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Secrets of the I-IV-V chords.

The ‘I’ ‘IV’ and ‘V’ chords are arguably the most important chords in music. But you might be surprised to learn just how deep your chord progressions can get – even within the ‘I-IV-V’ framework!  

You’ve probably already acquainted yourself with these three chords in their basic major forms, but never forget about your minor triads as well! Those minor alternates will really alter the sound of any progression. So this lesson is all about that concept of mixing and matching those chords together to create wildly different sounding progressions.  

The easiest way to drastically alter the sound of the ‘I-IV-V’ progression is to turn all three chords into minor chords. The resulting progression will sound waaay darker, more mysterious than the major version of this progression.  

But that’s just the beginning. The real magic lies in the contrast between major and minor chords. To demonstrate this, try out a Major ‘I’ chord next to a minor ‘IV’ and ‘V’.  Listen to how the sound darkens when you jump from the ‘I’ chord to the ‘IV’ chord.  Listen to how things brighten as you shift from the minor ‘V’ chord back to the Major ‘I’.  

You can inspire so many ideas by just swapping out these chords. The possibilities for songwriting are endless. Try taking a minor ‘I’ chord, a Major ‘IV’ chord and a minor ‘V’ chord to create a cinematic, moody sound.  This is one of my favourite chord progressions! If you know a little bit about modes, you can use the dorian mode to create melodies and solos on top of a chord progression like this!  

Now that you’re beginning to see just how deep a simple chord progression can go, get to your piano and explore them on your own!  What I’ve shown you is really just the tip of the iceberg!


Jordan Leibel

Jordan Leibel is passionate about songwriting, improvisation, and helping you become a creative musician! He’s worked as a composer for film, commercial, and theatre projects as well as a session musician and producer for recording work.

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