Chord progressions are an excellent tool to organize your guitar practice. Knowledge of different progressions and skill to play them will help you learn and remember songs more easily.
A chord progression is simply a series of chords played one after another that create a characteristic sound. The verses, chorus, bridge and other parts of songs are simply chord progressions played one or more times.
Understand the Musical Landscape
Chord progressions shape the musical landscapes of songs, giving each its characteristic sound. Working with the language of chord progressions as you practice is an excellent way to ensure your practice is musical and not simply a series mechanical finger exercises.
As you become familiar with the language of chord progressions you will unlock many songs that you can play easily with the same progressions you play in your guitar practice. Your ears will also learn to recognize the sound of the chord progressions you practice when they occur in music you hear.
Organizing Your Practice Session
Here are some steps to building a practice session from a chord progression.
Pick a progression
Pick one chord progression to work with for your practice session. One progression might not sound a lot, but as we'll see one progression can already give you plenty of work.
Play the Progression in all Orders
Play your chosen progression through a few times in the normal order. Then re-organize the chords into other possible orders and work through them again.
For example, if you choose to practice I-IV-V progressions then you can play them in several different orders: I-IV-V, IV-V-I, V-IV-I, I-V-IV, etc.
Playing the progression in different orders has two benefits.
- You practice chord changes that don't occur in the normal order, e.g. I to V and V to IV.
- Your ears experience hearing all the different changes between the progression's chords.
Play the Progression in All Keys
As well as playing the progression in different orders you can also play it in different keys. This will provide yet more chord changes for your fingers to work on and develop your ears further. You'll be able to play and recognize the progression in a larger number of songs.
As a minimum aim to practice your progression in the five common guitar keys - A, C, D, E, and G. If you are the over-achiever type then you can practice the progression in all twelve keys of the chromatic scale.
An Ideal Building Block for Guitar Practice
Chord progressions are an excellent building block for your guitar practice. They are one of the main ingredients of the songs you will learn and play.
Guitar practice built around chord progressions is good musical training. It will give your chord changes a good workout, train your ears and develop skills for playing in many musical situations.
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