Axe of Creation: Tip the Chord Scales in your favor…(Part 4)

What’s going on everyone!? Welcome to another installment of Axe of Creation here at the wonderful Gear Snobs. Last week, we continued our discussion of Chord Scales, and talked a little about how chords function within a key. This week, we’ll look at some common chord progressions.

I Plead the 5th

One thing to notice about our Root-Transition-Tension concept is that it naturally set ups movement by a 5th, meaning the distance between the chords is five notes. For example, the ii-V-I progression is probably the most used progressions, found in pop, jazz, and blues. You’ll notice the in the example, the chords move by a 5th, which is strong in western music. Meaning, it sounds good. A is the 5th of D, and D is the 5th of G.



Let’s take another look at this type of movement but yet a longer example. And one that uses every chord in a given Key. The first thing to notice is how every chord is a 5th away from the next one. Again, strong chord movement.



Secondly, and let’s bring this idea home, notice how each chord fits into our Root-Transition-Tension arc! This idea can be used in a micro sense and a macro sense. For instance, as above, a ii-V-I can be within a measure or two. Or you could look at a standard 12 Bar Blues progression, the over-arching progression follows this manner.

Not Enough Tension

So, you’re a fan of the tension chords? Those 7b5 and 7#5 chords get you going? One trick is, if you’re moving through chords by 5th’s, then you can change or substitute any chord with a Dominant chord (Tension).  Let’s look at the previous example once more but this time, pay attention to the last two measures.


I’ve changed the Em chord to an E7, which adds to the resolution to the Am (Root). Then we quickly change that to an A7 chord, which leads us back to the beginning of the chord progression.

Well, this wraps up our conversation on Chord Scales. As always, I encourage you to explore as many chord voicings and inversions as you can. Try and play with chords that sit next to one another within the scale or share a common function (root-transition-tension). Lastly, this dominant substitution is not only a great way to add more tension into your riffs but a great way to modulate to new harmonic territories!


Gregory Arthur is Axe of Creation, a Gear Snob, and a Father of Two. He challenges you to become uncomfortable with yourself in attempts to gain a new perspective. Never give your energy away to what you’re not. Focus on what resonates within you and bring forth in creation. 

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