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Circle Progressions

By Rich Scott
An excerpt from the recently published Chord Progressions For Songwriters (c) 2003.

Below is the circle of fifths (also referred to as cycle of fifths, chords, or keys) that shows the most logical, natural movement of one chord to another in Western music.

Each of the twelve letters is arranged like numbers on a clock representing the root notes of a chord of some quality (major, minor, or dominant seventh). As you move counterclockwise around the circle, each chord root descends in an interval of a perfect fifth (three and a half whole steps). Moving clockwise, each chord root descends in an interval of a perfect fourth (two and a half whole steps).

This series of chords demonstrates the strong tendency or pull of the “V” (dominant) to “I” (tonic) chord. This is the strongest chord movement, or cadence in Western music.

Moving counterclockwise through the circle of fifths is often referred to as backcycling.

Some of the best songs ever written have been created using cycles of descending fifths such as the “Am7-Dm7-G7-Cmaj7” progression that moves through the circle until ultimately arriving at the tonic.


The circle of fifths can be used to create chord progressions by starting with any chord on the circle and moving in either direction using as many or as few consecutive chord roots as you like to produce a new chord sequence.

Circle progressions often begin with the “I” (tonic) chord before proceeding through the circle of fifths. The resulting chords can be major, minor or dominant seventh qualities (or any combination) that can be further embellished, altered, or substituted.

For example, if you start with “E” and move counterclockwise to “C” you create the “E-A-D-G-C” chord sequence. Then, by designating a major, minor, or dominant seventh chord quality to each root note you can create the “E7-A7-D7-G7-C” and “Em-Am-Dm-G7-C” progressions. You can also start the sequence with the “C” (tonic) before proceeding through the circle of fifths creating the “C-E7-A7-D7-G7-C” progression.


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Although many of the progressions you will explore in this book including the basic (C-F), classic rock (C-Bb-F-C), folk (C-G), jazz (Dm7-G7-C), ragtime (C-A7-D7-G7), and standard (C-Am7-Dm7-G7) utilize chord sequences based on circle of fifths movement, generally only cycles of four or more chords from the circle of fifths in succession are referred to as circle (circular or circle of fifths) progressions.

The possible progression combinations that can be created using the circle of fifths are almost endless and are found in classical music as well as in jazz and popular songs.

In this chapter you will explore some of the many ways the world’s most creative songwriters have used circle progressions to create hit songs. You will learn about the two types of circle progressions, those that descend in fifths and fourths. You will also take a quick look at a couple of ideas from my songwriter’s notebook. Lastly, your assignment will be to work through several exercises to get you started building your own circle progressions.

Descending Fifths

In this section you will look at six chord progressions that move counterclockwise around the circle in descending fifths. Play through each progression example and thoroughly understand how it was created before moving on to the next progression. Although these examples are presented in the key of C or Am, they should be transposed (see “Appendix”), played, and studied in other keys.

B-E-A-D-G-C Cycle

This cycle travels counterclockwise from “B” to “C.” The “B7-E7-A7-D7-G7-C” and “Bm-E7-Am-Dm-G7-C” progressions are two common types of this cycle. The first type is called a cycle of dominant seventh chords.

An example of this type of cycle that uses secondary dominant sevenths is the verse progression to the Chordettes’ 1954 hit Mister Sandman shown below. A secondary dominant is a chord that serves as the “V” of another. For example, in the “B7-E7-A7-D7-G7-C” progression the “B7” is the “V” of the “E7” chord and the “E7” is the “V” of the “A7” chord. Similarly, the “A7” is the “V” of the “D7” chord and the “D7” is the “V” of the “G7” chord.

C / / /

B7 / / /

E7 / / /

A7 / / /

D7 / / /

G7 / / /

C / / /

Ab7 / G7 /

An example of the second cycle type that uses both primary and secondary chords is the A section to the 1965 standard The Shadow Of Your Smile shown below.

Bm7 / / /

E7b9 / / /

Am7 / / /

/ / / /

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /

Cmaj7 / / /

/ / / /

The box below shows other examples of this type of progression. Most of the progressions begin with the “C” (“I”) chord before proceeding through the circle. Notice the relative major/minor substitution for the “Dm” chord in the Yesterday example. Although the last three examples are not true circle progressions, they are circle-based sequences.

C

B7

E7

A9

Dm7

G7

-

Red Roses For A Blue Lady verse (Wayne Newton - 1965)

C

Bm

E7

Am-Am/G

F

G7

C

Yesterday verse (Beatles - 1965)

C6

Bm7

E7

Am7

D7

Gm7

C7#5-F6-
Fm7-Bb7

Blues For Alice (Charlie Parker - 1949)

Cmaj7

Bm7b5

E7

Am7

D7

Gm7

C7-F7-Em7

Confirmation (Charlie Parker - 1946)

Cmaj7

Bm7b5

E7

Am7

D7 - Dm7

G7

Cmaj7

Come Rain Or Come Shine A section (Standard - 1946)

Csus4 - C (2x)

Bm7b5

E7

Am-Am(M7)-
Am7-Am6

Dm7

G7

-

She Believes In Me chorus (Kenny Rogers - 1979)

C

Bm7

E7

Am7

=>

Gm7

C7-Fmaj7-
G7-Em7-G11

Through The Years verse (Kenny Rogers - 1982)

C

Bm7b5

E7

Am7

=>

Gm7

C7-F

Whenever I Call You "Friend" verse (Kenny Loggins - 1978)

C

B7#9

Em9

A13

-

-

-

What You Won't Do For Love verse (Bobby Caldwell - 1979)


The A section progression to Charlie Parker’s 1949 Confirmation and the twelve-bar blues progression to his 1946 Blues For Alice are shown below.

Both progressions start with the tonic then move counterclockwise from “B” to “F” creating a series of “II-V” movements that temporarily pass through several tonalities. In Confirmation, the progression moves down a half step to break the cycle and end the section with a circle progression turnaround.

In Blues For Alice, the progression continues to “Bb” then follows the standard blues sequence. The first four bars of both progressions can be thought of as a sophisticated backcycled substitution for four bars of the “C” chord.

See the separate “Blues Progressions” chapter for a discussion of backcycled blues during the bebop era.

Confirmation

Cmaj7 / / /

Bm7b5 / E7 /

Am7 / D7 /

Gm7 / C7 /

F7 / / /

Em7 / A7 /

D7 / / /

Dm7 / G7 /

Blues For Alice

C6 / / /

Bm7 / E7 /

Am7 / D7 /

Gm7 / C7#5 /

F6 / / /

Fm7 / Bb7 /

C6 / / /

Ebm7 / Ab7 /

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /

Em7 / Am7 /

Dm7 / G7 /


E-A-D-G-C Cycle

This cycle travels counterclockwise from “E” to “C.” The “E7-A7-D7-G7-C” and “Em-Am-Dm-G7-C” progressions are two common types of this cycle.

Again, the first type is called a cycle of dominant seventh chords. An example of this type of cycle that uses secondary dominant sevenths is the verse progression to the 1925 standard Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue shown below. This sequence is also the standard eight-bar ragtime progression.

 

C / / /

E7 / / /

A7 / / /

/ / / /

D7 / / /

G7 / / /

C / / /

G7 / / /

An example of the second cycle type that uses both primary and secondary chords is the last four bars of the chorus progression to the Beatles’ 1964 hit Can’t Buy Me Love shown below that leads into the opening “C” chord in the verse.

Em / / /

Am / / /

Dm7 / / /

G / / /

The box below shows other examples of this type of circle progression. “E-A-D-G” cycles are often used as turnarounds and “E-A-D-G-C” cycles are frequently used as endings (see the separate “Turnarounds” and Endings” chapters).

The Windmills of Your Mind is an example of a minor circle progression.

Notice the descending chromatic bass line on the One Note Samba example and the parallel major/minor substitution on the last example.

C

E7

A7

D7

G7

C

Basin Street Blues chorus (Standard - N/A), Charleston verse (Standard - 1923), Who's Sorry Now? chorus (Connie Francis - 1958), Sherry verse (4 Seasons - 1962), Spanish Flea verse (Herb Alpert - 1966), and Blue chorus (LeAnn Rimes - 1997)

Cmaj7

E7

A7

D7

G7

-

Just In Time A section (Standard - 1956)

C

E7

A7

D7-Dm

G7

C6

The Night Has A Thousand Eyes verse (Bobby Vee - 1962)

C

E7

A7

Dm

G7

C

You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You verse (Dean Martin - 1965)

C

E

A

Dm

G-G7-G6-G

-

Still The Same chorus (Bob Seger - 1978)

-

E7

A7

D7

G7

-

I Got Rhythm bridge (Standard - 1930) and Be My Baby verse (Ronettes - 1963)

-

E7

Am

D9

G7

C

Falling In Love Again bridge (Marlene Dietrich - 1930)

-

E7sus4-E7

Am

D7

Gmaj7

C-F-Fmaj7-
F6-Em-Em7-
Am

Never My Love bridge (Association - 1967)

Am7

E7

Am7-A7

Dm7

G7

Cmaj7-
Fmaj7-
Bm7b5-E7-
Ebo-E7

The Windmills of Your Mind verse (from "The Thomas Crown Affair" - 1968)

C

Em

Am

Dm7

G7

-

Sign Of The Times verse (Petula Clark - 1966)

Cmaj7

Em7

A7

Dm7

G7

-

Mona Lisa A section (from "Captain Carry, U.S.A" -1949) and Who Can I Turn To verse (Standard - 1964)

-

Em

Am

Dm7

G7

C

Long And Winding Road verse (Beatles - 1970)

-

Em7

A7b5/Eb

Dm11

G7b5/Db

-

One Note Samba verse (Antonio Carlos Jobim - 1961)

-

Emaj7-Em7

A7

Dmaj7-Dm7

G7

-

Mr. Dieingly Sad verse (Critters - 1966)


A-D-G-C Cycle

This cycle travels counterclockwise from “A” to “C.” The “A7-D7-G7-C” (displaced ragtime) and “Am-Dm-G7-C” (displaced standard) progressions are the two common types of this cycle. As in prior examples, the first type is called a cycle of dominant seventh chords.

An example of this type of cycle that uses secondary dominant sevenths is the verse progression to Blood, Sweat & Tears 1969 hit Spinning Wheel shown below.

A7 / D7 /

G7 / C /

An example of the second cycle type that uses both primary and secondary chords is the sixteen-bar A section to Jerome Kern’s 1939 All The Things You Are shown below.

This is an example of a minor circle progression that descends in fifths from the “Am7” chord through the “Fmaj7” chord then descends an augmented fourth (a tritone of three whole steps) from “Fmaj7” to the “B7” chord in order to break the cycle and end with the “Emaj7” (dominant) chord in bars seven and eight.

Then, Kern makes a parallel major/minor substitution (“Em7” for “Emaj7”) and again descends in fifths from the “Em7” chord through the “Cmaj7” chord then again descends an augmented fourth from the “Cmaj7” to the “F#7” chord in order to break the cycle again and end with the “Bmaj7” chord in bar fifteen.

All songwriters should become familiar with this jazz/standard progression.

Am7 / / /

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /

Cmaj7 / / /

Fmaj7 / / /

B7 / / /

Emaj7 / / /

/ / / /

Em7 / / /

Am7 / / /

D7 / / /

Gmaj7 / / /

Cmaj7 / / /

F#7 / / /

Bmaj7 / / /

/ / / /

The box below shows other examples of this type of progression.

Notice the use of the augmented fourth technique discussed above on Fly Me To The Moon and You Never Give Me Your Money examples to break the cycle and end the progression.

Also note the use of the mediant substitution (“Em7” for “Cmaj7”) in the Even The Nights Are Better example.

A7

D7

G7

C

Shine On Harvest Moon chorus (Standard - 1908), Ballin' The Jack verse (Standard - 1913), Sweet Georgia Brown A section (Standard - 1925), Lazy River (from "The Best Years Of Our Lives" - 1931), Take Love Easy A section (Standard - 1947), You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby A section (Bobby Darin - 1961), Sunny Afternoon verse (Kinks - 1966), and Mrs. Robinson verse (Simon & Garfunkel - 1968)

A7#9

D13

G7#9

C

Sinning Wheel verse 2 (Blood, Sweat & Tears - 1969)

Am

D7

G

C

Love Is Blue verse (Paul Mauriat - 1968)

Am

D

G

C

Crocodile Rock chorus (Elton John - 1973)

Am

D7

G

Cmaj7-F-Dm-E

Wild World verse (Cat Stevens - 1971)

Am7

D7

Gmaj7

Em7

Even The Nights Are Better chorus (Air Supply - 1982)

Am7

Dsus4-D

G7

C-C/B

Rocky Racoon verse (Beatles - 1968)

Am7

D7

G7

C7

No Matter What chorus (Badfinger - 1970)

Am7

D9

G11

C

Saturday In The Park verse (Chicago - 1972) and Isn't She Lovely verse (Stevie Wonder - 1976)

Am7

D7

Gm7

C7-Fmaj7-Bm7b5-E7

Never Let Go A section (from "The Scarlet Hour" - 1956)

Am

Dm

G

Cmaj7-F-Dm-G-Abo

Lonely Days verse (Bee Gees - 1971)

Am

Dm

G

Cmaj7-Fmaj7-Bm7b5-
Esus4-E

I Will Survive verse (Gloria Gaynor - 1979)

Am

Dm

G7

C

Those Were The Days chorus (Mary Hopkins - 1968)

Am-Am/G

Dm7

G

C-Bm7b5-E7

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word verse (Elton John - 1976)

Am7

Dm7

G7

C

I Say A Little Prayer For You verse (Dionne Warwick - 1967) and Golden Slumbers verse (Beatles - 1969)

Am7

Dm

G7

C-Fmaj7-Bm7b5-E7-Am

You Never Give Me Your Money verse (Beatles - 1969)

Am7

Dm7

G7

Cmaj7

Angie Baby verse (Helen Reddy - 1974)

Am7

Dm7

G7

Cmaj7-F-Bm7b5-E7b9-Am7-A7

Fly Me To The Moon A section (Standard - 1954)


D-G-C-F Cycle

This cycle travels counterclockwise from “D” to “F.” The “Dm-G7-C-F” progression is the most common type of this cycle.

The definitive example of this type of cycle is the A section to Roger Williams’ 1955 hit Autumn Leaves shown below. Note again how the progression descends an augmented fourth from the “Fmaj7” to the “Bm7b5” chord in order to ultimately return to the “Am” (tonic) chord.

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /

Cmaj7 / / /

Fmaj7 / / /

Bm7b5 / / /

E7 / / /

Am / / /

/ / / /

The box below shows other examples of this type of circle progression.

Again, notice the use of the augmented fourth technique discussed above on Yesterday When I Was Young and Still Got The Blues examples to break the cycle and end the progression. Also, note that the Laugh, Laugh example continues to follow circle movement through a total of six changes.

Dm

G

C

F-Bb-G7-C

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road verse (Elton John - 1973

Dm

G7

Cmaj7

Fmaj7

Ain'i No Way To Treat A Lady chorus (Helen Reddy - 1975)

Dm7

G

C

F-Dm7-G-Am

Killing Me Softly verse (Roberta Flack - 1973)

Dm7

G7

C-C+/E

F-G7-C-C+/E

My Love chorus (Paul McCartney - 1973)

Dm7

G7

Cmaj7

F-Bm7b5-E7-Am

Yesterday, When I Was Young verse (Roy Clark - 1969)

Dm7

G11

Cmaj7

Fmaj7-Bm7b5-E7-Am

Still Got The Blues verse (Gary Moore - 1990)

D

G

C

F-Bb-Eb-Ab-G

Laugh, Laugh chorus (Beau Brummels - 1965)

D7/F#

Gm

C7/E

F

Lady Jane bridge (Rolling Stones - 1966)


F-Bb-Eb-Ab Cycle

This cycle travels counterclockwise from “F” to “Ab.” The “F-Bb-Eb-Ab” and “Fm-Bb7-Eb-Ab” progressions are the two common types of this cycle.

An example of the first type of cycle is the chorus progression to Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway’s 1972 hit Where Is The Love shown below.

Notice that this progression contains the same three borrowed chords found in classic rock progressions and moves down a half step from the “Abmaj7” to break the cycle and end the progression on the “G7sus4” (dominant) chord.

C / / /

C7 / / /

F6 / / /

Bb7 / / /

Eb6 / / /

Abmaj7 / / /

G7sus4 / / /

/ / / /

An example of the second cycle type that uses both primary and secondary chords is the opening verse progression to the Christopher Cross 1981 hit Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) shown below.

This progression continues to the “Db” then moves down an augmented fourth from the “Db” to “G7” (dominant) chord to break the cycle and return to the “C” (tonic) chord.

Fm7 / / /

Bb7 / / /

Eb / / /

Ab / / /

Db / / /

G7sus4 / G7 /

C / / /

C G/C C C/E

Other examples of this type of progression include the “F-Bb-Eb-Ab” intro progression to the Doors’ 1967 hit Light My Fire that moves up a half step from the “Ab” to the “A” chord to lead into the “Am” (parallel minor) at the beginning of the verse and the “C-F-Bb-Eb” verse progression to the Beatles’ 1967 Lovely Rita.

Cherokee Cycle

The Cherokee cycle travels counterclockwise from “Eb” to “G.” This sequence was used to create the sixteen-bar B section progression to Ray Nobles’ 1938 bebop standard Cherokee. Notice how Ray Nobles replaces the major seventh chords of each line with the minor seventh of the same name while continuing to work his way through the circle of fifths to the “G7#5” (dominant) chord creating creating a series of “II-V-I” jazz progressions that temporarily pass through several tonalities.

Ebm7 / / /

Ab7 / / /

Dbmaj7 / / /

/ / / /

Dbm7 / / /

Gb7 / / /

Bmaj7 / / /

/ / / /

Bm7 / / /

E7 / / /

Amaj7 / / /

/ / / /

Am7 / / /

D7 / / /

Dm7 / / /

G7#5 / / /


Descending Fourths


In this section you will look at three chord progressions in the key of C that move clockwise around the circle in descending fourths. This is the darker classic rock version of the more popular progression that descends in fifths. As before, play through each progression example and thoroughly understand how it was created before moving on to the next progression.

Ab-Eb-Bb-F-C Cycle

This cycle travels clockwise from “Ab” to “C.” An example of this type of cycle is the verse progression to Wings’ 1977 hit Maybe I’m Amazed shown below. Notice that this progression contains the three borrowed chords found in classic rock progressions and an interesting bass line.

Ab / Eb/G /

Bb/F / F/A /

Other examples of this type of progression include the “Ab-Eb-Bb-F-C” verse progression to the Leaves’ 1966 hit Hey Joe (see the separate “Blues Progressions” chapter), the chorus progression to deep Purple’s 1968 hit Hush, and the chorus progression to the 1975 Time Warp from the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Eb-Bb-F-C Cycle

This cycle travels clockwise from “Eb” to “C.” An example of this type of cycle is the chorus progression to the Rolling Stones 1968 hit Jumpin’ Jack Flash shown below.

Eb / / /

Bb / / /

F / / /

C / / /

Other examples of this type of progression include the “C-Eb-Bb-F” verse progression to Neil Young’s 1972 Old Man and the “C-[D]-Eb-Bb-F-Fsus4-C” chorus progression to Lenny Kravitz’ 1998 Fly Away.

Bb-F-C-G Cycle

This cycle travels clockwise from “Bb” to “G.” An example of this type of cycle is the bridge progression to the Grass Roots’ 1967 hit Midnight Confession shown below.

Bb / / /

F / / /

C / / /

G / / /

Another example of this type of progression is the “C-Bb-F-C-G” chorus progression to the Beatles’ 1967 Lovely Rita.

Songwriter’s Notebook

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of ideas from my songwriter’s notebook. Below are two examples of how I used circle progressions to write a new song and reharmonize an old one.

Shelter From The Storm

The verse progression to my Shelter From The Storm is shown below. This circle progression descends an augmented fourth from the “Fmaj7” to the “Bm7sus” chord to break the cycle and end on the “E” (dominant) chord. The lyrics are “If I could touch your heart, if I could make you smile, if I could turn your nighttime into sunshine once in a while.”

Am9 / / /

Dm9 / / /

Gmaj9 / / /

Cadd9 / C Cmaj7

Fmaj7 / / /

Bm7sus / / /

Bm7sus/E / / /

E / / /


Yesterday

The A section progressions to the Beatles’ 1965 standard Yesterday and my reharmonization are shown below. Comparing these two progressions you will notice that I replaced the “C” with the “Am7” chord (relative minor/major substitution), the “D7” with the “Fmaj7/A” chord (common tone substitution), and the “G7” with the “G6/A” (chord quality change & embellishment). I also added an additional bar to the end of the progression to create a typical eight-bar A section.

Beatles’ Progression

C / / /

Bm / E7 /

Am / Am/G /

F / G7 /

C / / [C/B]

Am7 / D7 /

F / C /

-

Substitute Progression

Am7 / / /

Bm7 / E11 /

Am7 / / /

Fmaj7/A / G6/A /

Am7 / / /

/ / Fmaj7/A /

G6/A / Am7 /

/ / / /


Your Assignment

Now that you have seen how some of the world’s best songwriters have used circle progressions to write hit songs, your assignment will be to work through several exercises to get you started building your own circle progressions.

First of all, you should take some time to memorize the circle of fifths provided at the beginning of this chapter.

(1)
Try building an eight-bar circle progression for a new song that begins with the “Am” (tonic) and ends with the “E” (dominant) chord.

Here’s how Cat Stevens did it to create the verse progression to his 1971 hit Wild World. Notice that Cat Stevens replaced the “Dm” for the typical “Bm7b5” chord (common tone substitution) to break the cycle and end on the “E” (dominant) chord. Keep in mind that the “Dm” is also the relative minor substitution for the “F” chord.

Am / D7 /

G / Cmaj7 /

F / Dm /

E / / /

Am / D7 /

G / Cmaj7 /

F / Dm /

E / [G7] /

Here’s how Gloria Gaynor did it to create the verse progression to her 1979 I Will Survive. Notice that this progression travels counterclockwise from “A” to “F” then applies the augmented fourth technique to break the cycle.

Am / / /

Dm / / /

G / / /

Cmaj7 / / /

Fmaj7 / / /

Bm7b5 / / /

Esus4 / / /

E / / /


(2) Try building an eight-bar circle progression for a new song that begins with the “Dm” and ends with the “Am” (tonic) chord.

Here’s how Roy Clark did it to create the verse progression to his 1969 hit Yesterday When I Was Young.

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /

Cmaj7 / / /

F / / /

Bm7b5 / / /

E7 / / /

Am / / /

/ / / /

This progression uses the shorter diatonic cycle shown below. It is similar to the circle of fifths except that the non-diatonic chords (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb) are removed. Notice that the movement from “F” to “B” is an augmented fourth.

C

=> F

=> B

=> E

=> A

=> D

=> G

=> C

I

=> IV

=> VII

=> III

=> VI

=> II

=> V

=> I

(3) Transform the circle progression shown below into a descending chromatic bass line progression by replacing the “A7” and “G7” chords with their respective tritone substitutions (see the “Appendix”).

Em7 / / /

A7 / / /

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /

C / / /


Here’s how I did it.

Em7 / / /

Eb7 / / /

Dm7 / / /

Db7 / / /

C / / /


(4) Try breaking the cycle in the circle progression shown below by using the augmented fourth technique discussed earlier and complete the eight-bar section.

Fm7 / / /

Bb7 / / /

Ebmaj7 / / /

Abmaj7 / / /

Here’s how I did it.

Fm7 / / /

Bb7 / / /

Ebmaj7 / / /

Abmaj7 / / /

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /

Cmaj7 / / /

/ / / /


(5) This time, try breaking the cycle in the above circle progression by moving down a half step from the “Abmaj7” chord and complete the eight-bar section.

Fm7 / / /

Bb7 / / /

Ebmaj7 / / /

Abmaj7 / / /

Here’s how I did it.

Fm7 / / /

Bb7 / / /

Ebmaj7 / / /

Abmaj7 / / /

G7sus4 / / /

G7 / / /

Cmaj7 / / /

/ / / /


(6)
Try building an eight-bar circle progression for a new song that begins and ends with the “Cmaj7”(tonic) chord.

Here’s how I did it.

Cmaj7 / / /

F#m11 / / /

B7 / / /

Em7 / / /

A7 / / /

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /

Cmaj7 / / /


(7) Try building an eight-bar circle progression for a new song that begins with the “C” (tonic) and ends with the “G7” (dominant) chord.

Here’s how I did it going all the way around the circle of fifths.

Cmaj7 / / /

Cm7 / F7 /

Bbm7 / Eb7 /

Abm7 / Db7 /

F#m7 / B7 /

Em7 / A7 /

Dm7 / / /

G7 / / /


Here’s how Kenny Rogers did it to create the opening chorus progression to his 1979 hit She Believes In Me. This progression features a suspended vamp and descending minor cliché. The progression was repeated to create the complete sixteen-bar chorus progression.

Csus4 / C /

Csus4 / C /

Bm7b5 / / /

E7 / / /

Am / Am(M7) /

Am7 / Am6 /

Dm7 / / /

G7sus4 / / /


(8) Try building an eight-bar circle progression for a new song that begins with the “E7” and ends with the “G7” (dominant) chord.

Here’s how George Gershwin did it to create the B section to his 1930 I Got Rhythm from “Girl Crazy” (see the separate “Rhythm Changes” chapter of this book).

E7 / / /

/ / / /

A7 / / /

/ / / /

D7 / / /

/ / / /

G7 / / /

/ / / /

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