What is a chord progression, and how is it different from changing keys?

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What is a chord progression, and how is it different from changing keys?

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A chord progression is a series of different note combos but all those notes exist in the same key. Changing what set of notes you’re working with and building different chords from would be a key change

As a guitar player, a 1 4 5 chord progression in D would be D G A. In A it would be A D E. Its your choice if you want to progress up or down in pitch as long as the interval is good. It will sound good.

Imagine a piano. Now imagine that you only play on the white keys. This is the “key of C.”

Imagine playing several notes at once, using only those white keys. Each set of notes you play is a chord. Moving from one set of notes (chord) to another set of notes is a *chord progression.*

Let’s say you wanted to incorporate the black keys. Well, those don’t exist in the key of C, so you would need to *change keys,* that is, change which set of notes you can play, in order to include the black ones.

Sidebar: A regular major scale is a set of notes which follows a particular pattern, and the *key* is which note you’re starting on when making the pattern. So “key of C” is starting that pattern on the C note of the piano, and “key G” would start the pattern on G note. Each key incorporates a different set of white and black keys based on the established pattern (major scale).

The key that you play in is the root position of the piece of music. Chord progressions will create different moods and directions in the piece. When you hear a pop song, the chord progression will usually be I-V-vi-IV. These chords in the context of the order they are played will govern the motion of the music based on the tension (dissonance) of the chords. This 4-chord progression resolves nicely on the tonic (I) position at the start of each phrase so you get a familiar, home feeling.
In jazz you often come across the ii-V-I progession which starts off with some dissonance on the ii chord but resolves nicely again on the I chord.

The key you play in governs which notes can be played in the melody. You can decide which mode you write in (a series of intervals constructing a scale) to determine which sound you want. For example, the double harmonic scale is used a lot in Arabic, indian, egyptian music. The notes in the melody will use the notes of the scale for which ever key the piece/song is in.

The key determines which chord is the tonic, namely the chord that matches the key. E.g. if you are playing in D minor, then D minor is youre tonic. Each other chord is given by the note in its corresponding postition on the d minor scale. For example, the v chord will be A minor because A is the 5th note in the scale.

The direction and different moods in the piece are governed by the chord progressions.

Chord progressions move through an audible “story” that starts with a root, moves into more complex territory, reaches an interesting contrast with the original root and then resolves back to it.

Depending on your culture you know some of these “stories”. Ever hum along with a song you never heard before, but you knew where it was going? This is why. Things like the 12-bar blues or the “Rhythm Changes” in jazz are chord progressions.