• How To Play The 1-4 Chord Progression Using Dominant Chords

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    In this lesson, I’ll be showing you how to play the 1-4 chord progression using dominant chords.

    The 1-4 chord progression is one of the top progressions you can learn because it is used in a variety of popular music genres; ranging from blues, to jazz, to gospel, to country, to RnB, and several other styles.

    Let’s start out in this lesson by refreshing our minds on the 1-4 chord progression before we talk about how it can be played using dominant chords.

    A Brief Review Of The 1-4 Chord Progression

    A 1-4 chord progression is the movement from the 1-chord to the 4-chord in the major key.

    In the key of C major:

    …you have the following chords:

    C major chord:

    …as the 1-chord.

    D minor chord:

    …as the 2-chord.

    E minor chord:

    …as the 3-chord.

    F major chord:

    …as the 4-chord.

    G major chord:

    …as the 5-chord.

    A minor chord:

    …as the 6-chord.

    B diminished chord:

    …as the 7-chord.

    If we take the 1-chord and 4-chord:

    C major:

    F major:

    …and progress from the 1-chord to the 4-chord, we’ve formed a 1-4 chord progression.

    Yes! It’s that easy.

    If you can move from the C major chord:

    …to the F major chord (in second inversion):

    …you’ll have a smoother 1-4 chord progression.

    How To Play The “1-4” Chord Progression Using Dominant Chords

    Now that we’re done with reviewing the basic 1-4 chord progression, we’re going to be learning how it can be played using dominant chords.

    I’ve broken this segment down into three parts: beginners, intermediate, and advanced. So, feel free to play to any one of them that applies to your current skill level.

    For Beginners

    For a beginner who has gone past the stage of triads, he/she should be able to learn, master, and apply seventh chords and the dominant seventh chord is one of the important chords he/she has to learn.

    In the key of C major:

    …where the 1 and 4 are C and F respectively:

    C is the 1:

    F is the 4:

    …we can play the C dominant seventh chord as the 1-chord:

    …and the F dominant chord as the 4-chord:

    …and that would produce the 1-4 chord progression.

    “Now, Let’s Make It Easier…”

    If we take the first two notes of the C dominant seventh chord:

    …which are C and E:

    …off the bottom and put them on the top (as C-E):

    …we’ll have “G-Bb-C-E”:

    …and that’s the second inversion of the C dominant seventh chord.

    If you proceed from the C dominant seventh chord (in second inversion):

    …to the F dominant seventh chord:

    …you have a chord progression that sounds a lot smoother.

    So, that’s the 1-4 chord progression for beginners:



    For Intermediate Players

    An intermediate player should be able to play more sophisticated chords like ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths.

    We’ll be playing the dom13[add9] chord as our 1-chord and 4-chord in the key of C major:

    …and that would be the C dom13[add9] chord:

    …and the F dom13[add9] chord:

    “Let’s Make It Easier To Play…”

    We can take the two top notes of the F dom13[add9] chord:

    …which are A and D:

    …and play them on the lower octave (as A-D):

    …and this would produce a different voicing of the F dom13[add9] chord:

    …which we can progress to, after playing the C dom13[add9] chord:

    Altogether, here’s a 1-4 chord progression for intermediate players:



    Sounds good?!

    For Advanced Players

    One of the things an advanced player does is to use voicing techniques and concepts to re-arrange the notes of a chord and often times, switch from tertian chords to quartal chords (which are chords that are built off fourth intervals.

    Advanced players also leave out the bass note and play other chord tones and he/she does this in solo and band situations.

    So here are the chords:

    C dom13[add9] chord:

    F dom13[add9] chord:

    You’ll notice that the root of the chords are not the lowest-sounding notes in each of the cases. However, it still sounds good and implies the overall harmony of the dominant chords intended.

    If you’re an advanced player, I’m very certain you’ll agree with me. But, if you don’t let me know in the comment section.

    Final Words

    I’m sure you’ve learned something from this lesson and you’ll be able to apply it to songs like“Oh Happy Day!”, “I Will Bless The Lord At All Times”, and other songs.

    My special appreciation goes to my mentor and role-model for the opportunity of sharing these information with you. Do well to leave you questions and comments in the comment section.

    All the best.

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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.



    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Linda

    Thank you! Very helpful :)


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