The importance of learning common chord progressions

Hey Improvisers,

While playing Jerome Kern’s great song “Long Ago And Far Away,” I was reminded about how important it is to become familiar with some of the most common chord progressions. Progressions such as I-vi-ii-V, ii-V-I, I-vi-IV-V, and I-V-vi-IV are the foundational building blocks of countless pop, jazz, rock, and folk songs, and by spending some quality time with them, we’ll be preparing ourselves to play these songs more easily.

In addition to recognizing these progressions when we find them in songs, we’ll also understand how the chords we come across are often derived from these underlying chord sequences. For example, iii-VI-ii-V is a common substitute for the more basic I-vi-ii-V progression.

You can watch me demonstrate this in more depth on this video, showing how many of the chords in Jerome Kern’s masterpiece “Long Ago And Far Away” can be easily understood in relation to the basic “Heart and Soul” progression of I-vi-ii-V:

Long Ago And Far Away: Journey Through The Real Book #215

If we take the time to practice these short progressions in all 12 keys, we’ll learn songs much easier and generally go further with our improvising when playing them.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”


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2 thoughts on “The importance of learning common chord progressions”

  1. I have been reading Ron’s articles for a long time and I can’t help but to agree with him. The information he shares is very helpful and gives me ideas on how to improve my guitar playing skills in the future. He has great advice that will definitely inspire me as I learn more about music.


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