• Introduction To The Concept Of Root Progressions

    in Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    You arrived at this page because you’re interested in getting some basic information on root progressions.

    A vast majority of musicians are conversant with chord progressions and you can find hundreds of thousands of pages on the internet on chord progressions. But when it comes to root progressions, there’s not so much out there.

    In this introductory lesson, we’ll be learning what a root progression is and its relationship with chord progressions (a more familiar term). But before we do that’ let’s have a brief discussion on chord progressions.

    A Short Note On Chord Progressions

    The movement from one chord to another produces a chord progression and these chord progressions are described using the number system.

    In the key of C major:

    …the movement from one of these scale-tone chords to another produces a chord progression:

    C major (the 1-chord):

    D minor (the 2-chord):

    E minor (the 3-chord):

    F major (the 4-chord):

    G major (the 5-chord):

    A minor (the 6-chord):

    B diminished (the 7-chord):

    The chord progression from the 1-chord to the 4-chord:



    …is known as a 1-4 chord progression.

    “What Is A Root Progression?”

    The best way to start is with an explanation of the concept of root progressions. Then, we’ll proceed to learning diatonic and chromatic root progressions.

    Root Progressions — Explained

    The movement of the lowest chord tones in a chord progression produces root progressions.

    In a chord progression from the 1-chord to the 4-chord:



    …you can clearly see that the lowest tones are C and F respectively:



    So, the root progression in this case is the 1-4 root progression in the key of C major:

    …from C to F:



    Root progressions are known asĀ  root progressions because the lowest chord tone of a chord is usually the root. For example, the lowest chord tone in the 1-chord (which is C):

    …is also the root of the chord.

    “Keep In Mind That Root Progressions Are Based On The Number System…”

    Root progressions are based on the number system where every scale tone is associated with a number. Let’s go ahead and explore diatonic and chromatic root progressions where we’ll talk more about the number system.

    Diatonic Root Progressions

    Root progressions between the tones of the scale in any given key are described as diatonic root progressions.

    The representation of the tones of the major scale using the number system makes it a lot easier for diatonic root progressions to be determined. For example, in the key of C major:

    C is the 1:

    D is the 2:

    E is the 3:

    F is the 4:

    G is the 5:

    A is the 6:

    B is the 7:

    Any root progression that is ONLY based on the numbers given above is a diatonic root progression. Here are a two examples of diatonic root progressions:

    The 1-4 root progression:

    The 1:

    The 4:

    The 1-5-6-4 root progression:

    The 1:

    The 5:

    The 6:

    The 4:

    You can create other examples using the notes of the major scale in any key.

    Chromatic Root Progressions

    Final Words

    Although root progressions are related to chord progressions, they should be learned differently.

    What an organ player pedals are root progressions — and bass players aren’t left out too.

    In a subsequent lesson we’ll look at cyclical root progressions and we’ll be focusing on its diatonic and chromatic versions. We’ll also spice it up in-between with right hand chords here and there.

    Attention: Feel free to comment, ask questions, make suggestions and contributions using the comment section.

    See you then.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    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.



    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Carolyn

    Very nice picture of you. Thank you and Jermaine for all the information you share. I don’t take it lightly. It is very valuable. May God bless you all for everything you share.


    2 Karen

    What is the right hand playing in root progressions


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