Weekly Workout: Cut the Chord: How to Get Out of the I-IV-V Progression Rut


There’s no shortage of possible explanations for why so much contemporary popular music seems
stuck in a rut, but here’s a good one: lack of harmonic imagination. Chords can suggest melodies
just as much as melodies can suggest chords, yet many of today’s most successful writers rarely
venture beyond a few standard progressions. That’s not to say you can’t still work wonders with
even the most overused tropes—think of how many great tunes are oriented around I-IV-V or I-V-vi-
IV. But if you’re sticking too much to the harmonically tried and true, you’re limiting your melodic

Well, if the song doctors won’t come up with something more interesting, you can.

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