Major and Minor Chord Progressions

minor chord progressions

Western music primarily employs two tonalities: major and minor. Chord progressions in minor keys tend to sound melancholic or menacing, yet they can also be bright and lively.

In this article, we’ll be exploring some popular minor chord progressions that suit various musical styles. Starting off with the iconic ii-V-I progression found in ballads and lamentations.

1. I-IV-V-I

I-IV-V chord progression is an iconic minor key progression that can be applied across many genres and song forms. Utilizing triads, this progression is frequently heard in ballads like Rihanna’s “Love at First Sight” and Sam Smith’s “Too Good At Goodbyes”, creating drama with each tension-filled move back towards I and V chords – adding drama while leaving listeners uncomfortable and creating unease among listeners.

This chord progression is also popular in rock and metal music, often using guitar power chords to add a sense of rebellion and swagger. Recently seen in Lorde’s hit single “Royals”, which features this progression and criticizes materialism and wealth.

Experimenting with different chord inversions and voicings to find unique sounds for this progression is a great way to discover fresh musical ideas. Altering the order of chords gives it more of a distinct feel, while substituting chords (which function similarly but have different notes) add an unexpected edge to your music.

2. I-IV-V-II

As part of a power ballad or anime opening theme, this cyclical progression will help tell your story. While most commonly associated with jazz music, you can hear it used in genres like rock and R&B as well. Furthermore, you may even use “ii for IV”, similar to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, although technically an “IV chord” should actually be an ii-7.

The IV-V-II movement is an effective way of adding tension and drama to a song, shifting chords in order to heighten tension until reaching resolution. You can hear this progression in Justin Bieber and The Kid LAROI’s “Stay” as well as Childish Gambino’s “Redbone.”

This chord progression can create an introspective atmosphere and stir emotions such as contemplation or sadness. Additionally, you could use this progression as the basis for writing melancholic songs or melancholy love ballads.

3. I-IV-V-I

Minor chord progressions tend to resolve toward the tonic or dominant of their key, which can be found in many popular songs, like Gotye’s “Someone That I Used To Know”, using an IV V progression.

This progression can be found across many styles of music, from The Beatles to Eminem. The progression’s major tones and stepwise movement allow listeners to feel at home with it without experiencing sudden shifts between major and minor keys.

Pop artists use this progression to express emotions such as loss, heartache and nostalgia through songs like Adele’s “Hello” or Green Day’s 21 Guns. A variant of this progression called i-bVII-bVI can also be heard in The Beatles’ “Let It Be” or Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”. When going from darker notes to the brighter tones at bVI it creates a powerful contrast that adds emotional depth.

4. I-IV-V-II

Chord progressions can range from soothing and sweet (think George Gershwin’s “Summertime”) to funky and upbeat (the Commodores’s “Brick House”). The order in which chords are played determines their overall effect; therefore affecting how each song feels overall.

A popular progression, i-IV-V-II, can be heard in many popular songs to create an atmosphere of mystery and tension. When combined with minor plagal cadence or Andalusian cadence – which adds even more emotion – this progression can be heard in Gotye’s “Someone That I Used To Know” as well as Sia’s chorus in “Cheap Thrills.”

As discussed in Lesson 1 of Minor Scale Basics, a V (Dominant or V) chord may either be major or minor in sound; usually with minor chord progressions evoking more sad and melancholic mood. Experiment with minor key chord progressions to see their effects on your music’s mood – after some practice you will soon recognize minor chord sequences almost instantly when listening to songs!