Sad Chord Progressions: 4 Depressing Examples, With Helpful Audio!

The single most important thing a piece of music can do is make the listener feel something. Connecting through emotions is what every artist strives to do, and some chord progressions are better at evoking these emotions than others. This article will focus on 4 sad chord progressions that will help you when crafting sad songs!

Today’s article is going to require a bit of basic theory, so you should know about roman numerals and musical keys! NOTE: DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO THE NAMES I MADE THEM UP

Crying Chords Progression

crying chord progression
The first sad chord progression to get us rolling

This progression wells up and builds emotion only to be let down. It feels as if you’ve been rejected or you’ve just started to cry. This is a relatively unique progression and I really like the feeling created when you drop from a major chord to a minor.

Try playing a c major and then a c minor it feels like a piece of you is missing. It’s a quick way to get someone feeling a certain type of way. Beethoven does this in the moonlight Sonata a few times as well, so I guess it is a useful tool!

The A minor to F maj7 is like a build-up of sadness and then the F minor is the letting go into crying

A Minor Progression

sad chord progressions
Pardon the pun

Now this chord progression is not as hard as all this music theory and inversion specification make it seem. If you don’t know what these things mean then just play the roman numerals. If you want to know what these mean check out this free course on coursera.

First, you play the a minor chord, and then you play the a minor seventh, but because of the “4:2” marking you know that it is the third inversion so if an a minor seventh is A, C, E, G you play G, A, C, E because you’ve inverted the chord to have the G as the bass note! This is an a minor/G chord.

The same thing happens for the D major chord, it is usually D, G#, A. But now we play it D/G#, with the G# as the base note

Here is me playing this on piano. And it does sound compelling!

The voicing makes it sound like a troubling fight is building up, or a conflict of emotions is present. Sorry for the squeaking piano, a squeaky piano is not necessary for sad chord progressions

50’s Progression

Sad chord progressions
Get out your guitar or piano and play it, it’s pretty catchy!

This Sad Chord Progression has been around for a while, and there’s a reason. It really works. Now, this progression is just an ordering of the infamous pop progression, I V iv IV, and that’s why it is so popular. Not only will your song be sad, but it’ll also be catchy, which is kind of morbid.

Here is the progression from me on piano:

Sure does sound like someone yearning for a lost lover. This is a very popular sad chord progression

The 50’s progression was commonly used in crooning love songs, during the ’50s. Hence where it got its name. You’ll notice that a bunch of songs share this progression notably, Heart and Soul, and Unchained melody.

Melancholy Progression

sad chord progressions melancholy
Hope you like these sad chord progressions!

Now, this progression is also possible in C major and then the Roman Numerals would be iv, IV, I, V, which is completely similar to the 50’s progression above, just a slight reordering of the chords. The reason progressions like this are so popular is just because they are super catchy!

Although this progression does still sound distinctly different than the above!

Here is the melancholy progression on the piano.

The way you play the chords also impacts the feeling being conveyed! So to make your sad chord progressions even sadder, make sure to cry before/while playing the piano

Your Own Progressions

I know all of these chord progressions were just 4 bar progressions. And that was mostly for the sake of simplicity and time. But your sad song does not have to follow these chord progressions exactly, nor does it have to follow these progressions at all!

Find your favorite sad song, and google the sad chord progressions. Voila, you now have a progression you like and know is a sad one! This is how I got every chord progression in this list! And now you know my secret!

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, The Beatles

“Heather”, Conan Grey

“Unchained Melody”, The Righteous Brothers

“The Night We Met”, Lord Huron

The sad chord progressions in this list came from these sad songs!

Going a step further, play around with the chord inversion and the key that these chords are in! And even further, start to experiment with the progression you googled as the basic steps in the song, and add chords to it that you think sound good. Maybe make it an 8 bar progression, or add a transitioning chord somewhere within the base progression. With sad chord progressions, experimentation is the key!

Conclusion: Sad Chord Progressions

I hope you learned something about sad chord progressions. I know I didn’t really get into what makes a chord progression sad. But in the end, it comes down to what does the progression makes you feel, and that’s the most important part! So go on out there and find some sad chord progressions, and make that sad song that will comfort so many people!

Mark D.

Mark D.

Hi, I'm Mark. I've been playing instruments since I was just a little kid. I've played cello and piano for a few years, and recently picked up guitar. I've produced bad music. I also run this blog where I share interesting things I've learned. I hope you Enjoy my posts!

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