• Forget Where You Are! Focus On What Precedes And What Succeeds!

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    The title of this lesson is intriguing and I know you’re interested in knowing what it’s all about and in the next five to seven minutes you’ll find out why you need to forget where you are.

    A Short Note On The Concept Of Chord Progression

    The movement from one chord to another is called a chord progression and this is because the chord is literally progressing from one chord to another.

    For example, in the key of C major:

    …we can progress from the G major chord:

    …to the C major chord:

    …and that would be a 5-1 chord progression.

    “Now, Why Is It Called The 5-1 Chord Progression?”

    Well, that’s because we’re progressing from the 5-chord in the key (which is the G major chord) to the 1-chord in the key. So, based on the numbers associated with the chords, the chord progression is described as the 5-1 chord progression.

    Now that we’ve refreshed our minds on chord progressions, let’s discuss briefly on something about chord progressions that people rarely talk about.

    Chord Progressions Are NOT Random

    Although the progression from one chord to another creates a chord progression, one thing you must also realize is that chord progressions are NOT random.

    You can’t just take two or three chords that are not related or play them in such a way that it doesn’t sound meaningful. Every chord progression must have a goal and must be meaningful; even if the chords are gotten from outside the key.

    If you take these three chords:

    A augmented chord:

    F# diminished chord:

    C minor seventh:

    …and play them one after the other, although you are progressing from one chord to another, that would be a chord succession (a succession of chords) and not a chord progression.

    Attention: We’ll talk about chord successions in a subsequent lesson.

    Submission: I know the chord succession I played can be used to reharmonize a melody. However, that’s going to be in the hands of an advanced player; who is able to play them meaningfully and not in the hands of a beginner who is playing them randomly.

    So, every chord progression must be a meaningful movement of chords and must have a goal and that’s why any two or three random chords cannot make a chord progression.

    These Two Things Matter The Most To Your Chord Progression

    In a chord progression, let’s say the 6-2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C major:

    …you have the 6-chord:

    …going to the 2-chord:

    …going to the 5-chord:

    …going to the 1-chord:

    While going through these chords in a progression, there are two things that you should be concerned with and they are:

    1. What should I play before the chord I’m on?
    2. ¬†What should follow the chord I’m on?

    …and these things matter a lot to the chord progression you’re playing.

    I need to tell you at this point that most of the top players you admire in the industry put these two things into consideration.

    They don’t just play chords — they think about the chords they’re playing and try to determine what should be played before any given chord and what should come afterwards.

    Let’s talk about these two things and their impact in our chord progression.

    What Precedes The Chord You’re Playing

    In a chord progression progressing from the 6-chord to a 2 chord:



    …which consists of the first two chords in the 6-2-5-1 chord progression, we have the 6-chord as the first chord in the progression and that’s where a lot of people are most likely to start the chord progression from.

    But for those who know better and I’m talking about those who are thinking, “what should precede (or come before) the chord I’m playing?”, they are already wondering what they should play before the 6-chord:

    Now, instead of starting from the 6-chord and going to the 2-chord, we can play a chord that can lead us to the 6-chord and although there are a variety of options, you can use these:

    E altered chord:

    E maj/G#:

    Bb dom13add9 chord:

    …or any other passing chord you know and it would take you to the 6-chord:

    So you have:

    E altered chord:

    A minor seventh chord:

    …and with that, you can energize the flow from a boring 6-2 chord progression:



    …to a spicier 6-2 chord progression with a passing chord from the 3:




    …and that’s a 3-6-2 chord progression.

    So, the moment I’m thinking about what precedes the chord I’m playing or about to play, I’ll be able to play a chord (passing chord) to get there.

    Heck, I can even back up twice by asking myself what takes me to the 3-chord and that’s the 7-chord:

    B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …and I can play it before the 3-chord to produce a 7-3-6-2 chord progression:





    …and while others are starting from the 6-chord, you’ll have to other options to precede the 6-chord.

    Final Words

    So, forget about where you are in a particular chord progression and start thinking about what comes before the chord you’re paying and what comes after the chord you’re playing.

    Those are the two things that matter.

    I want to sign off today by appreciating my mentor and role-model, Jermaine Griggs, for the opportunity to share this with you and if you have any question or suggestion, please free free to post them in the comment section.

    All the best and 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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



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