Guitar Chord Progression Guide Using Circle of Fifths

Circle of Fifths

Lucky for us guitar players we can easily remember and play chords in shapes, which is of course is the first thing to do when you’re a beginner. As soon as you are able to play some chords like C, G, Am and a bar chord like F Major, you will begin to harmonize and play some songs.

However, have you ever wonder why group of chords sound good together and others aren’t? Moreover, why there are players who plays effortlessly with these chords not getting out of tune and almost seems automatic to them. The answer to that is due to the fact they know chord progression.

The reason why these chords mentioned earlier C, G, F Major and Am blends perfectly well with each other is because they all belong to the C Major scale chord progression. To make it not sound intimidating and to quickly understand what’s going on. We’re be using the number system together with a visual tool called the Circle of Fifths.

But before we start, if you happen to miss out on the first and second part of this tutorial. I would suggest to look into it as well to have a background on the relationship of Major scales to minor scales, how to build chords, their key signatures, and an introduction to the Circle of Fifths.

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It is always great to begin learning with the C Major chord because it is natural without having the sharps and flats. This also applies to its relative minor Am that when put side by side with the C Major, they simply mirror each other. To find out the relative minor of any Major key, is to count up to the 6th degree of that Major Chord.

C Major Scale and Am ScaleWe now know that the Key of C has a relative minor in its chord progression, so what about its Major and are there other more minors on this key? Yes, definitely there is, the key of C actually has 3 Major, 3 minor and 1 diminished chord.

Guitar Chord ProgressionWhen hearing will be playing in key of C 1-4-5. Those numbers represents the Major chords while when it says 2-3-6 on the same key it’s for the minor chords. Remembering it this way makes it a lot easier and you tend not to forget what chords you are going to be in, unlocking your musical ability to walk through the chords. The best example of this system is the Nashville Number System.

The number of combinations you can do is not limited in just playing major to major or minor to minor. Depending on the specific song complexity or how you utilize chords to make progression, this can be in different number order within the key having both Major and minor chords together.

Nashville Number SystemTo distinguish the key of a song or you are in is basically looking at the commonalities in chords. This can be a dead giveaway and sometimes not because there are some keys that share the same chords. Like C and G for instance, both are having C, G, and Am on their progression and also not all songs begin with its root chord. 

Figuring this is still thru trying out the other chords in C and G Major if it fits in. With the help of your ears, and the Circle of Fifths you can find the remaining missing chords to complete the rest of the song.

So that completes this 3 part lesson, hopefully we made it enjoyable and entertaining to learn the basic theory and on how chord progression works to help you on your playing. As another resource to help you study, check out this other website that provides a Free Interactive Circle of Fifths Tool to practice with.

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