Vol.17 No.5

Understanding Chord Progressions: Part 2

We continue to develop a deeper understanding of how chords work together…

National Standards: 1-3, 5-7, 9, 11


Have the class read Techniques: Understanding Chord Progressions (page 22 of the student edition).


If possible, review part one of Understanding Chord Progressions. This article analyzes major chord progressions, using the same tools that you and your students will encounter in this article but with minor chords.

Example 1

Listen to Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Have students raise their hands when they hear a change in chord. Follow along with the vi-V-IV-I progression.

Play through each set of four measures randomly, each of which resolves in a different chord. Have students guess which roman numeral is the resolution in the chord progression.

Example 2

Listen to The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run.” Without looking at the example, have students identify when the chord progression changes from minor to major. 

Example 3

Listen to the song “How High the Moon,” performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford. Follow along with the example.

Example 4

Listen to “From Me to You” by The Beatles. Focus on the second line in the bridge, when the key shifts to F major.



After reviewing each example, have students pair up and select any song they choose. Then have them look up (on a computer, phone or tablet) the basic chord progression for that song. Have them write it out using staff paper and roman numerals.