Circle Progressions (Music Theory Lesson)

Circle Progressions (Music Theory Lesson)

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Root motion is the movement from one chord's root to another chord's root.

To demonstrate root motion, we will use a I and a vi chord in C Major.

The root of the I chord (a C major triad) is C.

The root of the vi chord (an A minor triad) is A.

Therefore, the root motion between I and vi (C to A) is down a third.

Due to interval inversion, the root motion could also be classified as up a sixth.

Let's try another example: a IV chord going to V.

The root of the first chord (an F major triad) is F.

The root of the second chord (a G major triad) is G.

Therefore, the root motion of these two chords is up a second or down a seventh.

A circle progression occurs when root motion is equal to up a fourth or down a fifth.

Both I->IV and ii->V are circle progressions.

iii->vi and IV->viio are also circle progressions.

Let's work out all possible circle progressions for a major scale, starting at I.

• I progresses to IV, which progresses to viiº.

viio progresses to iii and then to vi.

vi progresses to ii and then to V and finally, to I.

Next, we will work out all possible circle progressions for a minor scale.

i progresses to IV and then to VII (not viiº).

VII progresses to III and then VI.

VI progresses to iiº, V (not v), and finally i.

This chart displays the circle progressions for both major and minor scales.

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