Work out 2nd chord of a progression

How can you work out which chord follows the first chord in a Major scale progression? Or, in other words, if you know a Major chord how can you know what is the next chord which should follow it? Working out which chords go together really is a big kettle of fish. If you're one of those persons who has been avoiding theory because you think it's too hard, or you might think it will ruin your songwriting, both of those ideas are incorrect. Your playing will actually explode as will your songwriting ability.

This post is not a big study on working out which chords play well together but we can teach you a cool bit of theory. First up you are going to have to know a Major scale. Any major scale will do. In the example diagram included in this lesson we've used the D Major scale. The notes for that scale are D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D. Using those notes we means we are in the key of D Major. The first chord for the key of D Major is.... yes, a D Major chord. The same rule applies for all your other major scales. For example, first chord in the key of G Major is a G Major chord. The first chord for a progression in E Major is the E Major chord. And so on. Easy so far?

The first chord of a progression is made by using the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of that scale. In the diagram below you can see those notes are D-F#-G. Those are the notes we use to build a D Major chord. Try this bit of theory for yourself with a matching Major chord and scale you know. 1st, 3rd, 5th works for all of them.

Ok, that's how we work out the first chord. But, how do we work out the second chord? Take the 2nd, 4th and 6th notes of the same scale, play them together and you have the second chord of that scale. Again, check the diagram. In the key of D Major those 2nd, 4th, 6th notes are E-G-B. Those are the notes of an e minor chord! Therefore the e minor chord is the second chord of the D Major scale. That's why they sound great used together in a song.

 second chord of a progression

Now it's your turn. Work out the second chord for other scales. Maybe it's time to learn a new scale. When you play around with your chords and scales the see if you don't get inspired to come up with new songwriting ideas. Or you may realise why a musician chose those chords which sound good together. And you know what, maybe they didn't even know the theory you just learned!

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