues and elements from modality.

Also, under “external links” please note: “it's origins” should be corrected to “its origins”


Tom Sutcliffe.

August 2007

Many thanks for this. The passage was a) useful, and b) inserted by an anonymous user who has no Wikipedia account. I've turned the section we were still using into a quote, with some credits. Many thanks for your understanding in this, and your willingness for us to quote you.
-- TimNelson 10:08, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

"Common Progressions" section is a complete and utter mess

10 reasons why this section is a mess:

1. Some of these progressions only have one (obscure) example — so who on earth decided that they are 'common'? Surely the rule should be that if you can't think of at least 3 mainstream examples then it's not 'common' and shouldn't be on the list?

2. In contrast, some of the progressions have dozens of examples. I've nothing against this (as it helps people to find a song they recognise), but the stark contrast in number of examples seems ridiculous.

3. The examples seem very biased towards certain groups or styles of music. There's a "Green Day" example for almost every progression. More variety and balance would be nice.

4. The list only seems to feature slightly less common chord progressions that appear in a handful of songs; and doesn't seem to include the really common ones made out of the primary chords. For example (off the top of my head): I-IV-I-V ("American Pie"), I-IV-V-V ("Twist & Shout"), I-IV-V-IV ("Louie Louie", "Summer Nights") and so on. You could have a whole section dedicated to these alone.

5. The whole section is just silly — there are far too many "common progressions" to list in one short summary. Almost every short chord progression has inevitably been re-used over and over by someone somewhere. I don't think it's right that people just come along and add the one that belongs to their favourite song, which is what seems to be happening. The progressions on this page are not representative of the most common ones at all. And if all the often-used progressions are to be listed, they should probably be in some kind of order, not just random.

6. Some of the progressions are three chords long. That can't be right. Three bar sequences are extremely rare in pop music. More likely that one of the chords is repeated, but that really needs to be specified (as has been with certain ones)

7. There are no 8-chord sequences. I can think of at least one really famous 8-chord progression.

8. All the 'flat' chords show up as question marks on my computer. For the sake of making sure everyone can see it, wouldn't it be much easier just to use sharp symbols (#) instead? I believe this is the traditional method of writing notes using plain text on a computer.

9. The order of some of the chords is wrong. For example, with the one labeled "I - ♭VII-IV" — all the example songs given actually seem to use the sequence "bVII-IV-I-I". In other words, the tonic is not at the start of the sequence; it's at the end, and it's repeated. (The progression that was given is actually that of "Ghostbusters" and "Don't Leave Me This Way".)

10. Not all the examples listed use the exact basic chords specified. I think you'll probably find 7ths and suspended 4ths all over the place. For example, the last chord in "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is (if I recall) a suspended 4th.

Grand Dizzy (talk) 00:33, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

See: Wikipedia:Be bold. Hyacinth (talk) 23:44, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
Also Wikipedia:When people complain rather than edit. Hyacinth (talk) 23:46, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

But indeed, if they are so common, which most of them are, and notable it should be easy to cite a source saying so. Hyacinth (talk) 10:00, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

I'd be happy to go around making drastic changes to pages, but, in my experience, if you do that, someone usually comes along and undoes your changes and people get annoyed that you didn't discuss it first. Therefore, I am now in the habit of declaring what I think needs to change about a page before I make the changes (if I'm proposing something drastic). Then, if no one has voiced strong objections to my proposals after a few days or weeks, I will make the changes myself. This article is one I will be coming back to soon, however, I have been very busy changing other pages so it's not like I've nothing better to do right now. I have also spent the last several days having a very good think about common progressions, and better ways to organise the information in this article, which I shall be encorporating into the article, assuming no one has any objection. Grand Dizzy (talk) 00:35, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

I see someone deleted all the examples. Was there a reason for this? should they be brought back in? I don't mind leaving them out to be honest.

Also I specifically gave the progressions i wrote up only 1 or 2 examples (i made them as well-known as i could) as i thought this was sufficient. When other people started adding to the lists i didn't delete them.However, I think a huge long list is unneccesary (sp). and it clutters up the page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Vinylmesh (talkcontribs) 13:58, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

Common chord progression clean-up!

OK. So it needs to be done.

I propose seperating them out into major, minor, blues-modal, mixed, and other.

possibly with major/ minor as the one category.

I'll need some help with this.

feedback welcome. Vinylmesh (talk) 14:09, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

by the way, that source is not valid for what WAS up there (as a lot was left pretty much as i had written it (with some extra songs added on)unless by pure co-incidence the list in the book is exactly how i wrote it. So i don't see a problem with editing the list. We could bring back in the whole give examples thing, and link each to a guitar chord site.But keep the examples to a minimum.

Another idea would be to provide audio-samples of each progression. I was thinking something very basic, just straight chords on a piano or something.I don't have the equipment + technical know-how, but I'm sure someone here does.

Vinylmesh (talk) 15:09, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

Good idea to classify them. I believe the corresponding template ({{Chord progressions}}) might benefit from a similar classification. What source are you using for the classification? (I see Ottoman is cited, but that was there before your changes.)
The examples were removed as unsourced. Such lists tend to grow ad infinitum, so it would be better to cite some references that give specific examples (fake books?) or create a separate article that is a stand-alone list. --Jtir (talk) 21:50, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

"Pachelbel progression"

Hello, there's a bit of talk about the I V vi iii IV I IV V progression in the Pachelbel's Canon article. The editors there have been trying to keep this section brief so that the article can focus on the piece itself and not all the pieces that share its chord progression. I've come here wondering if this progression is common enough to deserve mention in this article. Is the progression in a family of progressions that already has its own child article? Or perhaps is the progression itself so common that the "Pachelbel chord progression" deserves its own child article? I don't have any idea myself which is why I'm asking here. I'm just wondering if it would be possible to redirect the chord progression discussion to this area of music theory articles where the editors have more specific expertise. Thanks. DavidRF (talk) 18:22, 18 January 2009 (UTC)

Requested move

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was no consensus for move.Juliancolton | Talk 01:28, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

Chord progressionHarmonic progression — I'm just wondering why this article is titled "Chord Progression" rather than "Harmonic Progression". In all of the music theory books and articles I've read, the idea is always referred to as Harmonic Progression. The term has definitely been around for a lot longer, and I would argue that people only started referring to it as "Chord Progression" once the guitar became so prominent (just a theory). Any thoughts on the subject? Rheostatik (talk) 18:58, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

I don't know, but it's not a proper noun so "progression" should not be capitalized. Recury (talk) 20:13, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
Fixed, thanks for the tip Rheostatik (talk) 21:04, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
  • WP:UCN covers situations like this. Use what is most commonly used in the references that the article cites, and use the more modern version if one exists (There's a guideline about that as well, that Wikipedia is supposed to remain as current as possible).
    V = I * R (talk) 02:43, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Weak oppose. I've heard both, though in my experience "chord progression" is more common. That's in the jazz world, in classical circles it might be the other way around. The ever-mistrusted WP:GOOGLE supports "chord progression".[1][2] Google Books is just about fifty-fifty,[3][4] as is Scholar search.[5][6] Barring evidence to the contrary, I'd prefer the status quo. Jafeluv (talk) 19:52, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Wikipedia:Naming_conventions#Use_the_most_easily_recognized_name. Hyacinth (talk) 21:00, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Deleting half of the Talk page

I don't know how it happened, but there is a major flaw in this discussion page. Everything up until the section Reference to blues-modal harmony should be a direct quote. seems to have been duplicated, leading to eleven topics that appear twice. I am deleting the first instance. Rheostatik (talk) 16:09, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

This article is a mess

This article is a complete mess, and am tagging it for a complete rewrite, with aid from the Music Theory WikiProject (hopefully). At the very least, it should contain a discussion of the functions of each chord, I through VII to give these roman numerals a bit more context to someone not familiar with the subject. Kostka & Payne's Tonal Harmony: With an Introduction to Twentieth-Century Music is the standard-issue textbook given to many Undergraduate music students and will be a great resource for this page. I will begin writing up something and post it here in a few days. Rheostatik (talk) 17:01, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

How is this article a mess?
Why should this article discuss functions, shouldn't that be at diatonic function?
Hyacinth (talk) 02:41, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
It's a mess in many ways. It comes across as having no structure whatsoever, just a list of a few chord progressions without any discussion as to how, or more importantly, WHY they work. I'm in the process of adding a lot to it, using 2 theory-oriented sources I find to be very easy to understand
I should have been more clear, my apologies. By "functions" I meant it should discuss the function of each chord in the overall progression. For example, a ii chord being oft-substituted for IV, vii for V, etc. I'm fiddling with some ideas on my userpage, hoping to have something substantial by this weekend. Rheostatik (talk) 03:30, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
A large number of edits were made some time ago to the article, the editor unfortunately introducing own OR, rather badly expressed, apparently under the impression that this article was about scales and tonality, attributing the result to the authorities whose actual deliberations were deleted (Chadwick, Schoenberg, Macpherson, Kitson, all standard texts).
I am not surprised, Rheo, if you found the result incoherent, but your changes have not, in my opinion, greatly helped so far, partly because you have merely elaborated the above-mentioned material that has no direct bearing upon the subject rather than linking to the appropriate articles.
The article as it stood progressed from no chord changes to one, to two to three and more. It is a pity that you have destroyed that by relegating "one chord" music to the bottom. It is a pity that pics have been removed without valid reason. And remarks like this;

In Western music, diatonic scales such as the major and minor lend themselves particularly well to the construction of common chords such as triads

are, if you will forgive me, mistaken and obfuscatory. A scale lends itself to chord building no matter where you are in the world! It is another thing that only three areas of the world exploit this greatly (only one of which is "the west"). Thus your changes have further obscured carefully-stated first principles based upon a world-wide view of the subject which, granted, had been obscured before you arrived.
Note that the article began life as a "popular music" article and had to be given some technical rigour. But it is written exactly to help people who know some chords but not quite what they are doing. That is why I support the present common title "chord progression". Re "function", I believe that your example of "substitution" of minor for major and vice versa is properly covered in the article. I would add, finally, that the treatise on steps of the scale, with its individualistic symbol-system (not found in any of the above standard texts) has nothing to do with chords and is adequately covered elsewhere.
I'd like to suggest you start from the article as it was in early June and discuss here why things were put as they were, and whether changes are of genuine benefit. Redheylin (talk) 02:04, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
I assume by "the editor" you mean Sluffs? Hyacinth (talk) 08:42, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
I had planned on making some major updates, what I added was only a small portion. Unfortunately I got held up this past weekend so I couldn't make any changes. The little bit I did add, it was just a re-worded version of the "The Basics" section, which I found very confusing. I'll leave the page alone, and when I have time, I'll update my userpage and link it here before making any changes.
Also, that picture I you find it really contributes to the article? Rheostatik (talk) 13:47, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

I do not think the article is perfect - for a start it has nothing to say about complex chords, modulation and chromaticism and it could do with more citations. Rheo's sources sound useful - there are very few discussions of chord sequences per se in classical treatises of harmony, since these historically begin with point-for-point harmonisation of melodies and basslines using ensembles of monophonic instruments or voices. The original source for the article seems to have been an academic treatment of popular music (which is fine by me).

I do think it is important to preserve a sequence of complexity and to avoid recapitulation of related articles where possible. For example, I would not find it clever to deal with modulation at the very top, before simple diatonic changes have been covered, and I do not see any need to explain and use the terms "tonic, supertonic" etc in the present context. However, things can be presented in a variety of ways and any decent new presentation is going to take any editor some days of hard work, so I'd suggest it would be better to discuss the principles of exposition here before anyone launches into a rewrite that is liable to be rewritten yet again by the next person with the next set of personal theories. If there's a caucus of consensus that we have a useful, comprehensible sequential introduction, not a display of an editor's great cleverness, then we can avoid endless re-invention of the wheel.

I'd like to focus on the article, Hyacinth, not the editors, except to say that your own volume of work on the subject commands considerable respect over here and that I'd see the audio resources you added as a useful addition. I hope you'll all forgive that recent drastic edit of mine but perceive that there is, after all, a form and sequence in the article as it now stands, and that it avoids unnecessary complexity. Rheo, I do think it is useful to include simple diagrams that increase the reader's musical literacy, and that pictures contribute to an attractive page. I think your plan is a good one - it's a big job when you get down to it! Redheylin (talk) 14:32, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

Instead of vaguely not talking about editors you could talk specifically about edits and edit dates, which would be helpful because then we would know what changes you are referring to. Hyacinth (talk) 21:06, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Material removed for discussion & rationale for removal



A chord progression (or harmonic progression) is a series of musical chords, or chord changes that "aims for a definite goal"[1] of establishing (or contradicting) a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord.

IV-V-I progression in C About this sound Play 

Chord progressions are used to create movement within a piece of music, offering a shift of level or simultaneity succession essential to harmony. Music is not a static art form like sculpture; it exists within a time frame and people respond to this psychologically by their need for a start and end with a central tonality. Music creates this expectation regardless whether it is a melody line or a chord progression. Chord changes generally occur on an accented beat and by doing so creates a sense of rhythm, meter and musical form for a piece of music, while also delineating bars, phrases and sections.[2]

ii-V-I progression in C About this sound Play 



In music theory, scale degrees are typically represented with Arabic numerals, often modified with a caret or circumflex ( would be the notes C, E and G in the key of C), whereas the triads that have these degrees as their roots are often identified by Roman numerals. Upper-case Roman numerals indicate major triads while lower-case Roman numerals indicate minor triads, as the following chart illustrates. Lower-case Roman numerals with a degree symbol indicate diminished triads. For example, in the major mode, the triad built on the seventh scale degree ( ) is diminished (vii°).

Roman numeral I ii iii IV V vi vii°
Scale degree
(major mode)
tonic supertonic mediant subdominant dominant submediant leading tone
Roman numeral i ii° III iv V VI (Template:Music)VII vii°
Scale degree
(minor mode)
tonic supertonic mediant subdominant dominant submediant subtonic leading tone

Triads may be constructed using any degree of a scale as the root, and diatonic triads consist only of notes belonging to the scale. That is, if a passage is in G major, most of the chords contain only notes found in the G major scale. Subsequently, a chord's function changes according to the scale from which it is derived. A "D minor" chord will be the tonic chord ( i ) when built from the scale of D minor. It will be the super-tonic chord ( ii ) if it is derived from the scale of C major, or the sub-mediant ( vi ) chord if derived from the scale of F major.

This also means that a D minor chord does not appear at all in some keys, such as A Major, due to the presence of an F# in the key signature. This can be rectified by temporarily lowering the sixth scale degree ( ) from F# to FTemplate:Music, resulting in a minor subdominant chord ( iv ) in a major scale, which, depending on the overall chord progression, can be considered aesthetically pleasing (see altered chord).

(I deleted a section of my paste as it remains in place at present Redheylin (talk) 02:13, 21 August 2009 (UTC))

Here are some of the current aims under which I am editing:

1) Logical progress from simple to complex.

2) Maximum wikilinking to music theory articles

3) Finding a place for and linking every progression notable enough to have its own entry.

4) Provision of the best-known examples of the best-known types of progression, with historical context.

5) Worldwide coverage.

I do not intend, though, to create a massive list of example pieces, find a place for everybody's favourite composer or cover every chord progression. The article is simply to explain what chord changes ARE, (and possibly, as Rheo says, how they work) by focussing on well-known, notable examples that mostly, as I said, have their own entries. All comments welcome.... Redheylin (talk) 02:13, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

WP:BOLD is your friend here. I agree with your aims, and if anyone doesn't, they will simply edit the page to fix any perceived shortcomings. I do want to know why the expert-subject template is in the talk section. If you really need an expert, please place that at the top of the main article, not on the talk page. Cheers! Joshua Scott (talk) 07:36, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

Chord progression#Harmonising the scale looks like an appropriate section for the content removed above under #Nomenclature. Hyacinth (talk) 06:02, 20 March 2010 (UTC)


Sorry, my edit summary got cut off, leaving it perhaps confusing. Widespread though it is, I think calling circle progressions "felicitous" implies a judgment call rooted in a particular (Western/Classical) approach to harmony. /ninly(talk) 14:13, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

What is wrong with that? Hyacinth (talk) 05:35, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
Also, I hope you both realize that the judgment in question is positive since felicitous means "very well suited or expressed" or "pleasant, delightful" [7]. Hyacinth (talk) 05:38, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
That seems to be precisely the alleged problem, that I-IV-V is felicitous only within a small circle of friends, and may sound odd to others. Diversity, world music, bla bla bla. Sorry guys, as fond as I am of modal aural traditions and Near- or Mid-Eastern microtonal schemes, I believe that in an English-language encyclopedia, acknowledging the major influence of a "Western/Classical approach to harmony" is no transgression.
It may be useful to find some notable composers or theorists singing the praises of good old I-IV-V. For starters, in the words of Harlan Howard, "three chords and the truth" make a great country song. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 12:27, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
Nothing wrong with acknowledging the major influences/themes (it's essential to do so), but there's nothing wrong either with recognizing and locating the assumptions behind certain terms and revising for a more accurate presentation (this is part of Wikipedia's neutral point of view). Yes, as you suggest, there are vast bodies of highly developed music that have little or nothing to do with any of the West's harmonic sophistication. Yes, felicitous involves a judgment that may not be shared by those differently trained ears, and I find that significant. Perhaps more to the point, though: There are also plenty of established progressions, rooted in the circle of fifths, that sound anything but happy or delightful to seasoned Western listeners. It is simply a mischaracterization, I feel, of what makes circle progressions important or interesting. What we're really talking about, I'd guess, is the perception harmonic resolution in those progressions, and most importantly their capacity to evoke whatever emotion a composer/songwriter/performer cares to impart (felicity, whimsy, monotony, despair...). /ninly(talk) 06:34, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
I used the word "felicitous", not in any way to extol the virtues of common-practice western music above other forms but simply to indicate the vast amount of successful music that has been built upon "circle" type progressions. Though I am not going to cavil at its removal, the idea that the word in any way suggests that such progressions are superior, say, to those based upon linear progressions is, to my mind, absurd. There is no "assumption" but simply a statement that this type of progression has been found extremely fruitful and popular, which barely requires further evidence than is given. The term certainly does not imply that all music based on such progressions is "happy" in mood: that is the most tortuous of misreadings. One might as well say that all articles on harmony should be deleted as they give undue weight to music that contains chords! Ninly has said that such progressions are, rather, "important" or "interesting" - in what was is this NOT a value judgment? It is precisely the extreme flexibility of the type and its capacity to reflect a wide range of moods that makes it "felicitous" (prosperous, delightful or APPROPRIATE (Chambers)) as a technique. Cyclical and linear progressions are especially "appropriate" or "well suited" to classical music since it would be more or less impossible to construct the development section of a conventional sonata, symphony or concerto without one - they are the very stuff of modulatory form. Ninly may believe that the existence of such music has made nobody happy, but he is out of line with the weight of opinion! Redheylin (talk) 22:50, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
"That seems to be precisely the alleged problem, that I-IV-V is felicitous only within a small circle of friends, and may sound odd to others." - A review of the other two musical traditions that use harmony - the Oceanian and the Bantu - shows an even more extreme reliance on this type of progression than is found in Europe and America. It should also be noted that the article goes out of its way to acknowledge that much music contains no chord changes at all. Redheylin (talk) 23:11, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

Satie's First Gymnopédie in I - IV?

Hi, it's my first time entering a conversation I hope i'm doing nothing the wrong way. I just want to point out the fact that Satie's first gymnopédie is qualified as a " I - IV", but my understanding is that it's a I - V(7M). In fact the chords goes that way : G7M / D 7M . D is the five of G, not the 4. Correct me if i'm wrong. (talk) 22:20, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

Formal name and origin of progression I - I - I - V / V - V - V - I / I - I - I7 - IV / IV - I - V - I ?

I've been trying to find formal discussion of the following chord progression:

Measure within line
V[often 7]
V[often 7]
V[often 7]
V[often 7]
I[usually 7]
 I, (occasionally) V or V7, or (infrequently) IV 
V[often 7]

Examples include:

I'd appreciate any information about the following:

  • Whether this progression has a specific name, either technical (cf. "pazzamezzo antico/moderno", "romanesca") or popular (cf. "Gregory Walker", "sensitive female", "Rhythm changes", " '50s progression")
  • The identity, time, and geographic origin of its earliest attested uses: Although its simplicity and popularity suggest that it originated long before it was written down, I'd still be interested to know what incarnation was the first that someone thought important enough to set down in writing.

In addition to posting your response here, please post a copy on my talk page. Thanks!

-- Antediluvian67 (talk) 21:30, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
(Cc.: Talk:Harmonic_progression)


Why and where does this article need to be cleaned up? How should it be cleaned up? Hyacinth (talk) 10:30, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

I'm not sure where to begin, I'm a musician with knowledge in this and this article makes almost no sense. Seems to be just a general smashup of facts and opinions without any organization. I would almost say scrap it and start over but that'd be even more work. DavidHamlin Talk|Contribs 03:10, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Removed: tablature

  • Chord tablature for chord-playing instruments such as keyboard and guitar by and by gave way to fully notated parts.

The above text was removed with the assertion that it is not true. Hyacinth (talk) 20:30, 28 May 2012 (UTC)

Most Basic Chord Progressions

What is the Chord progression for the classic maritime folk melody (aka "sea shanty") - "Drunken Sailor"?

Some say ii-I-ii-I-ii, others i-VII-i-VII-i....

However can it not be (or most often ) played as a "skiffle" - ii-I (repeated)??

Pete318 (talk) 14:24, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

The melody resolves on the higher of the two chords, indicating that the higher would be the tonic ("Ear-lie in the" = VII; "mornin'" = i), so as between the two alternatives that you've listed, i-VII-i-VII-i is better.
Bear in mind, though, that the melody itself is in medieval/modern (i.e., non-[ancient Greek]) Dorian mode – hence " A↑ BTemplate:Music ↑ CTemplate:Music ↑ D" for the third line's "drunken sailor"/"up he rises"/etc. if the song is centered on D – so while i-VII-i-VII-i is a correct description of the chords being used, one can't assume from the tonic chord's minor status that the song is in a minor key.
Antediluvian67 (talk) 22:36, 6 March 2013 (UTC)


To see that this article has been so damaged. The idea is to explain stuff, not to show how complicated you can talk. Redheylin (talk) 16:00, 28 November 2012 (UTC)

Claims without explanation amount to empty criticism. This page is for discussing how to improve the article, not bashing it without justifying your comments or suggesting improvements. Hyacinth (talk) 04:23, 29 November 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough, Hyacinth! But the improvements I'd suggest would amount to a roll-back. I think removal of examples has been ill-advised in this case, since it may take several examples for a novice to identify simple progressions regardless of key and rhythm. And I think there's been a tendency to abandon progress from simplicity to complexity at the expense of clarity, and graphics are breaking style guidelines - too many of them!. Redheylin (talk) 06:15, 29 November 2012 (UTC)
  1. Arnold Schoenberg, Structural Functions of Harmony, Faber and Faber, 1983, p.1-2.
  2. Stewart MacPherson, Musical Form, Chapter 1, Joseph Williams, London, 1930.