Could anyone recommend some progressions that go through every scale degree in the major/minor scales? I’m trying to get more acquainted with chords on the piano, and would love something that sounds decent to practice every shape with. Minor 2 5 1 6 3 4 7 1 for example (probably sounds terrible, picked random numbers after 6 lol).

Bonus points for passing chord ideas, modal interchange, substitution ideas etc thrown in.

  • 3
    I IV V covers every scale degree. – PiedPiper Nov 4 '20 at 14:07
  • I-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I – Aaron Nov 4 '20 at 15:13
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    Do you mean chord progressions that use every diatonic chord in major and minor keys? That’s what I’m getting from your question, seems like @Aaron did too. If so it would be better to replace “scale degree” with “diatonic chord”. – John Belzaguy Nov 4 '20 at 18:38
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    "Fly me to the moon" is a good standard that goes through the full cycle, and the melody is almost like a scale exercise. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Nov 4 '20 at 22:15
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    @piiperiReinstateMonica, I believe Jerome Kern's working title was 'All the Chords You Know', but I could be mistaken... – Areel Xocha Nov 5 '20 at 21:21

The falling fifths that Albrecht is good. Another possibility is one of the many "rule of the octave" suggestions. These are exercises with the bass ascending then descending an octave, both major and minor settings. The recommend chords are good for short scale segments with a given bass.



And a bit more modern.



Try the chordprogression of falling fifths and raising fourths along the circle of fifths like starting at C:

  1. F#-B-E-A-D-G-C
  2. and continue the flat direction F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb => F#
  3. the same with V7 chords
  4. the same with ii-V and ii7-V7 like e.g. f#7-B7-e7-A7-d7-G7
  5. exchange the minor and major chords: b7-E7-a7-D7 ...
  6. play chromatic downward V7 chords (each second is a tritone substitution of the circle of fifth (secondary dominant) chord e.g. C-B7-Bb7-A7-Ab7-G7-F#7-F7-E7-Eb7-D7-Db7-C (Bb7=TS of E7, Ab7=TS of D7 etc.

Practice block chords and arpeggios like the following sequence:

  • Triads of C, cm, cdim. (the latter is viidim of Db)
  • so continue playing Db(= C#), C#m, c#dim ... -> D

arpeggios of C6-c#dim7-dm6-d#dim7-em-F6-f#dim7-G ...

augmented triads downwards and a semitone up: G-D#-B -> C-G#-E -> F-C#-A (Bela Bartok Suite II, 2.)

btw: Bartok op. 14 (this suite above) and all his Mikrokosmos render an immense source of "new" chord progressions and experimental sounds. You will be able to improvise in this style just playing around with black and whit keys. Later you may be able to analyze what you have done.


If you mean playing the scale from tonic up to octave tonic, the best fit chords will be those which contain the actual note you're on at that moment.

So an obvious start point will be the tonic chord, either major or minor. If we're considering simple triads, then on the second note, there will be three choices, minimum..

Let's take the scale of C major. Second degree - D. Work out triads which contain note D. D minor fits well (root). D major not so well. Triad with D as the 3rd? B♭ or Bm. Triad with D as 5th? G or Gm.

And so on. That's a simple start, as we don't particularly answer with lists on this site. But I'm sure you'll have fun working out the chords which will sound good - in sequence. In isolation, of course, each of those options for D will sound fine. In sequence, it's your choice - and what follows for note E will have a bearing, too.

If you mean something different, the question needs clarification...


I V covers 5 of 7 tones in major keys: ^1 ^3 ^5 ^7 ^2. To get the missing ^4 ^6 use either IV or ii. To play that in basic minor key harmony just make the subdominant minor or the supertonic diminished as iv or iio respectively.

But, harmony in minor is a bit more complicated that than, because ^6 ^7 can be in either "lowered" or "raised" forms. The simplest is to only deal with lowered/raised ^7. One common progression to get both forms is: i v6 iv6 V where the v6 is a minor dominant chord. If you don't want to play inverted chord you can do it as i bVII bVI V.

Playing root by descending fifths (circle of fifths) is obvious too I IV viio iii vi ii V I or in minor i iv bVII bIII bVI iio V i. I think it is nice to dress up those progression at the end with some cadence other that just V I. Something like I6/4 V or ii6 V6/V V for half cadences.

You asked specifically about major/minor scales, but a chromatic approach is good too. One thing to do is use secondary dominants for each diatonic chord except the diminished chords. You can precede or follow each with a secondary dominant: I6 IV V6/V V V6/vi vi or I V6 ii V6/ii iii V6/iii. Those progressions seem to work best when the diatonic roots are separated by whole steps, but you can try hitting all diatonic roots ^1 ^2 ^3 ^4 ^5 ^6 or maybe ^1 b^7 b^6 ^5 ^4 b^3 in minor. Again, avoid the diminished chords. Technically you're tonicizing each diatonic chord, and you can't treat a diminished chord as a tonic.

You may have already noticed how much of these progressions is just roots by descending/ascending fifth. You can generalize that in voice leading terms as two voices moving by step either ascending or descending. V6 I and IV6/4 I and their reserve I V6 and I IV6/4. Basically there isn't another way to do that voice leading other than to change the major/minor chord qualities.

You can put that voice leading into a chromatic context sequencing the chord changes by ascending or descending whole or half steps. You mix up lots of combinations of chord qualities, voice leading, and interval of sequencing. (Jazz chord symbols will make it easier to read.) C G/B, Bb F/A, Ab Eb/G... or Fm/C C, Em/B B, Ebm/Bb Bb... or Cm Gm/Bb, Bbm Fm/Ab, Abm Ebm/Gb..., etc. etc.

Apply the voice leading to the circle of fifths progression too. You can freely mix and match inversions (root position, first inversion, and second inversion.) Just start with one type and on the next chord pick one of the other two types then sequence the two chord pattern. I IV6/4 vii iii6/4... or I6/3 IV vii6/3 iii..., etc.

As far as chord "shape" is concerned, be aware there are only six shapes each for major and minor triads. For major chords the roots are #F to B ascending chromatically, and for minor Eb descending chromatically to Bb. Both encompass a perfect fourth. Both include one of the "all black" triads #F major and Eb minor. Just ascend from F# for the major chords and descend from Eb for the minor chords. The triads on all the other roots are duplicates in terms of "shape."


In basic music theory, there is something called "chord leading" that discusses which chords naturally lead to other chords in a progression and sound generally acceptable. Using chord leading, we can create chord progressions that include chords based on each scale degree in major, minor, and pentatonic scales and have them sound musical. Knowing the details of chord leading can also come in handy when we attempt music composition. A quick study of chord leading will help you create your own chord progressions for practice purposes.

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