There is so much to think about when discussing chord progressions it boggles the mind.
A good starting point in understanding chord progressions is the flow inherent in most any musical piece. Fast or slow, happy or sad, poignant or ludicrous, rebellious or patriotic each tune is built around defining the flow of the piece reflected in style, tempo, rhythmic and harmonic structure.
There are two basic overall rhythmic flow types in music: vertical and horizontal. A good example of vertical music would be a John Philips Sousa march where the rhythm is defined by micro stops in time enforced by emphasis. A good example of horizontal music would be a Bill Evans ballad that magically floats thru time and space. Most tunes are somewhere in between.
Musical compositions are based on establishing a tonal center, going away from it, coming back to it. How you do this is dictated by the style of music and the level of the composer/arranger. There are 3 basic types of harmonic chordal progression: diatonic scale motion (Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7,etc.), cycle of fifthing (C7,F7, Bb7, Eb7, etc.) and going from relative major to relative minor (Cmaj7 – Am7). You must remember that these progression types have been noted in a simplified manner. The amount of sophistication, creativity and inventiveness that can be applied is endless. The goal of jazz progressions is to proceed fluidly forward with no effort.
As I lay here softly sleeping lost within a dream
Love is always everything it seems
The moon floating so prettily, it sets my spirit free
When I dream this dream of you and me
Stardust keeps on falling on the two of us entwined
Is this really you or just my mind
Am I merely dreaming or are you dreaming this dream too
Is this shining vision really you
I wake up in the morning wipe the stardust from my eyes
Can you just imagine my surprise
Lying there so lovely is this dream I’ve dreamed come true
When I look across our bed at you
Then I see that smile upon your face
Laughter, tears filled with beaming grace
Suddenly a shooting star appears
I draw you near, so near
What is the difference between being a musical composer and being a musical arranger? While a composer creates the original melody and harmony the arranger takes the composition and filters it thru the melody, harmony, bass lines and rhythm of the style of music and pairs it with the intended ensemble. In a lot of cases the distinction between the two is very fuzzy. When Beethoven wrote the 5th Symphony he composed it while arranging it for the orchestra at the same time and at least in Beethoven’s case made it almost pointless to do anything with the work other than to leave it as it is. The 5th Symphony would not work for Peter, Paul and Mary or Maroon 5.
For me it brings up the question of the symbiotic relationship between a songwriter (composer) and an arranger in modern day popular music. If you look at the credits on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album it lists a variety of composer’s, arranger’s (8), instrumentalists, etc. The arrangers are listed as sectional and Quincy Jones is listed as the producer which in this case means one generally in charge of the entire production. I would put forth that Mr. Jones was actually the arranger of the entire album. He took a wonderful group of musicians, oversaw their efforts and channeled them thru his vast amount of musical experience, knowledge and God given talent. Thriller would not have been the album it was without the incredible talent and composition of Michael Jackson (and others) and the amazing arrangement and production skills of Quincy Jones.