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Chord Progression (and a key change?)

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Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 119
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I've recently been trying to teach myself about chord progressions, and more importantly, get myself to the point where I know chord progressions intuitively (at least the common ones). I've also been trying to develop a feel for the relationship between a scale and chord progressions in that scale.

To that end, I've been going through songs and trying to work out the key the songs have been written in (and what the timing signature is). I'm in the worship team at church, and I have a stack of songs with only the words and the chords, so I can't cheat and see the key beforehand. Where there are “funnies”, I'll try and work out what's going on, and occasionally try and research the theory behind it.

Anyway, this ( ) one has me stumped at the moment…

The initial chord progression is:


…which appears to me to be quite comfortably in the key of G (Root, Minor Second, Four, Root Five). A little more complex than a straightforward I IV I, but nothing hectic.

And then …
…still in G, no problems…

…and then:
1: D G
2: E Am
3: F Am7 D C G

Line one appears to be in G, and line two appears to be a key change happening (partly because the chords from E don't quite fit into E, and partly because, when I sing it, it “feels” like it's going up). Line three is just ??? Can anyone explain what's happening?

(My incomplete reasoning: (1) could be a V- I in the original key of G. My first inclination is to check whether (2) is V – I in a higher key, but that would leave me with a minor on the root chord, which seems weird to me. My second inclination would be to test a couple of keys up from G…G# has an E#, so it's not that. A brings me back to an earlier attempt, A# doesn't work, B seems too high.

It could, of course, be minor scale, but I don't yet know how chord progressions in a minor scale work.)

Thanks in advance, theory gurus!

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

The part that's confusing you is a temporary shift to a different key - in this case, Am.

When you get to this part:

1: D G
2: E Am
3: F Am7 D C G

Line 1 is still in G. We'd expect a move to the relative minor (Em), but instead the writer serves up E major - that's got G# in it, and it leads fairly strongly into the Am chord. The Am is temporarily 'tonicized' - so for the moment we're in the key of Am.

Using the A harmonic minor scale, you've then got the VI (F), the I (Am7) and the IV.

IV serves as a pivot - it's common to both Am and G.

So here's what's happening - chords written above/below each other are the pivot points between the two keys:

Key of G: V-I-III V-IV-I
Key of Am: V -i-VI-i-IV

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

From the E Am line it looks like a brief and 'half-hearted' key change to the key of A minor. Half-hearted because E7 would have done it more convincingly. It's more likely to be just a couple of chromatic notes in the chords (G# in E major and F in F major) thrown in for effect.