What is the word for the entire chord progression of a song? Small sequences of harmonies are called progressions; can we also call the entire sequence of chords in a song a progression, or is there a better word?

  • 3
    I'm not sure what you're asking. You'd refer to an entire song as a song :P. You can break that down into verses, chorus, etc. possibly.
    – user28
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 17:22
  • I mean suppose you have a melody played over chords, and you want to specify the chords, in the song, in the same order as the song. Still just call it a song?
    – user20550
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 17:24
  • You could say the chords of the song, I guess. I don't believe there's a singular word for it.
    – user28
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 17:25
  • 1
    Maybe (musical) form is the term you're looking for. It refers not specifically to the chord progression but to the complete structure of a piece, i.e. which progressions are repeated when and how often, etc.
    – Matt L.
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 17:47
  • 3
    How about "changes"...? Commented May 24, 2015 at 18:04

7 Answers 7


There is no technical term for it that I know of. The only word I can think of is "changes", often used by jazz players.

Do you know the changes for "I got rhythm"? If you do, then you can comp on it or improvise on it because you know every chord, all the way through. That is, you know the entire chord progression of the song.

There's no other word for it, so that must be the word.


You might use the phrase harmonic structure to refer to the piece as a whole in the context of talking about its, well, harmonic structure. E.g.:

The song's/piece's harmonic structure is interesting because of the downwards modulation in the middle.

  • 1
    I'd say "harmonic structure" is a broader scale than individual chords.
    – Laurence
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 20:59

A lot depends on where you're starting and the theoretical conventions about harmony in the music's style.

If you have a jazz or pop lead sheet with chord symbols already written, the existing answers provide plenty of terms: chart, sheet, structure, etc.

But in many "classical" styles the harmony results from combined parts and chords aren't always clearly defined. You need to analyze the music to label what you think are the chords. In that case all the chords of the composition are the analysis of the harmony/chords. You could have the same issue in rock and other styles too. Chords aren't always presented in a obvious way like strumming guitar chords. You would need an analysis to then have all the chords.


As already stated, 'changes' is common. 'Chord sequence' is the other term often used. "What is the chord sequence for the middle eight?" Or "whole song..." O.k. - two words rather than one. Who's counting?


I have heard this used: "the chart."


Sorry, bit of an obvious answer, but have to mention that a common way to say it is "the chords"! I hear "the changes" all the time as well, and "harmonic structure" sometimes makes sense to use as well. But a lot of the time, the question gets asked as "hey, what are the chords to the bridge", used in the same way as the word "lyrics"!


The word you are looking for is "contrafact."

May have answered too quickly...if two or more songs share the same chord pattern they are contrafacts. Chord chart (or pattern) is probably a better answer.


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