Measure For Measure: 30 Solid Gold Chord Progressions

Dire_Straits_1978_Hamburg_1 To celebrate the 30th anniversary issue of American Songwriter (Jan/Feb 2015), “Measure for Measure” served up a smorgasbord of 30 handpicked, solid gold chord progressions. This e-book supplements the column with added commentary and a new classification system. In the column, the songs were listed alphabetically. In the e-book, I have organized them by mood, which is more likely to provide inspiration when you put pen to paper. The mood choices are not engraved in stone, and if you want to continue to collect chord progressions on your own – something I highly recommend – please don’t feel obliged to use the same scheme. Some songs that made the list are made for dancing. They are driven by a solid beat, simple harmonies, and catchy riffs. An example might be “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. Others feature harmonies that are as distinctive as a fingerprint. Even without lyrics, the dark mood of the “Hotel California” progression is instantly recognizable. In between, we find many hit songs with compelling chord progressions that linger in memory long after the music has stopped (ABBA’s greatest hits fall into this category). The e-book contains all types. Take this list as a beginning, not an end. When you notice some chord changes you like, you can usually find them on the Web. Once you copy them down, you need to make them your own. Some suggestions for doing that appear below. A Short History of Pop Harmony The pillars of the ’50s sound included the seemingly inexhaustible I – IV – V progression and its variations, such as the blues (see no. 30). Second, the “heart and soul” progression (I – vi – IV – V) formed the framework of many hit songs, including... Sign In to Keep Reading

To view this content,

Join Today

or Sign In

The Benefits of Membership:

  • Limited-time FREE Feature Magazine Content
  • Exclusive access to members-only contests and giveaways
Click to Join

We've started a free American Songwriter membership. Click here to learn more.