Chord Progression Cycles | Hub Guitar

Chord Progression Cycles

In chord progressions, a cycle is simpler than it sounds. A cycle occurs when a the root motion of a chord progression follows an interval (such as thirds or sixths) until the first chord in the cycle is encountered again.

Cycles 2 & 7

The easiest cycle is the first one you learned. You may not have realized it, but when you studied the chords for the first time, you learned them in the order of Cycle 2:

Cycle 2

Cmaj7 D-7 E-7 Fmaj7 G7 A-7 B-7♭5

Since the root of each chord goes up by a diatonic second, it’s Cycle 2. And Cycle 7 is the same thing, but backwards:

Cycle 7 – (Cycle 2 Backwards)

Cmaj7 B-7♭5 A-7 G7 Fmaj7 E-7 D-7

Voice Leading for Cycles 2 & 7

Cycles 2 & 7 have poor voice leadingA method of moving from one chord to another by that minimizes the movement of each individual note of the chords. prospects, because each chord in the cycle shares 0 notes with its neighbor in the case of a triad (CEG and DFA have no common notes) and shares only 1 note with its neighbor in the case of a seventh chord (CEGB and DFAC share one tone).

Cycle 3 & 6

Voice Leading for Cycles 3 & 6

Cycles 3 & 6 have the most voice-leading power because each chord will share two notes with its neighbor in the case of a triad (CEG and EGB) or three notes in the case of a seventh chord (CEGB and EGBD). This is the maximum possible amount of common tones between two different chords.

Listen and hear how smooth this chord progression sounds compared to the Cycle 2.

Cycle 3

Cmaj7 E-7 G7 B-7♭5 D-7 Fmaj7 A-7

Cycle 6 – (Cycle 3 Backwards)

Cmaj7 A-7 Fmaj7 D-7 B-7♭5 G7 E-7

Cycles 4 & 5

Voice Leading for Cycles 4 & 5

Cycles 4 & 5 have moderate voice leading potential. A triad in this cycle will share one note with its neighbor, and a seventh chord will share two notes with its neighbor.

Cycle 4

Cmaj7 Fmaj7 B-7♭5 E-7 A-7 D-7 G7

Cycle 5 – (Cycle 4 Backwards)

Cmaj7 G7 D-7 A-7 E-7 B-7♭5 Fmaj7

Key Exercises

  • Learn, memorize, and apply the cycles to your playing.
  • Using a set of chords (such as drop 2), systematically play through all of the cycles. You should try to voice lead them as much as possible.

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