Intermediate Guitar Chord Progressions: Taking Your Songwriting to the Next Level

Guitar chord progressions serve as the foundation of countless songs across various genres, from folk and pop to rock and jazz. As an intermediate guitarist, you’ve likely mastered the basics of chord changes and strumming patterns. Now, it’s time to delve into more complex chord progressions that can elevate your songwriting to new heights.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the world of intermediate guitar chord progressions, unveiling how they can be used to craft interesting and unique songs. Whether you’re a songwriter looking to add depth to your compositions or an aspiring guitarist seeking to expand your musical repertoire, understanding these progressions will be a valuable asset to your journey.

The Basics of Chord Progressions

Before diving into intermediate chord progressions, let’s review the fundamentals. A chord progression is a sequence of chords played in a specific order, forming the harmonic structure of a song. Most popular songs are built around a few standard chord progressions, such as the I-IV-V progression or the classic I-V-VI-IV progression.

As an intermediate guitarist, you should already be familiar with these basic progressions. Now, let’s explore how to build upon them to create more intricate and captivating songs.

Extended Chords

One way to elevate your chord progressions is by incorporating extended chords. Extended chords add complexity and color to your compositions. Examples include seventh chords (e.g., A7, Gmaj7), ninth chords (e.g., C9, D9), and eleventh chords (e.g., Fmaj11, Bm11).

Experiment with these extended chords within your progressions to create a richer, more sophisticated sound. For instance, replacing a standard major chord with a major seventh chord can introduce a jazzy or dreamy quality to your song.

Modal Chord Progressions

Modal chord progressions offer a unique flavor to your compositions. Modes, such as Dorian, Phrygian, and Mixolydian, provide distinct musical colors and moods. For example, the Dorian mode is often associated with a bluesy, soulful feel, while the Mixolydian mode has a blues-rock edge.

To incorporate modal progressions, start by selecting a mode that resonates with the mood you want to convey. Then, build your chord progression around the chords native to that mode. Experimentation is key, as each mode brings its own emotional resonance to your music.

Chromatic Chord Movement

Chromaticism involves the use of chords that move by half-steps. This technique can add tension, drama, or unpredictability to your songs. For example, transitioning from a Cmaj7 chord to a C#maj7 chord creates a subtle but intriguing shift in tone.

When using chromatic chord movement, consider its impact on the overall mood of your composition. It’s a powerful tool to create memorable hooks or build anticipation leading to a chorus or bridge.

Altered Chords

Altered chords introduce altered tones (flatted or sharpened notes) into your progressions. Common altered chords include diminished (e.g., Ddim7), augmented (e.g., Eaug), and dominant chords with added alterations (e.g., G7#9).

These chords can add dissonance and tension, which can be resolved in creative ways. Altered chords work well in genres like jazz and fusion, but their application can infuse a sense of unpredictability and intrigue into any style of music.

Case Study: Applying Intermediate Chord Progressions

Let’s illustrate the power of intermediate chord progressions with a hypothetical case study.

Imagine you’re writing a song in the key of G major and you want to create a unique verse progression. Instead of relying on a basic I-IV-V progression, you decide to use an extended chord and a modal element.

You start with a Gmaj7 chord (I) to establish the key. Then, to introduce a Dorian mode flavor, you insert an Am7 chord (ii) and follow it with a Cmaj9 (IVmaj9) chord. This progression (Gmaj7 – Am7 – Cmaj9) introduces the rich harmonies of extended chords while adding a jazzy, Dorian feel.

For the chorus, you employ chromaticism. Transitioning from a Gmaj7 to a G#maj7 before resolving to a Cmaj7 chord adds a touch of unpredictability and excitement. The listener is drawn into the chorus with this chromatic movement, making it a memorable part of your song.


Intermediate guitar chord progressions are a gateway to unlocking your songwriting potential. By embracing extended chords, modal progressions, chromaticism, and altered chords, you can infuse your compositions with depth, emotion, and intrigue.

Remember that mastering these techniques takes time and practice on the guitar. Start by experimenting with one or two new elements in your compositions, gradually incorporating them into your musical repertoire. The more you explore and innovate, the closer you’ll come to crafting truly interesting and unique songs that showcase your growth as a guitarist and songwriter.

If you find yourself truly passionate about taking your guitar playing to the next level and want to accelerate your progress, consider seeking professional guitar lessons and a formal education in music. A skilled guitar instructor can provide personalized guidance, valuable feedback, and structured learning experiences that can significantly expedite your journey toward becoming a proficient guitarist. Whether you’re interested in mastering complex techniques, delving into music theory, or even pursuing a career in music, enrolling in a music school or taking private lessons can be a wise investment in your musical future. So, while self-exploration is essential, don’t hesitate to explore the world of formal education to further hone your skills and reach new heights in your musical endeavors.