I’m often asked what my favorite chord progressions / voicings are. So in this lesson I share 3 of my favorite jazz piano chord progressions – enjoy:
In this lesson I demonstrate each of the 3 chord progressions starting in the key of C minor – since it’s always best to learn things in one key – so that you can remember it easily, before transposing it out into any other key.
I say ‘starting’ in C minor because all 3 progressions change key at least once.
Progression #1: ‘Gliding 7th Chords’
C min 7 – B maj 7 – Bb min 7 – A maj 7 – C# min 9
You can also play the A maj 7 chord as an A7 chord instead (A7 = A C# E G), which creates more of a gospel / R’n’B type sound:
C min 7 – B maj 7 – Bb min 7 – A7 – C# min 9
This progression is a type of ‘glide’ chord progressions.
The term ‘glide’ refers to chord progressions where roughly half of the chords notes stay the same (from the first chord, to the next), while the other half of the notes move together in parallel – either up a half-step, or down a half-step.
For example, C major 7 going to C minor 7 is a type of glide chord progression.
Both chords have the same root and 5th (C and G) – so half of the notes stay the same.
But the other 2 notes move in parallel down a half-step – the 3rd and 7th (E and B glides down to Eb and Bb).
Progression #2: ‘A Modified Trance Progression’
This one’s taken from a trance / dance track I’ve always loved. It’s called ‘Need To Feel Loved’ by Reflekt.
Here’s how the progression looks in the key of C minor:
F min 7 – Ab maj 7 – C min 7 – Bb maj 7 – Ab maj 7
In the original dance track ‘Need To Feel Loved’, this progression is played by a string section. However it’s played as triads only, without 7ths:
F min – Ab maj – C min – Bb maj – Ab maj
The progression sounds just as moving played in simple triads, but to make my ‘top 3’ list, I had to add 7ths.
When I added 7ths to these chords, I ended up playing the Bb major chord as a Bb major 7.
Bb major 7 has an A natural – which is not in the scale of C minor (which all of the other chords are taken from).
This means that the music changes key when the Bb major 7 chord is played – because a key change can be as simple as changing just one note in the scale, and for as little as one chord.
And when the following Ab major 7 chord is played – this signifies that the music is back in the key of C minor.
Take a listen to the original dance track where I first heard this chord progression:
And I recently found out that the string recording (the chord progression) is actually a sample taken from the ‘Road To Petition’ soundtrack. So here’s the original soundtrack, which I find equally moving to listen to:
Progression #3: ‘A Repeating Modulation Pattern’
Lastly, my personal favorite chord progression (for now):
C min – Db maj – F min
Seems pretty simple – but let me explain:
You start on the C minor chord – which is the i chord of C minor scale.
When you play the Db major chord, and the F minor chord – the music has changed key – to the key of F minor (because Db major is not in the key of C minor – but both Db major and F minor are in the key of F minor).
So overall, the music is modulating to the key a 4th above (C minor modulates to F minor).
And you can keep repeating this pattern as many times as you want. So once you’re on the F minor chord – just go up a half-step and play a major chord (Gb major), and then go up a major 3rd and build a minor chord (Bb minor):
F min – Gb maj – Bb min
And you can keep repeating this pattern through all 12 keys:
Bb min – Cb maj – Eb min // Eb min – E maj – G# min // G# min – A maj – C# min etc.
Plus you can add 7ths, 9ths and 11ths to all of these chords.
And in case you’re interested, I also borrowed this chord progression from a dance song – ‘Falling’ by Andy Duguid.
For the most part this song is fairly straightforward – except that it has a subtle modulation which is heard roughly every 32 bars or so – either at the end of a verse, or the end of the chorus.
So say that we’re listening to the piece in C minor – most of the track plays just 2 chords:
Ab maj – C min (repeats).
But at the end of each section, the chords change to:
Db maj – F min.
And as I mentioned above – the Db major chord is not found in C minor scale, which means that the music has modulated to F minor for just these 2 chords.
Have a listen to the original song and see if you can spot this interesting sound.
So that’s where I got this modulation pattern from – I figured out the original song by ear, and then I thought ‘why not try repeating the pattern again (starting from the F minor chord), and then again (starting from the Bb minor chord), and so on.
And the progression ends up taking you through all 12 keys – and sounds great every time.
I’ve put these 3 chord progressions into sheet music form which you can download below (free). I also included 4 additional chord progressions (not covered in the video), as well as a range of my favorite chord voicings too: