The "Creep" Chord Progression

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Last time we learned the most obvious chord progression of all:

The "Oh Duh" Chord Progression

  1. If there are 3 primary chords in a key -- I, IV, and V -- and there are:
  2. And since most songs start and end on the I chord -- and they do;
  3. Then the obvious conclusion is that there are only two possibilities for the next chord -- the V chord or the IV chord;
  4. So, if the melody note is part of the V chord, then the chord is probably the V chord. (Duh!) If the melody not is part of the IV chord, then the chord is probably the IV chord. (Duh!)

Just to briefly review, here they are again -- the 3 most used chords -- the primary chords -- in each major key:

You may find it easier to see this information in a tabluar format:

Key (I) C G D A E B F#/Gb C#/Db Ab Eb Bb F
IV F C G D A E B F#/Gb Db Ab Eb Bb
V G D A E B F# C#/Db G#/Ab Eb Bb F C

This time we're going to learn the "creep"chord progression, using those diminished 7th chords we learned back a few lessons ago. I call it the "creep" because the chords creep up gradually until you arrive at a stable chord, then the song goes elsewhere.

You see, chord progressions come in sections, like one room in a house. You can put several different rooms together to make a big house, or you can live in a one room house. Just like people. In most 3rd world countries people live in one-room houses -- which means, of course, that much of the world lives in one-room houses (we won't count bathrooms and closets, etc. -- just the main living area.) Those of us who live in the West generally live in multi-room houses.

Chord progressions are like that. You can build an entire song out of one progression, such as the "Oh Duh" progression that we learned last time. And thousands of songs are built that way. Here's just a few:

Amazing Grace Cum Ba Ya On Top of Old Smoky
America Dixie Yankee Doodle
Battle Hymn of the Republic Home Sweet Home And about 17 gazillion more...
Clementine Long Long Ago

But there are also musical houses -- we call them songs -- that are built out of several different rooms -- several different chord progressions. Some of them, like mansions and castles, go on and on and get quite involved.

But most songs are like many modest houses -- they have 2 or 3 rooms, sometimes 4 -- built using 2 or 3 or 4 different chord progressions.

Here's an example of the creep chord progression:

Once the progression reaches a stable chord -- usually a primary chord -- then it can be combined with one or more other progressions to create an entire song.

So here we have the "creep" combined with the "Oh Duh!" chord progression to form an entire phrase. If it is the first phrase of the song, it would be called the "theme" of the song, or "Section A" of a song. Typically in a song, a phrase like this is repeated several times in one of these musical forms:

Theme

Theme

Contrast

Theme

This form is known as
A A B A musical form.

If the song went like this:

Theme

Contrast

Theme

...it would be known at
A B A musical form.

Every song has a form of some kind, so you can do yourself a HUGE favor and begin to look at songs with an eye to figuring out their musical form!

Why?

Because if you can recognize a song as an A A B A form song, all you have to do is determine the chord progression of the "A" section, and you've automatically learned 3/4 of the song! All that remains is learning the "B" section, and you've got it!

If this excites you as it does me, you would be very wise to take a music theory course at your local college, or take the one that I teach. You'll work through 24 entire lessons (which I explain and demonstrate while you do the printed lessons) learning all kinds of exciting stuff like this!

This page updated on October 26, 2013.