• An In-Depth Breakdown Of The Classic 1-4 Walk-Up Chord Progression

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    Today’s lesson is on the classic 1-4 walk-up chord progression.

    Every serious gospel pianist should know this walk-up because they can be heard in lots (and lots) of gospel songs.

    A Preparatory Note On The 1-4 Walk Up Chord Progression

    Before we go into our objective in this segment, let’s take a look at what the term chord progression means.

    “What Is A Chord Progression?”

    A chord progression is the movement of chords from one degree of the scale to another. The degrees of major and minor keys are represented by the major and minor scales respectively.

    The degrees in the key of C major are eight in number and are represented by the C major scale:

    Here are the degrees in the key of C major…

    C is 1

    D is 2

    E is 3

    F is 4

    G is 5

    A is 6

    B is 7

    C is 8

    The 1-4 Chord Progression

    The 1-4 chord progression is a chord movement from the first degree of the scale (aka – “the tonic”) to the fourth degree of the scale (aka – “the subdominant”.)

    In the key of C major:

    …a 1-4 chord progression is the movement of chords whose roots are C:

    …and F:

    …which are the first and fourth tones of the C major scale respectively.

    “Take Note…”

    The interval between the root notes of the chords in a 1-4 chord progression are a perfect fourth interval apart. Therefore, if you’re familiar with the perfect fourth interval in all twelve keys, you’ll easily spot out the root notes of the 1-4 chord progression in any key.

    Check out the perfect fourth interval in all twelve keys…

    The C perfect fourth interval:

    The Db perfect fourth interval:

    The D perfect fourth interval:

    The Eb perfect fourth interval:

    The E perfect fourth interval:

    The F perfect fourth interval:

    The F# perfect fourth interval:

    The G perfect fourth interval:

    The Ab perfect fourth interval:

    The A perfect fourth interval:

    The Bb perfect fourth interval:

    The B perfect fourth interval:

    These perfect fourth intervals are the first and fourth tones in any key you’re in (whether major or minor.)

    “Now that we’ve covered the movement of the root note, let’s take a look at a regular 1-4 chord progression in the key of C…”

    Attention: The chords for the 1-4 chord progression can vary from triads, to seventh chords, ninth chords; sophisticated voicings can be used too and this depends on who is playing or the audience. However, you’ll permit me to use triads in the illustration below.

    Chord 1 in the key of C major is the C major triad:

    ….while chord 4 is the F major triad:

    “Check out this 1-4 chord progression…”

    Chord 1:

    …the C major triad.
    Chord 4:

    …the F major seventh chord.
    The 1-4 chord progression can be spicier if we introduce the walk-up technique; let me show you how this works.

    The 1-4 Walk-Up Progression

    The goal of the 1-4 chord progression is to take you from the first degree of the scale to the fourth degree of the scale. However, in-between first and fourth degrees are the second and third degrees.

    In a 1-4 chord progression from C to F:

    …the second and third degrees – D and E:

    …fall in-between.

    Instead of a chord movement from the first to the fourth (C to F in this case):

    …you can walk up to F thus…

    C:

    …to D:

    …to E:

    …to F:

    Irrespective of the fact that the walk-up involves the second and third degrees of the scale, it doesn’t make it a 1-2-3-4 chord progression. Here’s how it appears…

    1 – (2 – 3) – 4

    It’s still a 1-4 chord progression consisting of the first chord and the destination chord, with two passing chords sandwiched in-between.

    Here are the chords of the classic 1-4 walk-up chord progression in the key of C.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major triad.

    Chord 2:

    …first inversion of the Bb major triad.

    Chord 3:

    …first inversion of the C major triad.

    Chord 4:

    …the F major seventh chord.

    “The Walk-Up Progression Sounds Good. Don’t Take My Word For It; Check This Out…”

    Here’s the song “Lord make me over” by tonex in the key of Ab. However, we’ll be doing this example in the key of C.

    Take #1 – “Lord make me over” by Tonex using the 1-4 chord progression

    Lord make me:

    …O-ver:

    Sounds good…however, you need to check this one out too.

    Take #2 – “Lord make me over” by Tonex using the classic 1-4 walk-up chord progression

    Lord:

    …make:

    …me:

    …O-ver:

    I’m sure you enjoyed that because it sounds a whole lot better! Permit me to take this study to another level by giving you in-depth analysis of the classic 1-4 walk-up progression.

    An In-Depth Breakdown Of The Classic 1-4 Walk Up Chord Progression

    There are two perspectives to the 1-4 walk-up chord progression. The first is the regular way of seeing it in the key of 1 while the second perspective has to do with seeing it in the key of 4.

    “Let me throw more light…”

    In the key of C:

    …C:

    …is 1 and F:

    …is 4, consequently, there are two perspectives to the classic 1-4 walk-up progression in the key of C…

    • Analyzing it in the key of C
    • Analyzing it in the key of F

    Notwithstanding that the classic 1-4 walk-up progression is played in the key of C, we’ll be breaking it down in the key of F.

    “Once again, here are the chords of the 1-4 walk-up progression in the key of C”

    Chord 1:

    Chord 2:

    Chord 3:

    Chord 4:

    “Let’s go into the analysis…”

    A good way to start is to switch the interval name of the notes from the key of C:

    …to the key of F:

    So, we’re talking about a 5-6-7-1 chord progression in the key of F. Check it out…

    Chord 5:

    …the C major triad.

    Chord 6:

    …first inversion of the Bb major triad.

    Chord 7:

    …first inversion of the C major triad.

    Chord 1:

    …the F major seventh chord.

    Attention: The classic 1-4 chord progression can be understood as a 5-1 chord progression to the fourth degree of the scale (which is F in the key of C.) It is important to note that the strongest root movement in music for the past 500 years is from the 5th tone to the 1st tone.

    A Short Note On Chords 6 and 7

    Before we round up this lesson, it is important for me to add that the chords 6 and 7 are not scale degree chords. In the key of F:

    …the chords of the sixth and seventh tones:

    …are the D minor:

    …and E diminished:

    …triads which are entirely different from the chords we used as chords 6 and 7.

    Final Thoughts

    This is just the beginning of this study. In subsequent lessons, we explore the use of this classic walk-up progression in other subtle ways.

    “Here’s one of the several options…”

    A 2-5 walk-up chord progression in the key of C

    Chord 2:

    …the D major triad.

    Chord 3:

    …first inversion of the C major triad.

    Chord #4:

    …first inversion of the D major triad.

    Chord 5:

    …the G major seventh chord.

    The above progression can be used over the hymn “I need thee every hour” in the part that says “can pe-e-eace a-fford.”

    Can pe:

    …second inversion of the G major triad.

    e:

    …the D major triad.

    ...eace:

    …first inversion of the C major triad.

    a:

    …first inversion of the D major triad.

    ford:

    …the G major triad.

    That’s all for today and thanks for the time you’ve invested.

    See you in the next lesson.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 7 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Dele

    Nice movement but i don’t understand the theory behind the 2 chord.
    How would you call the B flat over D?
    Once i got that it’ll be easier for me to transpose into other keys

    Reply

    2 Chuku Onyemachi

    If the seventh tone of the scale is lowered by a half-step, this produces the b7 tone (a chromatic tone.) As foreign as this tone may seem to the key you’re in, it’s important to our discussion.

    Playing a major triad on the b7 tone over 2 on the bass produces the “Bb over D” chord. This explains why in the key of C where the b7 tone is Bb (B is the seventh), the Bb major triad is played over D (the second tone.)

    In the key of F, where Eb is the b7 tone, the Eb major triad would be played over G (the second tone of the F major scale.)

    Reply

    3 Samuel Adamson

    I am samuel, i like to comment on the super natural works of Mr. Jermaine Griggs who happens to be managing director of HearandPlay Music.Its just that am very busy with my carrier which is outside music. I so much believe in him since i began to follow him through his writings about five years now he never tired despite my non purchasing any of his works, he keep sending me message and the rest. I have learn so much from him despite the tight corner am. I Love him and his works. May God continue to bless him for us.

    samuel Adamson.

    Reply

    4 Goran

    I would call it a Dmin#5

    Reply

    5 jayagopi jagadeesan

    Excellent article.
    There is another way I look at the 1-4 progression theory, though I am not certain if I am right.
    You mentioned that we play the b7 tone ( chromatic) over the 2 ( on the left hand ).
    So for C-major scale it is Bb. What if we look at the major scale of the 4th degree, which is F-major and take the 4th degree, which is Bb. So we play D left hand and Bb second inversion on the right. Is this not another way of looking at it ?
    Another example : If we play 1-4( F-Bb) on F-major scale then we play G on the left hand and Eb-major 2nd inversion on the right, because Eb is the 4th degree of Bb major scale.
    Is this perspective ok ?

    cheers,
    Jay

    Reply

    6 Bill

    Love these blogs, but what would really be nice is a video along with these to show people what you are playing. You could Hear and Play it. No pun intended. Keep up the good work.

    Reply

    7 Patrick

    Thanx for all the pointers. Learning a lot from this Jermaine

    Reply

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