I know that the root note is the foundation of a chord.

What is the foundation of a chord progression?

  • 1
    Is this a term you've read somewhere?
    – Richard
    Jan 1 '18 at 16:38

There are a few possibilities.

Matviy Kotoniy's answer has already mentioned

  • The tonic chord
  • the scale used to write the piece

as things that a chord progression could be said to be 'founded' or 'based' on.

Another angle would be to say that chord is to root note as chord progression is to a series of successive root notes (i.e. of the chords in the progression).

In many genres of music, these 'successive root notes' would be rendered as a bassline - and indeed, the idea that the bassline is the foundation of a chord progression would make sense to musicians in those genres.

  • Tonic and scale are necessary, but - regarding the question about foundations of chord progressions - they don't tell you where to go afaik. Correct me if i'm wrong but couldn't cadence traditions be added to the list of foundations?
    – Erik
    Jan 2 '18 at 14:47
  • @Erik I guess the 'problem' with the question is that 'foundation' doesn't have a particular meaning in music theory so one could make a case for lots of things being the foundation of a progression - cadence traditions definitely, but also instrumental timbres, instrument topography, emotions, and anything else that might inspire the composition...
    – topo morto
    Jan 2 '18 at 16:45
  • bassline=sequence of root notes=the verticle approach of stripping down the chord progression to its foundation
    – e.jones
    Jan 4 '18 at 11:24

The closest thing to a "foundation" for a chord progression would be the scale that the progression is based on, or the Tonic "tonal center" chord of the progression.

The scale is what determines which actual notes become part of the chords of your progression and thus the function each chord in the progression.

The Tonic "tonal center" chord would be the harmonic foundation around which the harmony of the chord progression revolves around, and can eventually resolve back to.

  • What about progressions that AREN'T all in one key, one scale? This is very common. Jan 2 '18 at 14:38
  • scale=a group of notes=provides the notes that can be used to build a chord(vertically) or a sequence of notes/chords(horizontaly)
    – e.jones
    Jan 4 '18 at 11:25

The root Chord (the I Chord) is the chord that the other chords in the progression act in relation too. It is usually the first chord in the progression and usually the one that the progression resolves back to at the end of the progression. This is the chord that the progression is built upon.

  • the tonic=first scale degree=the horizontal approach of stripping down the chord progression to its foundation
    – e.jones
    Jan 4 '18 at 11:25

The foundation of a chord progression (as I like to consider it) lies within the relationships among the chords used. Among those are things like the cycle of fifths (or fourths) used in root motion or having a scale wise descending bassline (like in Pachelbel's Canon). The use (or failure to use) of certain patterns tells a lot about harmonic structure.

There are some common chord progressions (Twelve Bar Blues, Folia, Passamezzo Antico, Passamezzo Moderno, Romanesca, etc.) which provide a common framework. Use of one of these or modifications thereof explains about how the chords work together musically. They emotional or psychological effect of a progression generally depends on other factors. Compare "St James Infirmary" to "Rock Around the Clock."

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