Table F: Cycle Based Chord Progressions

 

  Because the cycle is such a complete musical tool, any chord progression can be considered “cycle based”. Let’s look at some chord progressions that don’t exactly fit into a key.  “G   D   F   C” is a common chord progression, but what key is it in? Most people would say “G” because it begins with a “G” chord. The non-diatonic F chord could simply be analyzed as the IV of IV or a bVII.

  However an argument can be made for the key of “C” as well. (notice that the roots of the chords are diatonic to the key of C) in which case the D chord would be non-diatonic. Probably the best analysis of this chord progression is that it is based on the cycle of fifths. If you observe the way the chords “fit” into the cycle you can see that they form a very simple pattern. To transpose this progression to another key, simply pick a new starting point or key and duplicate the pattern.

 

 Here are some more examples of cycle based chord progressions.

 

Hey Joe

C           G            D           A            E           E

/  /  /  /    /  /  /  /    /  /  /  /    /  /  /  /    /  /  /  /    /  /  /  /

 

Plush (verse section)

G           D/F#      F           C/E        Ebmaj7            F

/  /  /  /    /  /  /  /    /  /  /  /    /  /  /  /    /  /  /  /    /  /  /  /

 

Smells Like Team Spirit

F      Bb    Ab   Db

/   /   /   /     /   /   /   /  

 

Freebird

G     D/F#  E-              F      C       D

/   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /

 

Jose (verse section)

 E-7     6x     A/D  G/C   D/G  C/F   E-7           A/D  G/C

:/   /   /   / :    /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /

 

or  E-7     6x    Dma9th   Cma9th   Gma9th   Fma9th    E-7           Dma9th  Cma9th

    :/   /   /   / :    /    /    /    /     /    /    /    /      /   /   /   /    /    /    /    /

 

* If you are working with a chord progression that has more than three major chords (like all the examples above) take note of how it fits into the cycle. Since there are only three major chords diatonic to any key, the extra major chord(s) must be non-diatonic.