Top 7 Gospel Chords Every Musician Needs To Know

 A Quick Review On The Concept Of Chord Progression

In any given major and minor key, there are seven unique tones and these tones can be seen in the scale (major or minor scale). For example, the seven unique tones in the key of C major can be seen in the C natural major scale.

C is the first tone

D is the second tone

E is the third tone

F is the fourth tone

G is the fifth tone

A is the sixth tone

B is the seventh tone

Top 7 Gospel Chords Every Musician Needs To Know

Every tone in the key has its unique chord (aka – “scale tone chord”). For example, the scale tone chord of the first tone (which is C):


…is the C major triad:

…or C major seventh chord:

…or C major ninth chord:

The scale tone chord of the fourth tone (which is F):

…is the F major triad:

…or F major seventh chord:

…or F major ninth chord:

“Pay Attention To This…”

The movement in harmony from one scale tone chord to another produces chord progressions. The chord movement from the C major seventh chord:

…to the F major seventh chord:

,,,produces a chord progression.

The Notation Of Chord Progressions

Chord progressions can be written or indicated using the Nashville number system — where a number is assigned to every tone of the scale.

In the key of C major:

…the chord of the first tone (which is C) in the key of C major is notated as chord 1 or 1. The chord of the fourth tone (which is F) in the key of C major is notated as chord 4 or 4.

So, a chord progression from chord 1 to chord 4 can be notated as a 1-4 chord progression.

A Short Note On Chromatic Chord Progressions

Chromatic progressions are also commonly used in gospel music.

A chromatic chord progression consists of chords that are foreign to the prevalent key. In the key of C major:

…the G altered chord:

…is chromatic because it consists of D# and A#:

…which are foreign to the key of C major.

In the top ten chord progressions, there are chromatic chord progressions and a variety of diatonic progressions that resonate with the key as well.

Let’s explore them!

Top Ten Chord Progressions Every Gospel Pianist Must Know

Although there are other important chord progressions (heck, the list is inexhaustible), we singled out these 10 progressions because they are right on top of the list.

#1 – The Classic 2-5-1 Chord Progression

The classic 2-5-1 chord progression is commonly found at the end of several gospel songs. If you sing 10 gospel songs, 9 of them (if not 10) end with the 2-5-1 chord progression.

“A Breakdown Of The 2-5-1 Chord Progression”

In the key of C major:

…the 2-5-1 chord progression moves from the chord of the second tone (aka – “chord 2”) to chord 5, then to chord 1.

Chord 2:

…is the D minor seventh chord.

Chord 5:

…is the G dominant seventh chord (played in second inversion).

Chord 1:

…is the C major seventh chord.

Attention: Although seventh chords are used in the example above, triads and extended chords can also be used.

“Altogether, Here’s The 2-5-1 Chord Progression…”

Chord 2:

Chord 5:

Chord 1:

#2 – The Popular 1-5-6-4 Chord Progression

If you turn on the radio and listen to 10 songs (or so), the chances that 3 (to 5) out of the 10 songs are based on the 1-5-6-4 chord progression are high.

“A Breakdown Of The 1-5-6-4 Chord Progression”

In the key of C major:

…the 1-5-6-4 chord progression moves from the chord of the first tone (aka – “chord 1”) to chord 5, then to chord 6, before ending on chord 4.

Chord 1:

…is the C major triad (played in second inversion).

Chord 5:

…is the G major triad.

Chord 6:

…is the A minor triad.

Chord 4:

…is the F major triad (played in first inversion).

Attention: Although triads are used in the example above, seventh and extended chords can also be used.

“Altogether, Here’s The 1-5-6-4 Chord Progression…”

Chord 1:

Chord 5:

Chord 6:

Chord 4:

#3 – The Classic 1-6-2-5 Chord Progression

The 1-6-2-5 chord progression is one of the top progressions every serious gospel pianist must learn; not just because it is common in songs, but because it can be played as a turnaround progression.

“A Breakdown Of The 1-6-2-5 Chord Progression”

In the key of C major:

…the 1-6-2-5 chord progression moves from the chord of the first tone (aka – “chord 1”) to chord 6, then to chord 2, before ending on chord 5.

Chord 1:

…is the C major ninth chord.

Chord 6:

…is the A minor ninth chord.

Chord 2:

…is the D minor ninth chord.

Chord 5:

…is the G dominant seventh [flat ninth].

Attention: Although extended chords are used in the example above, seventh chords can also be used.

“Altogether, Here’s  The 1-6-2-5 Chord Progression…”

Chord 1:

Chord 6:

Chord 2:

Chord 5:

#4 – The 3-4-#4-5-5 Chord Progression

The 3-4-#4-5-5 chord progression is one of the signature progressions in gospel and jazz music.

It is used as a fanciful turnaround progression especially in traditional gospel.

“A Breakdown Of The 3-4-#4-5-5 Chord Progression”

In the key of C major:

…the 3-4-#4-5-5 chord progression moves from the chord of the first tone (aka – “chord 1”) played over the 3 on the bass, to chord 4, then to chord #4, then chord 1 over the 5, before ending on chord 5.

Chord 1 over the 3:

…is the C major triad.

Chord 4:

…is the F major triad.

Chord #4:

…is the F# diminished seventh.

Chord 1 over the 5:

…is the C major triad.

Chord 5:

…is the G dominant seventh [#9, #5].

Attention: Although extended chords are used in the example above, seventh chords can also be used.

“Altogether, Here’s  The 3-4-#4-5-5 Chord Progression…”

Chord 3:

Chord 4:

Chord #4:

Chord 5:

Chord 5:

Final Words

These chord progressions are commonly found in a variety of gospel songs and we’ll be covering how they can be applied in gospel music.

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