Utilizing Degree Names (Part 2) / Music Theory Lesson

Author: sleepfreaks

Using Degree Names when Changing Keys

In continuation of our previous article, we will be looking at how to utilize degree names.

First we will be taking a look at changing key.
By using degree names, you can easily change the key of a song.

For example, lets say you used the chord progressions from Canon (Key of D major) that we looked at in our last article,
and a singer asked you to lower the key.

We had used karaoke setting as an example to explain key in another article as well.

If the designated key was “-2”, the key would become C.


✳︎ This expression is often seen on synth pitching, with +1 being a half-step up and -1 being a half-step down.
+12 is 1 octave up, -12 is an octave down, and +7 is a P5th up.
Since we are changing the key, we will be applying changes to all of the notes equally.

In our previous article, we had taken a look at analysis using degree names.


Now we can simply place notes of the C major scale here.


With this in mind, the chord progression from Canon in the key of C would look like below:



In most DAW you can easily change the key with a single parameter,
and with Cubase chords can be synced up with the key to an extent as well.

However, when using a DAW without chord changing functions,
or if you are playing live and it is required to change the key instantly,
knowing how to change key using these degree names is an incredibly useful tool.

By having this knowledge, you can utilize it to quickly sequence songs
in various keys to produce music as well.

Because of this, we highly recommend applying this knowledge in your craft.

Knowing Famous Chord Progressions by their Degree Names

There are common chord progression that are used in hit songs,
and these chord progression themselves are not bound by any copyright law.

There are plenty of chord progressions made up of easy diatonic chords
so we will be taking a look at some in this article.

Be sure to make any chord progression you like your own.
Lets dive right in with the diatonic chord chart below.


  • VIm→IV→V→I

With slow tempos it feels powerful,
and in fast tempos it gives a sense of speed.

  • VIm→IV→I→V

The V and I from the previous progression have been swapped.
When played with broken chords, it may be easy to picture the feeling of the progression.
For more detail, check out our Voicing, Arpeggios, and Low Interval Limit article.

  • IV→V→IIIm→VIm

This is a very common chord progression.
This is the triad version of one of the most popular chord progressions
allowing for use in any genre with an easy sound to write melodies over.

  • IV→V→VIm→VIm

This is a common progression found in trance, Euro-beat, and other 4-to-the-floor style genres.
It has a cool feeling overall.

  • IV→V→VIm→IIIm

Though similar to the progression above,
the final change makes the progression sound much more melancholic.

Like shown, by “changing the ending” of a progression,
you can change the feel or lead to a different portion of a song.

For example,

  • IV→V→VIm→I

by doing this, the ending feels more powerful and completed.

The 3 ways below are also common progressions you may hear.

  • VIm→IIm→V→I
  • IV→I→V→VIm
  • I→VIm→IIm→V

There are many other progressions that would be nearly impossible to cover in a single article.
In addition, the arrangement, tempo, voicing, and more can greatly effect the feel of these progressions.
By utilizing degree names, you can easily use these progressions in your own music.

In our next article, we will take a look at degree names for 4 note major diatonic chords.

Article Writer: Kazuma Itoh

講師 伊藤
After moving to the USA at 18 years of age with a scholarship from Berklee, he completed a 4 year study focused on song writing and arranging there.
Using this knowledge, he works across a variety of fields from pop music, film music, and more.