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Guitar Chords: II-V-I Progressions In The Key Of C

Aug 17, 2007
A great way to explore chords and at the same time learn to use them is to learn them together in usable guitar progressions like II-V-I. Let's concentrate on the key of C!

What is a II-V-I progression?

Is is a chord progression with three chords built on the roots of the second, fifth and first note of a key.

The three roman numerals correspond to the digits 2, 5 and 1. In it's most basic form the numbers indicate the root of a triad. For example, the roman number I in C-major means a triad built from the note C. This triad consists of the notes C, E and G.

The Roman numeral II in the key of C-major indicates that you are to play a triad built from the notes in the C-major scale beginning with the second note. The notes will be D, F and A.

The Roman numeral V indicates a triad built from the fifth step on the C-scale. The fifth note in the C-scale is G so the triad will include the notes G, B and D.

Our first guitar chords will be the most commonly used II-V-I chords in the key of C. The first chord is of course Dm. This is the way it is normally played:

Dm: 0/4 2/3 3/2 1/1

What does this notation mean?

This is a type of guitar tablature notation with numbers showing what fret to press down and on which string. 2/3 for example means, press down the second fret on string three.

The V chord G7 we will play this way:

G7: 3/6 2/5 0/4 0/3 0/2 1/1

The remaining chord in this progression is C-major. It is played this way:

C: 3/5 2/4 3/0 1/2 0/1

If we write this progression with ordinary chord notation it will look like this:

Dm / / / G7 / / / C / / /

I will now take this lesson up one level. We will only use four strings at a time. I suggest that you use your right hand fingers as you pluck the strings.

I also recommend that you play the lowest string in a chord with your thumb and the other notes with your index, middle finger and ring finger. Remember, it is only a suggestion!

We will now spice the guitar chords in the previous progression by first changing Dm to Dm7:

Dm7: 0/4 2/3 1/2 1/1

The G7 chord we will change to G9:

G9: 3/6 2/3 0/2 1/1

Finally we will change the C-major chord to Cmaj7:

Cmaj7: 3/5 0/3 0/2 0/1

The resulting guitar chord progression looks like this:

Dm7 / / / G9 / / / C / / /

As you can see as you play the notes on your guitar the minor changes on the first three strings results in a smooth transition between the chords.

This is one way to make the chords in guitar progressions work well together.
About the Author
Peter Edvinsson at Capotasto Music invites you to download your free sheet music, guitar tabs, ebooks, music lessons and read his music blog at http://www.capotastomusic.com
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