40 songs that use Descending Stepwise chord progressions

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A -by- chord progression is any chord progression that works its way down the scale, one step at a time. The will be voiced in such a way to allow the to simply walk down the scale.

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0:00 Intro.
0:37 Examples.
2:14 How the progression is built.
3:32 6 actions developments.
3:53 5 actions developments.
7:31 Hook Theory.
8:15 4 actions developments.
9:13 Why does it work?

40 that use Stepwise chord progressions

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37 Comments

  1. Doubt thou the stars are fire;
    Doubt that the sun doth move;
    Doubt truth to be a liar;
    But never doubt that Paul McCartney will appear in a David Bennett Piano video.

    1. It just goes to show how integral & influential Paul McCartney was in helping to create the harmonic & melodic vocabulary of popular music in the last 60 years. BTW, had no idea Shakespeare was a McCartney fan!

  2. “Care of Cell 44” by The Zombies is another example. I think you could make a video for halfstep-wise chord progressions too! “This Will Be Our Year” by The Zombies is one, along with this obscure song, “All” by Skycycle.

    1. @David Bennett Piano the musical Les Miserables uses this chord progression a ton. It’s like a motif in songs like I Dreamed a Dream and One Day more

  3. One of my favorite close example of this is the song “father and son” by cat Stevens.

  4. Explorers by muse has a really cool descending line in the verses with:
    C Cmaj7/B C7/Bb F/A Fm/Ab Cadd9/G D7/F# Fo7 Cmaj7/E Ebo7 Do7. The use of the diminished chords really makes this progression stand out and its also noteworthy to mention the bassline doesn’t really follow this but does its own thing melodically and the arpeggiation of the piano chords allows the descending line to occur.

  5. Mind Games, Father and Son, Free Bird, and All the Young Dudes are all great examples as well, though that last one gets really creative with the chords and doesn’t actually got to the IV chord. But what did you expect? It’s David Bowie.

  6. This is SO creepy…I literally decided to write my first song today (I have SOME music theory knowledge like basic cadences and diatonic chords) and I came up with the I-iii-vi-V-chord progression. I thought it was cool and was wondering if it was common since I hadn’t come across it yet, and then I see this video lol

    1. A lot of the comments whenever David uploads a new video lead me to believe David has psychic powers.

  7. Weird that you didn’t mention A Day In The Life
    The Beatles really loved these chords.

  8. It’s interesting that the tonic chord can be used at any step in a progression that eventually resolves back to the tonic chord. It does not have to be avoided because it’s not yet the end of the progression.

  9. Would love if you did another video where you discuss the minor versions of these stepwise progressions, i.e. lament bass progressions. I think these may be even more popular than their major counterparts, or at least more distinctive.

  10. “I Want You Back” doesn’t stop at stepping down the major scale, it careens downhill at a clip that feels almost out of control. When Michael hits that first glissade, it’s a perfect pop song moment.

  11. One of my favorite songs that uses a descending chord progression is King Crimson’s Marine 45, where the whole song is a chromatic descending loop, a shepherd tone chord progression

  12. David, the “songs using chord progressions” series has had dozens of songs in each video, now up to an impressive 40. It leaves me wondering how you go about compiling them all. Is there some kind of search engine for chord progressions, where you can see what comes up? Or do you, Professor Piano, have so much encyclopedic knowledge that you just know about them all?

    PS: respect for the video editing effort. Splicing all those songs together, with the beat transitioning relatively smoothly between them, and in sync with the graphics that show which specific chords are playing when, must take up many hours of work.

    1. It always starts with my only knowledge of examples. But then I supplement this with other songs that I find through a range of sources. Hook Theory actually have a chord progression search feature which always throws up some examples I didn’t know!

    2. @Guillaume Betous I suspect that Professor P‘s system is actually quite simple. It has sections B, R, and Miscellaneous.

  13. Awesome video as always!! I see you’ve been getting into a few mcr examples too. One of my absolute favorite (but obscure) songs using a descending chord progression is Les Rallizes Denudés’ “But I Was Different” which I would highly recommend.

  14. My personal favorite example of this is “She’s Got a Way” by Billy Joel. That secondary dominant also adds a lot to an otherwise simple progression

  15. One of my favourite (and an obvious) examples of this progression is the early Gerry Rafferty/Stealers Wheel song “Found My Way To You” (which goes down five steps to the fourth). Another song which uses it beautifully is Simon & Garfunkel’s song “America”.

  16. Curious about the opposite – stepwise rising chord progressions. Perhaps a future episode topic ?

  17. My favourite has always been McCartney’s ‘For No One”. The b7 major chord is so good.

  18. My favourite example of this concept is “Steve Forbert’s Romeos tune.” The bassline in the melody descends through every pitch in the key if im not mistaken. A very quirky song you should definitely check out.

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