Insert your custom message here. close ×

Predictability and chord patterns


Predictability isn’t a bad thing.

Endless predictability is.


Two things make music boring:

  1. too much predictability
  2. not enough predictability


Every time you write something, you need to find a balance between predictability and novelty.

So how do you do that?


The proper mix

Figure out what musical characteristics create predictability. There are quite a few, but for me chord patterns spring to mind immediately.

All chord progressions are built from chord patterns, which are short progressions of chords (two to eight chords) that can be used to build an entire song.

I’m going to use roman numerals for the rest of this post. If you need some information on that, here’s a link


Common chord patterns

V – I (G to C in the key of C) is probably the most common chord pattern.

I – IV – V – I (C – F – G – C) is another one.


Here’s a longer one that I know you’ve heard before:

I – vi – ii – V – I (C – A minor – D minor – G – C)

Longer yet:

I – ii – iii – vi – IV – V – I (C – D minor – E minor – F – G – C)

One more:

I – III7 – IV – iv – I (C – E7 – F – F minor – I)


Finding patterns

Play around with these to see how familiar they are to you. Then look at some of the songs you know, or have written. See if you can match the chords in those songs with roman numerals. The harder this is, the more the song is exhibiting non-functional tendencies (see my last post on functional and non-functional harmony).


Pretend that this progression in the key of C is from one song:

C – F – G – C

I – IV – V – I

And that this one in the key of F is from another:

F – Bb – C – F.

I – IV – V – I

Notice that both have the same I – IV – V – I  pattern. Without roman numerals, the pattern can be difficult to see.


If you have something weird like C – Eb – D minor – F – Bb – G – C, just think in the key of C: I – bIII – ii – IV – bVII – V – I (bIII and bVII are flatted chords, in case the symbol looks confusing).

Ultimately, this is an awareness exercise. It helps you see where you’re repeating yourself. You need this awareness if you’re going to break out of those inevitable situations where you feel that everything you write is stale.



Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

No Response

Leave us a comment

No comment posted yet.

Leave a Reply