Common Chord Progressions
Many common chord progressions follow the circle of fifths (see circle of fifths article) although going in an anti clockwise direction where the chords go up a fourth or in other words down of fifth,
Two, Five, One Progression
This is commonly written in Roman numerals like below.
II V I
This famous chord progression follows the circle of fifths in this anti clockwise direction. It is used in melodic pop and rock, funk, soul, country and jazz music.
The II chord is normally a minor 7 type chord, the V chord is a dominant 7 chord and the I chord is a major 7 chord. Although this is generally the case, the chords can have different qualities.
- The II chord is known as the sub-dominant.
- The V chord is known as the dominant.
- The I being the tonic.
By referring to the circle of fifths, a II V I in the key of C could be D minor 7 , G7, Cmaj7
The II and V chords - D minor 7 and G7 would normally last a bar each with the I chord, C major 7 lasting two bars ( | Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj7 | Cmaj7 | ).
Alternatively, another way is to have the II and V chords in one bar, ie two bears each in 4/4 time and the I chord taking up one bar ( | Dm7 G7 | Cmaj7 | ).
When changing key, we would use the circle of fifths anti clockwise.
II V I progression in the key of G
This uses the chords A minor 7, D7, Gmajor 7
Four, Five, One Progression
A variation on this chord progression is the IV,V,I where the IV chord can substitute for the II chord. Like the II chord, the IV chord is a sub-dominant. This progression is explained in the circle of fifths section. (the "four" can substitute for the "two" and can be known as substitution chord).
Some tunes just strip the chords back and alternate between the V and I or even just go between the II and V in a vamp as in the tune Oye Como Va made famous by guitarist Carlos Santana.
II V I in a minor key
When working in a minor key the chord qualities change to II m7b5, V altered , I minor. So a II V I in C minor could be | Dm7b5 | G7 alt | Cm7 | Cm7 |
(an "alt" chord is a dominant 7th where the 5th and the 9th are sharpened or flattened or omitted)
Extended chord progressions
If we take larger chunks of the cycle, we have a progression called VI, II, V, I
| Am7 | Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj7 |
If we take an even larger chunk, we have III, VI, II, V, I
| Em7 | Am7 | Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj7 |
Countless tunes use these progressions. VI, II, V, I is used in Misery by Maroon Five. The III,V,II,V is found in Blue Moon.