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Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Is there a particular chord progression for R&B ballad?


Dear sir,

Is there a particular chord progression for R&B ballad?

I'm trying to write a song in the style of Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys. I was wondering which chords will make the song sound like a proper R&B ballad.


Hi Steve:

There's no particular series of chord changes for a R&B "quet storm" ballad but a good place to experiment with is using the minor modes
( like dorian  ) which in addition the a IV major chord ,also moves easily to the parallel major mode on the bV! .. ( i.e  Cmi ( F7 ) >Ab MA
back to Cmi ..

ex:    ||:Cmi 7 - F7 -Cmi 7 -F7  - Bbmi7 Eb7 - AbMA7 DbMA7 - dmi7 5b -G9# - Cmi7 - F7 - Cmi7 -F7 :||

melodically, use notes borrowed from the blues scale where appropriate.

you  can hear a similar progression in the song "Grover" on my website :

I'd also suggest you analyse some of the earlier "quet storm "  ballads ( Like Stevie Wonders "All in love is Fair" or most of the late Luther Van Dross work .

Good luck with your work !

Phil Kelly

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Phil Kelly


I`m a semi-retired professional music arranger with over thirty five years in all phases of the commercial music production business. I can try to answer questions regarding music arranging, theory, orchestration , and/or composition for most acoustic ensembles .( jazz band or orchestral ) I can try to offer suggestions about studio music recording procedures and some basic MIDI applications , too. In the course of my career I`ve worked with such artists as Doc Severinsen and the old Tonight Show Band, Bill Watrous, Buddy Greco, John Gary, Mel Torme, Julius LaRosa, as well as the Pop programs of the Fort Worth, Dallas, North Carolina, and Houston Symphonies, as well as library music material for ABC, ESPN, and NFL Films.

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