How To Create Dark Chord Progressions (With Examples)

How To Create Dark Chord Progressions (With Examples) How To Create Dark Chord Progressions (With Examples)

From Billie Eilish to Doja Cat, dark chord progressions are more popular than ever. These chord progressions have an eerie feel to them that can help you create compelling soundscapes in your music. But how does one create a sense of darkness in music?

Not to worry! In this guide, we'll dive into the music theory behind dark chord progressions so that you can start crafting creepy and mysterious songs. Let's dive in!

The Theory Behind Musical Darkness

There are certain tricks that may make a sound have a more "evil" atmosphere to the human ear. We'll discuss other techniques below, but once of the most important concepts to build a dark style is understanding the power of minor chords and scales:

Minor Chords VS Major Chords

Two chords can create completely different feelings just by changing a single note. For instance let's take a listen to a G major chord:

and compare that to the sound of a G minor chord:

Both chords share two notes, but the harmony created with the third or the B, in this case, is different. The chords' simple difference builds a whole change in mood. Generally speaking, dark chord progressions are focused around minor chords since these chords tend to evoke a darker, more mysterious feel.

Evil Chords: Using The Harmonic Minor Scale

You can also use certain scales to evoke a darker mood. Minor scales are a great place to start! One with a particularly evil feel is the harmonic minor scale. To create this scale, first take a natural minor scale and raise the seventh note by a half step.

Listen to the G minor harmonic scale in action:

You can hear the tension created using these notes. The added sharp builds a stronger pull between the start and end of the scale, building that dark feel we're seeking.

Dark Chord Progressions In Music Examples

The best way to understand the power of dark chord progressions is to listen to them in the context of music you already love. Here are several songs you may recognize that have a darker sound due to their chord progressions:

"Toxic" By Britney Spears

Though this classic pop song still has an upbeat feel thanks to Britney's delivery and the punchy tempo, it has a mysterious aura thanks to the dark chord progression. This minor pop song has an infectious, dark sound that makes it a true classic:

"Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga shocked the charts by putting a top charting hit in minor with the combination of driving vocals and heart-pounding beats. You've probably heard this one, but take a listen to how the chords and melody alone build a dark atmosphere:

"How To Disappear Completely" By Radiohead

How to Disappear Completely is arguably Radiohead's greatest song. This haunting track creates dissonance with the subtle string line in the background of the main song that contrasts with the piece for the majority of the track. Take a listen:

Making Dark Music: What Else Should I Take Into Consideration?

It's important to note that minor chord progressions and scales aren't the only thing that contribute to a darker atmosphere. In fact, songs can certainly be in a major key and still posses that dark flair. Here are some other key pieces to the puzzle you'll want to think about when building dark music:

Sonic Elements

There's a reason why techno beats and other electronic genres have a distinctly dark feel to them. Selecting sonic elements that occupy a lower frequency range like deep bass sounds or synths can certainly build a more mysterious soundtrack. Opting for industrial samples or using a darker instrument are all important parts of dark sound design.


One of the best ways to build a dark soundscape is to create intervals filled with tension. Create contrast in your music by inserting select notes that may fall outside the lines of your key. This technique needs to be used sparingly to be effective, but it's certainly fun to experiment with!

Subject Matter

Nothing can shift the feelings of the song like lyrics. Listening to the subject matter of a song can definitely create a darker feel. Some of the happiest-sounding music is actually quite dark if you take a deep dive into lyrics; take Hey Ya! by Outkast or Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People as examples.


Faster tempos tend to be associated with happier, dance music. Slower songs might have a darker feel, so consider manipulating tempo to draw the listener into a more mysterious soundscape.

5 Dark Chord Progressions

There are endless ways to write a chord progression , but having a starting point can be incredibly helpful! Use these chord progression examples to start playing dark music.

Note that chord progressions are written with roman numerals, with each number representing a chord's place in one key. For instance, the I chord in G major is a G major chord. For more information, check out our complete guide on chord progressions here .


This minor chord progression utilizes the flat minor chord contrasted against chords constructed from a major scale. This first progression is super fun to play with since the tension from the major seven chord helps lead right back to the minor one chord. Hear it in I Don't Wanna Live Forever by Taylor Swift and ZAYN:


This classic progression is heard in Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin. You can't help but get a sense of melancholy or sadness from the dark chord progression:


You'll find that the 1 4 5 combination and variations of it are heard all throughout pop music in both major chord progressions and minor chord progressions. Hear it in a minor context in Ain't No Sunshine by the legend Bill Withers:


This chord progression takes the classic minor 1 4 5 to a new level by inserting a major 6 chord. You can hear it at work in Fever by The Black Keys:


This jazzy chord progression is heard all across classic standards. You can also hear its magic at work in surprisingly complex pop hits like This Love by Maroon 5:

Dark Chord Progressions FAQ

Are you ready to start making some music? Consider these commonly asked questions and answers first to start building dark chord progressions:

What is the evil chord?

While any chord can sound "evil" in the right context, it's often suggested that chords that utilize the tritone, or a basic triad with a flattened third have an evil, eerie feel when played in their respective keys.

What are dark-sounding chords?

Minor chords are often regarded as sounding darker than major chords. However, it's also worth remembering that placing an emphasis on lower frequencies and darker percussive sounds can also help you build an unsettling soundscape.

What is a creepy chord progression?

Some of the darkest chord progressions are in a minor key and contain scale degrees like the tritone known to have a polarizing effect. A minor chord has a flattened third as opposed to a major chord.

Creating dark chord progressions is easy. Through the power of minor chord structure, mysterious melodies, or even just opting for sonic elements with a darker mood, you'll have no trouble creating dark music. Enjoy building your own dark songs for your listeners!

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