5 EDM Chord Progressions Every Musician Should Know

5 EDM Chord Progressions Every Musician Should Know 5 EDM Chord Progressions Every Musician Should Know

Writing chord progressions that capture the feeling of a song is key to success in any genre, and EDM is no exception. Oftentimes, EDM tracks can be simplified to district chords, heart-thumping beats, and an excellent melody line. But how do you build a strong EDM chord progression if you don't know where to start?

Below, we'll showcase some of the top EDM chord progressions every producer should know inside and out. We'll also share some of our favorite examples of these chord progressions in action alongside some EDM-specific music theory tips to help you build better beats. Let's get started!

What Defines EDM Music?

In order to understand the power of an EDM chord progression, it's key to have a firm foundation of the genre itself. "EDM" is an acronym that stands for "Electronic Dance Music". While this label is pretty versatile and can lend itself to several styles, most EDM songs tend to share the following characteristics:

Faster Tempos

There are many subgenres within the umbrella of EDM like house music, trance, techno, dubstep, and drum and bass, but you can expect most EDM songs to have a faster tempo. EDM music tends to rest between 120 BPM and 160 BPM, though there are some songs that fall below or above the usual range.

Danceable Beats

The "D" in EDM stands for "Dance", so it's no surprise that EDM beats have a high-energy danceable vibe. You can count on most EDM songs to fall in the common time signature (4/4) with emphasis on the downbeat.

Electronic Instruments and Samples

In terms of structure, EDM music is not unlike pop music influenced by jazzy seventh chords. However, its distinct use of electronic instruments, samples, and synthesizers gives it that modern sound that defines the genre.

Remix and DJ Culture

EDM music has a rich culture that harps off of sampling, high-energy celebrations, remixes, and DJing. An EDM concert is distinctly different than your typical concert, and sets can go on for several hours rather than just one.

Build-ups and Drops

Much like pop music is based around the chorus, EDM music is based around "the drop". The drop usually comes after a verse of a song, built around a vocal or instrumental hook. It is named the "drop" based on the build-up to the chorus. Typically the beat gets progressively more intense before dropping off into a euphoric chorus section:

The Music Theory Behind EDM Music

Here are some musical tools you can use to create a stellar EDM song:

Major and Minor Key Use

An EDM chord isn't necessarily minor or major. An EDM song often utilizes a mixture of both major and minor chords to create a moody atmosphere, leading to big builds and even bigger drops.

It's most common for EDM songs to start on the minor tonic chord (otherwise written as i) but you can experiment, and mix and match when you write your own progressions. There are a couple of songs that will only have two chords or just the same chord over and over! Chord progressions do not have to be complicated to be musically effective.

Time Signature and Build Ups

Under most circumstances, EDM music falls under common time, or the time signature 4/4. You'll hear an emphasis on the strong beats of 1, 2 ,3 , 4, giving the music its inherently danceable quality. Build-ups to the drop or chorus of a song often use subdivision. If the normal pace of percussion emphasizes quarter notes, the producer might lean into eighth notes, and then sixteenth notes to build anticipation to a drop:

Diatonic Chords

Most EDM songs use diatonic chords or diatonic triads. What this means is that the triad chords naturally fit within the context of a song's key signature. Chords are expressed as Roman numerals, with a lowercase character representing minor chords and uppercase identifying major chords. For instance, i vii iii equates to a minor one chord, a minor seven chord, and a minor 3rd chord.

Occasionally, you'll have an "add 9", suspended chord, or seventh triad chords as discussed below, but you can count on most melodies and backbone chord progressions residing within a single major key or minor key. Diatonic chords fit naturally together, so sticking to a defined key helps you build a strong foundation for a song.

Seventh Chord Progressions

Electronic music chords sound somewhat simplistic, but there is actually quite a bit going on behind the scenes. As showcased in some of the most popular examples listed below, EDM progressions often introduce jazzier chord iterations like seventh chords and ninth chords. These extra notes can add tension in between two chords or help spice things up so that the track doesn't become repetitive.

Ballad Vocalists

The same chord progression is used hundreds of times across EDM music, but the topline melodies help differentiate songs. EDM wouldn't be what it is today without the help of powerhouse vocalists. Featured EDM singers usually have strong, distinct tones that naturally sound good against the beat that the producer has built initially. Oftentimes, EDM producers make a complete beat first before sending it out to vocalists to come up with ideas.

Not all EDM songs have vocalists or even vocal samples, but including some in your process can help make a track that much more memorable.

Top EDM Chord Progressions and Examples

Without further ado, here are some of the top EDM chord combinations with hit examples to match. These chord progressions usually utilize a mixture of major and minor keys, building over a "4 on the floor" beat:


The i VI iv VII is a classic EDM progression beloved by electronic pioneers like David Guetta. You can hear this progression shine in his hit When Love Takes Over with Kelly Rowland:


Avicii broke onto the scene with Levels. This chord progression starts with the classic i III combo and moves to the VII and VI. Hear the chord progression at work:


This is one of the few common progressions that kicks off with a major chord in EDM. We can hear this chord progression in the classic Never Be Like You by Flume ft. Kai:


With one minor chord and three major chords, this progression gives a mysterious feeling to any track. Take a listen to this progression at work in Stereo Love by Edward Maya ft. Vika Jugulina:


Though less common, you can hear the same chord progressions of IV I vi or IV I vi V across pop music. The progression sounds great over a piano roll or with any electronic instrument. It really shines in Sweet Nothing by Calvin Harris ft. Florence Welch:

EDM Chord Progressions FAQ

Use these commonly asked questions and answers to help you put these catchy chord progressions to good use:

What chords are used in EDM?

Some of the most common chords used in EDM are the I, IV, and V chords of any key. EDM shares a lot of the same characteristics as pop music, just with heavier hitting beats and more rhythmic and electronic sections.

How do you make good EDM chords?

To make good EDM chord progressions, start with the building blocks of the I, IV, and V chords. Experiment with your progression against a 4/4 beat, and continue with what makes you most inspired!

What are the most popular chord progressions in electronic music?

Surprisingly, EDM chord progressions can be a bit more complex, frequently utilizing seventh chords, add9 and sus chords in songs. Most EDM songs start with a minor i chord. One of the most common EDM chord progressions is i-III-VII-VI.

What time signature is EDM in?

Electronic dance music is often in common time or a 4/4 time signature. This is because 4/4 makes it easy to keep the beat for most listeners. EDM songs don't necessarily have a particular key signature, but they tend to share common pop music chords.

EDM is built around beats, but it's the chord progressions that give the track its basis for harmony and sticky melody lines that listeners latch onto. Experiment with these EDM chord progressions in your next beat.

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