Chords that sound good together

You strum a chord … what will sound good as the next one? This is a common and natural question. We will try to sort out the answers here.

Regardless which chord you start playing the next you choose will sound all from just right to completely wrong. Here we will focus on that sounds good. If you for example start with C it will never sound bad if you continue with F or G. Let’s do some large organizing of chords that fit nicely together.

Pair of chords

It is not difficult to find a pair of chords that fit together and we will just mention some examples before we go on with bigger groups.

Am – Em
C – Fmaj7
G – Cadd9

You can play these pair of chords in both direction. In others words: Am to Em or Em to Am will both work well.

Triples of chords

To learn what chords sound good together in the following category will be really useful. Many riffs and chorus are constructed with only three chords. As the case was before, these triples of chords can be played in any order.

C – F – G
D – G – A
E – A – B
F – Bb – C
G – C – D
A – D – E
B – E – F#

Note that all these triples have the same relationship in distances on the fretboard when you playing barre chords and power chords. 

Add a fourth (non-diatonic) chord

The categories listed above have all very distinct relationships to each other. When you try to add a fourth major chord it will not always sound completely right. The most common way is instead to incorporate minor chords, but before we come to that we will try to add a fourth major chord, a non-diatonic chord (i.e. not related to the scale), which in right situations can be very well suited.

So if you wish to create longer progressions for your rock song riffs or whatever, here is the list with four major chords that will sound good together.

C – F – G – E
D – G – A – F#
E – A – B – G#
F – Bb – C – A
G – C – D – B
A – D – E – C#
B – E – F# – D#

Once again, if you play barre/power chords you will notice that the fourth added chord will turn up with a certain relationship to the other on the fretboard.

Add another fourth (non-diatonic) chord

Not everybody knows that it is also possible to add yet another major chord that is not in the key. This is even far from the key because its relative minor isn't in the key as was the case above (the fourth major chord). Therefore is it more important exactly where you put it in the sequences, otherwise it could be too much dissonance.

Here are some sequences that include this non-diatonic chord (in bold) together with otherwise diatonic chords:

A – E – C – D
F – G# – Bb – C
D – F – G – A
G – Bb – C – D

You could of coarse include some minor chords as well, but sequences was meant to show you different possibilities for major chord exclusively, which for example could help you with power chords progressions. In other words, you could also change the sequences from major to power chords, for example: A5 - E5 - C5 - D5.

Major and minor combined

In many occasions you want both major and minor in your progressions. Here is a list with chord groups that will sound good and include both.

C – Em –  F – Am
D – F#m – G – Bm
E – G#m – A – C#m
F – Am – Bb – Dm
G – Bm – C – Em
A – C#m – D – F#m
B – D#m – E – G#m

These four parts groups are for example, ideally when creating verses in songs. You mustn't of course use all four in every progression. Look at the groups as resources from which you can conbine two, three or four chords together.

A final comment

The groups of chords has been based on regular major and minor chords. If you want to add some flavor you can experiment with to change a regular major to a major seventh or a regular minor to a minor seventh. Additionally, you can include some sus-chords, preferably in combination with or a substitute for a major chord.

Go to the section with chord progressions for more ideas.