Intermediate Chord Progression

Discover the most common variations to a chord progression

The blues, the x and m variations

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Chord progressions – The X and M variations


In the beginner course and on the page, beginner chord progression, we learned about diatonic chord progressions (chords built off the major scale).

In the intermediate courses, we study the most common variations.

The standard diatonic chords, paired with the most common variations like IVm, IIIx and bVIIx is what makes up all chord progressions in popular music.

All these variations originate from the Blues, where we temporarily move between minor and major.

Let’s take a look at how the blues did this and how it has influenced chord progressions in not just blues, but all popular music we hear today.


The most important variation that started it all

When the Blues first began to evolve, being accompanied by a guitar, the instruments were of low quality with very high string action.

Therefore, the early blues musicians tuned their guitars to open major chords such as E, D, G and A. A bottleneck slide was then used to swap between the different chords in order to form a progression for the singer to tell their story over.

Instead of chord I being a major chord, or when extended, a maj7, Blues musicians decided that a dom7 chord was a better idea.

What’s more, they simply moved that whole pattern to fret five to get the IV chord and did the same thing there, so A7D7 for example.


Open position A7 chord

A7

Back in standard tuning and the clue to what this has done to modern songwriting can be found in the chord shapes.

Notice that the 3rd is a C# (2nd string, 2nd fret)

A singer would naturally choose to phrase using chord notes since they feel the most comfortable to sing.

Over the A7 chord, a singer naturally choose the notes A, C#, E or G.


Open position D7 chord

D7

When we move to the next chord, the IV7, or in the key of A, a D7, we can see that the b7th interval is a C, not a C#.

In relation to the A chord, this is a m3rd.

Moving from A7 to D7 is not harmonically correct, Beethoven and Mozart would have been furious –  It should be Amaj7Dmaj7!

The D7’s b7th interval, the C, is a semitone away from the A7’s major 3rd interval, the C#.

By switching between the two dom7 chords we have created the feeling of a movement between A major and A minor.

Moving like this between minor and major sounded so good that it soon started being employed everywhere.

In fact, any of the diatonic chords can be switched from minor to major or major to minor as a result of it. In many ways, popular music is this very clash between the blues and the diatonic chords.

To read and memorize this type of information may be interesting, but it is unfortunately in many ways pointless. You must connect names like IVm to sounds by playing real songs. Otherwise, this information has no real value.

Learning guitar and improving your ear can only be done through actually playing songs. Taking notes of music theory from the songs you know is what you will develop from.

You simply must learn about chord progressions, with all its possible variations, by playing real songs.


Acoustic Guitar Lessons


Hey There Delilah – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this first step, we learn how to play the verse and chorus from Hey There Delilah, just like on the original recording.

Use the TAB loops to master these two relatively simple sections of the song.

Go to Hey There Delilah step 1.


Mad World – Step 1 (Free Preview)

To learn how to play Mad World, we start by looking at the verse. First, practice all examples to the loop as the TAB display, then start mixing the patterns up.

This composition is in Dorian, which means chord II is our home.

Go to Mad World step 1.


Whistle For The Choir – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Let’s start learning this song.

First, we go through all the areas you can play this song in when in the key of A.

Go to Whistle For The Choir step 1.


Blowin’ In The Wind – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this step, we learn the verse of Blowin’ In The Wind using a capo on fret 2.

What you’ll hear is in the key of D, however, you must think as if in the key of C.

Go to Blowin’ In The Wind step 1.


Kiss Me – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this step, we actually start playing the song.

First up are the intro, instrumental, verse sections which all use the progression: Maj – maj7 – dom7 – maj7 on a loop.

Go to Kiss Me step 1.


Babylon – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Today we finally start working on a song again!

It’s Babylon by David Gray and of course, it does have a hammer-on and pull-off lick in it.

Go to Babylon step 1.


Fast Car – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this first step, we learn how to play the two guitar parts that make up the original verse of Fast Car.

Complete this step and you’ll realize that just working out the original part is not enough if you want to learn how to actually write something like this.

Go to Fast Car step 1.


Angie – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In the first step of how to play Angie, we look at how to strum the verse and chorus.

Use the TAB loops to practice each section individually.

Go to Angie step 1.


American Pie – Step 1 (Free Preview)

It’s time to discover how one of the world’s most legendary songs was put together.

Let’s put Don McLean’s American Pie under the microscope, we start with the chorus.

Go to American Pie step 1.


A Change Is Gonna Come – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this firsts step, we learn two extremely detailed TAB examples which are exact transcriptions of what I play in the video with the singer.

Out of all 8 steps, this is by far the most difficult. It is also the most complex lesson so far in this course.

Go to A Change Is Gonna Come step 1.


Sunny Afternoon – Step 2 (Free Preview)

In this step, we learn to play the intro/chorus tag. It uses a swing feel and presents several challenges.

Not only is it difficult to fret the descending bass line, but there’s also plenty of muting going on as well.

Go to Sunny Afternoon step 2.


Dreadlock Holiday – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this first step, we play the intro, the verse and the bridge of this pop-reggae classic by 10cc.

A few chords in this one guitar arrangement are not correct. Find out what we can learn from this.

Go to Dreadlock Holiday step 1.


I’m Yours – Step 3 (Free Preview)

The time has come to learn how to play I’m Yours by Jason Mraz.

I actually recorded this before Jason released his official version and had my own first youtube hit with it.

Go to I’m Yours step 3.


Red – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In the first step, we look at how to play the verse of Red as played in this one acoustic guitar arrangement.

The tempo has been lowered from 92 to 78 BPM and the overall feel is very different from the original.

Go to Red step 1.


Starman – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this first step, we look at the intro with its unique Bbadd#11 chord and the much more common Fmaj7.

Following this, we also work on the verse which has an unusual order of common chords from the key of F. TAB loops are available for everything.

Go to Starman step 1.


I Can’t Stand The Rain – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this first step, we look at how to play the main riff in the key of A.

To learn from it we study the intervals, play it in five areas of the neck as well as consider hammer-on’s, bends, slides and pull-off’s.

Go to I Can’t Stand The Rain step 1.


Electric Guitar Lessons


Rescue Me – Step 2 (Free Preview)

The chorus of Rescue Me mainly moves between the two chords A and D.

To develop a good guitar part for it, you must ensure you can play these two chords anywhere on the neck. Let’s practice with the band.

Go to Rescue Me step 2.


You Can’t Hurry Love – Step 2 (Free Preview)

I want you to be able to play the chorus progression anywhere on the neck as this will make it more enjoyable playing the song.

You could in this way keep changing it every time you play it.

Go to You Can’t Hurry Love step 2.


Can I Get A Witness – Step 2 (Free Preview)

To learn how to play this riff in an improvised way all over the neck, first work your way through all examples one by one.

Then start improvising.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 2.


Be My Baby – Step 2 (Free Preview)

In this lesson, we learn how to play big barre chord shapes as we play the verse for Be My Baby.

As the song is in the key of E, we can take advantage of open strings. This will help when trying to create a wall of sound.

Go to Be My Baby step 2.


Soul Man – Step 2 (Free Preview)

One bar long, that’s all. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Let’s spend half an hour on this one bar of music by digging deep into all its detail.

Go to Soul Man step 2.


Money (That’s What I Want) – Step 2 (Free Preview)

Before we get into all the different ways we can play Money (That’s What I Want), we need to clear something up.

We need to talk about and understand, Blues melody language. We will do that by looking to the king of scales, the Minor Pentatonic.

Go to Money (That’s What I Want) step 2.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 2 (Free Preview)

During the verse, the Ebm feels like the I chord of a blues.

Sure, the order and length of the chords are different from a standard blues, but the overall feel is there. It’s just that the I chord is now a Im chord.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 2.


Get Ready – Step 2 (Free Preview)

First of all, you must try playing the riff in all positions. Not only will this teach you to play the riff better, but you’ll also manifest the Minor Pentatonic scale in your hands.

Moving a riff around like this is a much better idea than just practicing the scale up and down.

Go to Get Ready step 2.


Son Of A Preacher Man – Step 2 (Free Preview)

Let’s learn that verse! The progression moves from chord I to chord IV and then back again.

The use of the 6 over the E chord, hints the 3rd of the A.

Go to Son Of A Preacher Man step 2.


My Guy – Step 2 (Free Preview)

The more you change between the rhythms and positions, the better.

Right now, this is not about performing the song, this is practicing getting good at moving around the neck. First, we develop, then we refine.

Go to My Guy step 2.


Respect – Step 2 (Free Preview)

Being in the key of C, the two verse chords are G7 and F7.

In order to find a good part for the verse, we must explore the fret board using different shapes and try the different rhythms we find on the original recording.

Go to Respect step 2.


Jimmy Mack – Step 2 (Free Preview)

In this step, we learn the intro. The chords are extended and substituted to create more jazzy sounds.

First, learn all examples as the TAB says, then start improvising what shapes you play.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 2.


Master Blaster – Step 2 (Free Preview)

What’s so interesting with the verse progression is that we can’t exactly define what the Roman Numerals are.

The chords are several things at the same time. It’s a master class in how to write a great chord progression if you like.

Go to Master Blaster step 2.


Related Pages


Exercises

All those open position chords you learned in the beginner course now become barre chords and pentatonic scales.

We’ll use this to map out the entire fret board. Everything becomes easier to visualize once this foundation is laid.

Go to Intermediate guitar exercises.


Acoustic Course

Learning how to play guitar is best done through playing and learning from songs.

The intermediate songs require you to learn barre chords and pentatonic scales. This will be revolutionary for your understanding of the guitar fret board.

Go to Intermediate guitar course.


Intermediate Acoustic Songs

You can learn how to play these intermediate songs on the acoustic guitar.

A Change Is Gonna Come, American Pie, Angie, Babylon, Blowin’ In The Wind, Dreadlock Holiday, Fast Car, Hey There Delilah, I Can’t Stand The Rain, I’m Yours, Kiss Me, Mad World, Red, Starman, Sunny Afternoon, and Whistle For The Choir.

Go to Intermediate acoustic songs.


Electric Course

Learning how to play guitar is best done through playing and learning from songs.

These Motown/Soul songs require you to learn how to play fractions of barre chord shapes and build improvised licks using pentatonic scales.

Go to Intermediate electric guitar course.


Intermediate Electric Songs

You can learn how to play these intermediate songs on the electric guitar.

Be My Baby, Can I Get A Witness, Get Ready, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Jimmy Mack, Master Blaster (Jammin’), Money (That’s What I Want), My Guy, Rescue Me, Respect, Son Of A Preacher Man, Soul Man, and You Can’t Hurry Love.

Go to Intermediate electric songs.


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Including detailed, but bite-sized explanations on how the music theory of each song is applied to the neck.

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