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How to make killer chord progressions

Knowing how to make chord progressions is essential to writing great music. A chord progression is like a chain of chords being played one after another. The harmonic movement from chord to chord can make a song feel cheerful, melancholic, ominous, magical, or any other mood you could think of. Make sure you read our guide on how to build chords before you progress to chord progressions.

Roman numeral analysis

All chords within a key have specific functions. Their relationship to each other is the reason you can play the same chord progression in different keys, with completely different chords, and yet convey the exact same emotion and movement.

An F major chord in the key of F major will have the same function as a C major chord in the key of C major. But a C major chord has a completely different function and feel in the key of F major than it does in the key of C major. This is why we need a different way of describing the chords other than C major, F major, etc. That is why we use roman numerals.

Chord chart.png

In this chord progression chart, you can see the roman numerals for all major and minor keys. The order of the chords is the same as the scale degrees, in which each note is the root of a chord. The roman numerals for major keys are at the top and underneath you can see the ones for minor keys.

On the left side, you can see all the major keys, and on the right all the minor keys. This is because each major key shares all the notes and chords with a minor key called the relative minor key. For example, the relative minor key of C major is A minor. The only difference is what note or chord that feels like “home”.