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I'm learning music theory in school and I stumbled into this chord progression at home. I think it is cool but I want to know why it is cool.
The chord progression is: Cmaj7 Gmaj7 B♭maj Amin7
Is it just because I have heard the chord progression before?

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    It would be interesting: what is the next chord after Amin7. I am attending a D7 and then the progression could be in Gmaj and the function would be IV7-I7-bIII7-(IIm7-V7) but it can also stand alone ... – Albrecht Hügli May 4 at 9:11
  • Try to remove or change things note by note until it becomes uncool. Remove all tensions, just C G Bb Am. Still cool? Play just the bass notes - still cool? Does "Cmaj7 Ebmaj7 Bbmaj7 Dbmaj7" sound cool too? "Cm7 Gm7 Bbm7 Fm7" sound cool? How about "Cm7 Gm7 Bbm7 Fm7 Abm7 Ebm7 F#m7 C#m7 Em7 Bm7 Dm7 Am7" repeat from start, sound cool? – piiperi May 4 at 9:30
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is it just because I have heard the chord progression before?

Probably because of this.

It is a most common progression in Pop music. It won't be easily described by functional harmony, even not by modes. I hear the progression in G-Major but it mustn't be.

It reminds me of the even more common "Don't go chasing waterfalls" (TLC) e.g. C-G-Bb-F!

(If we start this turn with Bb we get: Bb-F-C-G and this would be the circle of 5th in the direction of the sharps.)

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It's a common progression in classical harmony if the middle chords are in first inversion. One has C,B,Bb,A as a bass line with chords above, C,G6,Bb6,a (with appropriate sevenths if wanted). It's a portion of the "lament descent" which is often used to express sadness; with a different bass, this interpretation may not hold. A nice continuation would be f6m,G which moves chromatically from tonic to dominant.

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    wonderful description: the "lament descent" which is often used to express sadness! It sounds really sad, especially with the major 7 chords and the inversions like you say. I will use this progression in my next composition. But how will have been the voice leading in classical music? Do you have some examples - as it's a common progression? – Albrecht Hügli May 4 at 15:48
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    Bach's St Matthew Passion (or the other one) and Dido's Lament by Purcell. Also the entire "32 Variations in C Minor" by Beethoven uses this construction. Beethoven uses a different harmonization from the usual Baroque forms. – ttw May 5 at 3:23
  • would we need a C minor chord to consider this the lament bass? The examples from Bach, Purcell, and Beethoven are minor key. – Michael Curtis May 6 at 14:32
  • Normally it is in a minor key (not necessarily a minor but any minor key). I suppose one could start in a major and adjust the voice leading according. Other (diatonic based patterns) are sometimes used in either mode. The cycle of fifths works in both major and minor (maybe a bit better in minor because of the ii0-V-i ending whereas in a major key the v00i occurs early in the pattern sometimes this vii0-iii or vii0 is skipped in a major key(, The "Romansa" is used either way as I,V, vi, iii (or I64), IV, I6, ii6 (or IV) V or i,v,VI,III (or i64) IV, I6, ii6 (or IV) V. Either work. – ttw May 7 at 8:49

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