Watch the 30 Rock & Pop Progressions online guitar lesson by Ravi from Guitar Lab: 30 Rock & Pop Progressions
When it comes to chord progressions, many musicians familiarize themselves with a number system independent of any key, commonly referred to as "The Nashville Number System." For example, on stage someone might yell out, "it's a one-six-four-two-five in E" which gives the seasoned player enough information to follow along. Moreover, he can quickly transpose that to any key, such as playing a "one-six-four-two-five in G." Each video is titled using this standard numbering system so that you can best analyze chords within a key, transpose them, and effectively communicate with fellow musicians. However, I have organized the overall course from a songwriting point of view. I see all western songs built around the primary chords of the key: the I, the IV, and the V (chords are always noted in Roman Numerals, uppercase for major and lower case for minor). This harmonic relationship is what our western ears crave. However, songwriters often then employ the relative minor chords of those three major chords to add more interest and tonal coloring.
What does all this mean? Spend some time on the next segment, "Theory Primer," to really grasp this concept. If you find it daunting, skip it for now and get right into playing the chord progressions. However, be sure to download the guides linked to the Theory Primer as well as the chord charts with selected videos (I'm not providing charts for every progression as you shouldn't need the "crutch" after the first half of the course). These will help guide you without digging into the theory. Once you have played through several of the progressions, come back to the "Theory Primer" and it will make more sense. This course isn't about mastering theory; it's about giving you the fundamental tools to play, arrange/interpret, and write great songs. However, the more theory you know, the better equipped you will be.
The course explores chord progressions in four sections: those that begin with I-IV, I-V, V-IV, and then a few odd balls! Within each section, I'll dissect the common variations and chord substitutions ultimately yielding 30 unique progressions. As a songwriter, this structure will help you incorporate proven architecture as well as some more interesting variations into your music. As a player or accompanist, your ear will more easily learn to identify chord progressions through reason and deduction (and muscle memory) rather than memorizing arbitrary sequences of chords. Moreover, this will also help you understand songwriters' tendencies so you can better anticipate chord movements. By also learning the guitar centric techniques in each video, you'll have an entire toolbox at your disposal as you play your favorite songs on your own, jam with the band, or write the next big hit!