# The Focus = C Major Scale/Progression/Formula: C D E F G A B - ( C )

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1 Chord Progressions 101 The Major Progression Formula The Focus = C Major Scale/Progression/Formula: C D E F G A B - ( C ) The first things we need to understand are: 1. Chords come from the scale with which they are associated. Since another name for chord is triad, you can think of the term triad meaning 'three.' Thus, there are 3 must-have notes in a given chord in order for the chord to ring out as the chord it needs to be. If you think of the C Major chord, the three notes are C, E, and G. 2. Chords use a formula to get their names. As mentioned in bullet point #1, the C Major chord uses C, E, and G. Notice I underlined the term Major. In any basic Major chord, the notes used will be based on the 1, 3, and 5 of the scale with which it is associated. The easiest way to understand the 1, 3, and 5 location of the 3 notes needed to get the C Major chord is by using a simple block system. Take a look below: ( 1 ) C D E F G A B ( C ) Look at the 1, 3, and 5 above. The notes are C, E, and G. Since every basic Major chord uses the notes found in the 1, 3, and 5 spot, you can find ANY basic Major chord construction by knowing the notes in those spots. Again, these notes will change based on the scale with which you are considering. Here we are working with the C Major scale. Thus, to get the C Major chord, we use 1, 3, and 5 (C, E, and G) Notice that we are using all primary notes here. There are 7 primary notes, which are based on the

2 standard alphabet (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). While we aren't starting with A here (because we are looking for the C Major chord) the notes are still in alphabetical order FROM the C note. After you reach the 7 spot above, which, in C Major, is the B note, you then start over. 3. While my goal for you isn't to think SO much about the notes used in a given scale (moreso, the notes used to get the chord ) it is important to know where these notes are found in terms of their number-based plotting system. It will end up being the same formula that is used in the Circle of Fifths. Now, how about we get to work on our first chord progression? The progression I am going to show you today is THE standard for any basic song, regardless of what style of music you hear, play, or compose. Saying that this progression is the standard doesn't mean that the formula of the progression itself stays consistent. It's just a blueprint or a template with which you can begin your arrangements. I IV V (One Four Five) I know, I know. You've probably seen and/or heard this before, but trust me here there's a TON of stuff you can do with this formula, including: arranging it in various ways (I IV I V or I V I IV V etc.) inserting more exotic formulas (such as minor chords) altering the case sensitivity of a given Roman numeral However, in order to understand how this works, we need to examine a few things. Once we do this the first time it'll all be MUCH easier as we switch up progression ideas. Examining Thing 1 - The Roman Numerals in the Circle of Fifths First, what does The Circle of Fifths actually mean? It's basically a big ol' piece of pie with slivers cut for you to eat. Well, not eat, but use. It's based on the 12 tones of the chromatic scale, their corresponding key signatures, and the associated Major and minor keys. Huh? Exactly. Scratch all that. It's easier than all that crazy talk. What the Circle of Fifths does is give you working chords in a progression that allows you to insert a given chord using a given template.

3 The whole Fifths word can also be substituted for Fourths - it just depends on which way you go. Clockwise = Fifths Counter Clockwise = Fourths That's not all that important either, at least in initial examination. The Fifths in the Circle of Fifths just represents the CLOSEST and most CONSONANT non-octave interval. That just means you're moving clockwise in the pie chart to find the interval (ascending as in, climbing) that is an equally tempered fifth from the preceeding pitch. Again, that sounds like mumbo jumbo, but it's all true. Here's the Circle of Fifths using the tonal centre (and/or, in this case, the key) of C Major: Mmmm...pie. No, seriously those gray pieces are already eaten. We can't have those. Notice the arrow on the C wedge. That's our first piece of pie. The Roman Numeral is a I and it's the tonic (or root, or key whatever) You already know that the formula we're starting with is I IV V. Thus, C F G is our answer. You just plug those in to the pie. Seriously, that's all you do. Or is it? You could just take that I IV V and use the Circle of Fifths over ANY Major key/scale and get your progression. That'll get you through the day, and that'll also give you a nice series of progressions to work with but it'll get pretty boring REALLY quickly. Before we mess around with this I IV V template, how about we compare the Circle of Fifths to the C Major scale real quick? That'll be smart.

4 Here is that same block system from before, but this time I've added the chords based on their location both (1) in interval steps/scale formula and (2) their Roman Numeral assignment from The Circle of Fifths: ( 1 ) C D E F G A B ( C ) I ii iii IV V vi vii ( I ) Heeeeeeyyyy...what's up with the lower case Roman Numerals? Those will be minor chords. Think of these minors as children. They are typically shorter than adults and therefore will be lower case. Remember that. Major chords will be UPPER case Roman Numerals. Any Roman Numeral that is lower case will be a minor chord. (See what I did there? M = Major = Upper m = minor = lower) Now, looking back at the blocks based on Roman Numeral case sensitivity, we can take those notes from the C Major scale and assign a chord to it. Again, this is based purely on the Roman Numeral line. Scale Formula ( 1 ) Tones in Scale C D E F G A B ( C ) RN (case) I ii iii IV V vi vii ( I ) Chord Result C Major D minor E minor F Major G Major A minor B diminished C Major Ok, so I've added another column to the far left. These are pretty self-explanatory, but I use weird names sometimes. The scale formula of ANY basic Major scale is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 - then back to 1. This one represents C Major. The tones in scale of C Major are simply C, D, E, F, G, A, B then back to C. The RN (Roman Numeral) case sensitivity will be the same for any basic Major scale. It tells us whether the chord is SUPPOSED to be a Major or a minor chord. Notice I screamed supposed at you. Ok I wasn't screaming. I do that a lot, but it's meant for emphasis. The chord result is simply the, um, chord result based on the Roman Numeral with which is assigned to the chart thingie. I'll bet everything above makes perfect sense except maybe that 7 th interval. B diminished is a weird one. We'll address that later. Forget it exists for now.

5 So, back to C F G. That's the I IV V that would be used both in the key of C Major as well as the notes themselves that are found in the C Major scale. I think you'd be better off to think of this as a progression and stick to the Circle of Fifths. However, these notes are the same as what are used in the C Major scale itself. Great, Nate. But C Major uses C, E, and G. Those are in the 1, 3, 5 spot. Why I IV V? Well, look back at the C Major scale block system: Scale Formula ( 1 ) Tones in Scale C D E F G A B ( C ) RN (case) I ii iii IV V vi vii ( I ) Chord Result C Major D minor E minor F Major G Major A minor B diminished C Major It's all about notes vs. chords. While the C Major chord uses C, E, and G (1, 3, and 5) those are just notes that are, in theory, stacked together to get the tone of the C Major chord itself. If you look at the Roman Numerals, you'll find that the chord in the 3 spot (an Em chord) is all lower case. While the note E all by itself is fine, trying to play an E Major chord (III instead of iii) would technically move your progression (in a very basic sense) OUT of the tonal centre or key of C Major. There's NOTHING wrong with that. It happens and it sounds pretty cool. But, if we stick to what is allowed in this key - we can't play E Major because: The E Major chord uses E, G#, and B. This series of notes is still 1, 3, and 5 BUT those notes are based on the E Major scale, not the C Major scale. The formula for getting the E Major chord is still 1, 3, and 5. Just the same as any basic Major chord construction. However, again that would be using the E Major scale, not the C Major scale. Look above and you won't find a G# note in the C Major scale. So, the formula is asking for an Em instead. Why? The Em chord uses E, G, and B. Ahh...those three notes are totally in the C Major scale. Nice. This goes all the way across the board. That's why you find Dm and Am. Trying to make a D Major and A Major in a key of C Major progression isn't technically allowed but it IS something that happens. As a matter of fact, the D Major is used in today's progression. It's easy to understand, so don't worry.

6 So, we can quickly identify a basic chord progression EASILY using the Circle of Fifths. However, the Circle of Fifths also makes use of all 12 chromatic (all colors all tones) notes. That is what tends to confuse first time users. Remember those pieces of pie? The ones that your kids likely ate while you weren't looking? Those gray slivers are basically not used in a truly consistent progression. But, any of those other ones CAN be used. The pink wedges are the Major chords. Those same Major chords can also JUST be the notes. The blue wedges (blue = sad = minor) can also be used. The green wedge, which is in the vii = a diminished chord. Now, diminished chords have been called the devil's chord as well as the horror chord for one big reason. Diminished chords tend to sound REALLY weird and, well, creepy. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use them, but they are really odd. You won't find much use of them as a basic composer, but some really intricate and talented composers have used them with amazing success. John Carpenter used it in the Halloween theme song. Brian May/Freddie Mercury used them a bunch in their compositions. Lady Gaga can make diminished chords work like a charm. I know you wouldn't think it but her real song arrangements are very interesting. Anyway, I don't want to take this TOO far, but we need to understand what it means when we DOMINATE a chord progression. After that, you're going to be really surprised at what a basic Circle of Fifths diagram does for you. Again, the progression is C F G, which translates to I IV V in the Circle of Fifths. You already know that C is our starting point. When you look at the F chord (or note) above, you'll see that it is to the LEFT of the C note (or chord). This, in theory, means that we are moving counter-clockwise from C to F.

7 Now look for the G note (or chord) in the same chart. Here it is again: We started on C - there's an arrow on it, telling you it is the tonal centre, or the key and/or root of our progression. We then moved counter-clockwise (left) to the F - makes sense, right? We technically used the Circle of Fourths to get to the F. It also just so happens to be in the IV spot (four) neat. Finally, the G is in the V spot. THIS is the dominant chord as well as dominant tone of the C Major scale. Furthermore, any note found in the V spot of any Major scale will be the dominant tone. Why is the dominant tone/chord/note so important? It dominates the progression. Seriously, that's all there is to it. In the case of C Major, you will find that the G Major chord, when added at the end of a given progression (in the key of C Major) feels as though the song could end at ANY moment. Think of the song Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan. This song uses a VERY standard progression in C Major. C Dm Em F G I ii iii IV V That's the verse. While I haven't addressed the difference in the progression: I IV V [vs.] I ii iii IV V The answer is plain as day. In both I IV V (C F G) and the Dylan arrangement, the dominant chord in the key of C Major takes over the progression. That G Major just dominates everything. It builds the progression in a way that gives both the composer AND the listener the feeling that he or she wants to go back to the C chord. But do we always do that? NOOOOOO the dominant chord (V), such as with C Major, dominates.

8 So, if we constantly dominate a progression, we end up with a seriously boring arrangement. How do we fix it? Two songs can be used to understand what's going on. Song #1 - Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan I just showed you the verse above. The progression repeats twice, so it results in: C Dm Em F G (x2) <--- The G (V) ends the verse progression. The pre-chorus switches things up a bit. While the G in the progression is the dominant (V) chord, Dylan decided NOT to go back to the C chord during the pre-chorus. Instead, he used an F Major chord. So, the verse was just: I ii iii IV V (x2) The pre-chorus ends up being: IV V (x2) IV iii ii I (x2) IV I V That translates using the Circle of Fifths/Fourths as: F G (x2) F Em Dm C (x2) F C G While I'm not a huge Dylan fan, he knew what he was doing for sure. He organized the song in a way that dominates the first run, then goes back to the tonic/key in the second run, and then dominates the third run with the same G. That leaves you wondering...what about the chorus?

9 The chorus is G C F (x5) and then he finalizes the chorus with the...yep...g. That's basically the song, and while Dylan used a few minor chords (Em and Dm) to give the song some spice, he made darn sure to dominate the entire song with the true dominant chord of G. Again, this would be the V in C Major. But - the dominant note/chord in ANY Major scale will be whatever is in the V spot. Keep that in mind. It should also be mentioned that Dylan DID use I IV V, but he didn't just use I IV V. He rearranged a few things here and there, and as mentioned before, he did include some minor chords. What about songs that only used Major chords? An example of that would be (You) Can't Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones. But...there's a little twist. First, this song IS often played using different variations. This includes variations on how the band played it as well as different artists and their interpretation. But, based on C Major, this one is the best version I think. (You) Can't Always Get What You Want is basically just C F almost exclusively. That's right! It's built (based on C Major) using nothing more than I IV over and over. So, what makes ANYTHING in this song sound like it dominates? Well, not much but it's the D Major that gets tossed in. *But D Major isn't 'allowed' in the key of C Major. If you didn't know why, you will now. D Major uses these 3 notes: D, F#, A However, Dm uses these 3 notes: D, F, A Does that mean that the D Major should actually be a Dm? Yes. In theory, it does. However, 'Keef' was no fool. He used D Major. He took that F# note (though it's not in C Major) and made it work using a few different methods, but I'll keep it simple and focus on just ONE of the easier methods. He's borrowing that F# note. But from where, right? Two of the same locations using different ideas.

10 Idea #1: Remember me talking about dominants, right? Well, in the key of C Major, the G Major chord (V) is the dominant chord. D Major is considered the secondary dominant of the V. See what I said there? The secondary dominant. Remove the ary from second ary. Now look at the C Major scale/formula/circle of Fifths block system: Scale Formula ( 1 ) Tones in Scale C D E F G A B ( C ) RN (case) I ii iii IV V vi vii ( I ) Chord Result C Major D minor E minor F Major G Major A minor B diminished C Major Look for the number 2 above. It SAYS it needs to be a Dm, but Dm isn't very dominant. It's a little sad and feeble. Dominate it by making the Dm a D Major. That's all you do! While you are technically changing the overall scale/key of the C Major concept (because of the F# - which isn't in C Major) you are simply borrowing a tone. In essence, you break the rule. That's how cool music is made. Period. But, there's even more to it than just that. I did mention that there are two methods that produce the same overall concept as well. Because the G chord (in C Major) is THE dominant chord, it might also make you wonder what the property of the G Major scale itself is, right? Well, guess what? The G Major scale has an F# note in it. I won't go too far into this, as we aren't working with G here, but here's the same block system from above, this time, in G Major: Scale Formula ( 1 ) Tones in Scale G A B C D E F# ( G ) RN (case) I ii iii IV V vi vii ( I ) Chord Result G Major A minor B minor C Major D Major E minor F# diminished G Major Bam. Look at the V in G Major this time. It's a D Major.

11 So, the dominant tone of the G Major scale/key is D Major. When (You) Can't Always Get What You Want was composed, they utilized the D Major chord (instead of Dm) either through: 1. Keeping it really simple and altering the case sensitivity of the Dm (ii) to a D Major (II) 2. Recognizing that since the G (in C Major) is the dominant, a quick borrowing (somewhat of a modulation, but not fully as the song doesn't really switch fully to another key, in this case, G Major) 3. Not even fully strumming the D major chord (really important!) One could even argue that they didn't even consider any of that. Often you can just play chords that don't technically work in a given scale or key and it'll sound cool. I'm not going out on a limb to say that they sat down and theorized what would and would not work I mean, we're talking about the Stones' here. (Brian May from Queen is actually known for that) I will say one last thing that has stuck with me for MANY years and I've made heavy use of it in my personal playing. It was a quote from Tom Morello (known mostly from Rage Against The Machine) where, when asked this question,.. What do you think of when you write your riffs? His answer? When in doubt, lean on F#. It works. I'm not fully sure why, but it does. OFTEN. I'm not talking about just C Major. I'm talking about the fact that he makes use of the F# note in a TON of his compositions, even when he played songs that weren't based on any note usage that should include F#. He just made it work. So, in summary, here's the overall idea: 1. The progression of I IV V is THE most common standard basis for every style of music. Saying that doesn't mean to only use I IV V. It means you would likely want to alter the overall arrangement. There's NO wrong answer when using I IV V. It can be I IV I V I V IV I (I just randomly typed that out) or even just I IV I V.there's no limit to it. 2. Based on saying 'there's no limit to it' you DO want to avoid constantly ending on the V because it will dominate the given key so much that the song will feel like it always wants to create an ending toward the tonic. The solution to that would be to either pull a Dylan (based on the example) and toss in a few other allowed chords - namely minor chords, to spice things up and give emotion. You could also borrow if you want.

12 3. When I say borrow - you don't necessarily have to get all technical and think of multiple keys or scales. Instead, you can simply alter the case sensitivity of ANY of the chords found in a given key. The video today will help you understand that. Sometimes it sounds cool. Sometimes it doesn't work well. That's music for you...trial and error. However, by understanding the Circle of Fifths/Fourths, you have a great handle on the trial part. The error part is subjective. One last thing that I bet you've been wondering. Have you ever heard of the relative minor before? If not, it's REALLY easy to understand. The relative minor will be any chord that is relative (son or daughter the minor) to the Major chord or key (mother or father the Major) in question. So, if C Major is the Mother or Father, then Am will be the son or daughter. The notes used in C Major are: C E G The notes used in A minor are: A C E The relation? C and E. In theory, you could play an Am chord while another musician is playing a C Major chord (and vice versa). How will you know what the relative minor of a given chord is based on the Major scale? Look for the vi in ANY Major scale. Here's C Major and G Major as they were shown earlier: Scale Formula ( 1 ) Tones in Scale C D E F G A B ( C ) RN (case) I ii iii IV V vi vii ( I ) Chord Result C Major D minor E minor F Major G Major A minor B diminished C Major C Major and Am are relatives. Am is found in the vi spot. Here's G Major: Scale Formula ( 1 ) Tones in Scale G A B C D E F# ( G ) RN (case) I ii iii IV V vi vii ( I ) Chord Result G Major A minor B minor C Major D Major E minor F# diminished G Major

13 When It Comes To Your Chord Progressions There are plenty of choices based on the Major Chord Progression Formula. Here are just a few common ones with an example of the main progression from certain songs. I V vi IV : Don't Stop Believing by Journey, No Woman No Cry by Bob Marley, I'm Yours by Jason Mraz, Let it Be by The Beatles I vi IV V : This is basically THE 50's and 60's progression but widely popular still. Stand By Me by Ben E. King is one example, but it also happens to be used in Baby by Justin Bieber...I mean if you're into that. I V vi iii IV I IV V : A nice classical arrangement used in Pachelbel's Canon in D (his was, well, in D but the formula still works) I IV I V I : Super blues 101. The actual standard arrangement would be based on 12 (12 bar blues) I I I I IV IV I I V V I I..with alterations often used in it such as V VI I V (where there's a free switch between Major and minor) I IV V IV: Wild Thing by The Troggs, La Bamba by Ritchie Valens are just a few of many. This one puts the dominant in the 3 rd spot instead of the final progression, so it has a nice release back to the IV. In the case of it being in G Major, that would be G C D C. The C here is what really moves the song along, even though the D (in G Major) would be the dominant chord. If you quickly strum the C Major here and really pop that D Major chord out, the D will still overpower the progression even when C Major is actually played twice. Remember the dominant, no matter what, will overpower the song in a Major key.

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