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How to Make Your Basic Chord Progressions Sound Better

This article is about how to make your basic chord progressions sound better. When I say basic chord progressions, I mean those who use basic major and minor chords.

In music we work within different keys. Each key consists of the set of specific notes and chords. Let´s say we will work with the C major key as an example. This key contains seven different notes, namely C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

We can derive a chord from each note mentioned above. These chords will have different quality, they won´t be just all major even if the key is major. There will be three major chords, three minor chords and one diminished chord.

Chords in the C major key are as follows:

C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim


We can experiment with these chords while playing. We can choose between them randomly and hear which variations sound good and which sound bad. So one example of chord progression with these chord can be

Am, F, C, G

The another one can be

C Am Em G



We can create plenty variations by doing this which will sound like real music (because it is real music). When you start with writing songs on guitar, this is the basic, which can be used. However, after some time, you can feel bored while playing similar chords over and over again.

Fortunately, there are many ways how you can improve your chord progressions to sound better. I will show you at least some of them in this article.

First, let´s talk briefly about little bit of music theory. All the chords mentioned above are so called triads. It means that all the chords consist always of three different notes, not less, not more. All of the notes are present in the C major scale, so for example the chord C consists of notes C E G, the chord Dm consists of notes D F A etc.

There is another group of chords related to this key. Those chords are 4 note chords, which are created by adding an one extra note to the triad. In our example of C major key, all of those chords are so called seventh chords.

Seventh chords in the C major key are as follows:

Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7, Am7, Bm7(b5)


I strongly recommend to find different patterns of how they could be played on guitar if you don´t know them yet. After learning them, you can start to experiment by substituting some of the basic major and minor chords with those new ones.


For example, just take one of the chord progressions above:


Am F C G


Let´s try to substitute one chord by a seventh chord. Just do it with the first one as and example. The new chord progression will be


Am7 F C G


Play it and hear the difference. Try to do the same with another chord. Take another chord progression and do the same. You can substitute just one chord or two chords or all of them, it´s just on you. Not all the variations will sound good but choose those which will sound good to you. The more you will experiment with this, the better it will sound. Give it some time and you will use these chords automatically and with a great confidence.


By doing this your chord progressions will sound more complex and professional.

About the author: Tom Sklenar is the professional bass player and the owner of the Guitar School of Chropyne (Škola kytary Chropyně), Czech republic, where he teaches and trains his guitar and bass students.

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