Easy ways to create your own chord progressions

When you start learning guitar, most of the times you begin with learning some basic open major, minor or 7th chords. After a while, you expand your chord vocabulary to some advanced or suspended chords by learning from either chord progressions created by your teacher or that are part of the songs you like. 

However, It’s often challenging for beginner to intermediate guitar players to create their own chord progressions, and even when you attempt to create chord progressions, you tend to run out of ideas on how to extend the progression and make it sound unique. 

If you are also struggling with coming up with endless ideas for creating unique and cool sounding chord progressions, then try this. 

What do you need to know?

You can try this at any level of playing, however it would be particularly helpful, if you know how to build a Major scale from any note and have learnt the process of harmonizing a major scale i.e. Finding out the chords that can be derived from a Major Scale. 

E.g. The Chords derived by harmonizing the C Major Scale will be C , Dm, Em, F, G, Am and Bdim. 

The Chord built from the 7th degree of the scale is a diminished chord and due to its dissonant sound, it must be used intelligently in music. In case you are not familiar with how to use the diminished chord in your harmony, then don’t worry. Ignore that chord for now, and focus on the remaining 6 chords from the scale.  

Assignments

  1. Write down the chords from any major scale and assign numeric values to each chord, based on the Scale degree that the chord corresponds to
    1. E.g. 1 – C Major, 2 – D minor, 3 – E minor, 4 – F Major, 5 – G Major, 6 – A minor and 7 – B dim
  2. Write a random series of numbers, using numbers 1 to 7. It’s best to begin with writing using the numbers 1 to 6 only and ignore 7 for now. 
    1. E.g 1 6 2 5 1 5 4 2 3 4 5 1
  3. Now translate this series of numbers to the corresponding Chords of the Major Scale that you are working with and you’ll get the following progression 
    1. 1- C, 6 – Am, 2 – Dm, 5 – G, 1 – C, 5- G, 4-F, 2 – Dm, 3 – Em, 4 – F, 5 – G, 1 – C
    2. So your chord progression in the Key of C Major is :
      1. C / Am / Dm / G / C / G / F / Dm / Em / F / G / C
  4. Grab your Guitar and play this progression and see how it sounds. 
  5. Now grab your book and pencil and start writing another chord progression using the same steps in the key of C or any other Major Keys that you have studied 
  6. Repeat step no 2, but this time instead of writing the numbers in random order, think of a sequence. 
    1. E.g. Write the numbers in a sequence of 3rds. 1 3 5 3 1 6 1 3 1 6 4 2 1 
    2. E.g. Write the numbers in a sequence of jumping fourths from each number. 1 4 2 5 3 6 4 7 5 1
  7. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the progressions you come up with 
  8. If you are not familiar with the concept of harmonizing a major scale, then write down all the chords you know and number them and repeat these steps. Beware, the chord progressions you create with random chords that not fall within a particular Major or Minor Key, may or may not sound good. Be ready for a lot of trial and error if you are doing things this way or approach a good guitar teacher for help in understanding this information which will make things easier for you. 

What should you do with this information?

  • Just reading this information is not enough, you have to do it to understand it well. 
  • Create as many progressions as you want, in as many major Keys as you want. 
  • Record the chords progressions that you think sound really cool. 
  • Try to create sequences where you can start and end on the 1 chord from the Key to give you a feeling of resolution 
  • Experiment with this as much as possible

How does this help?

  1. Memorizing the chords within different major keys
  2. Fluency in Major scale notes and harmonization 
  3. Unlimited creative harmonization possibilities
  4. Customizable for your individual skill levels
  5. Easier and faster ways of creating cool sounding music 

About The Author: 

Dhanesh Sarangadharan is a certified guitar teacher in Pune, Maharashtra India, who is passionate about solving guitar learning problems and helping students progress faster towards their musical ambitions.