Dreamy music can make you feel relaxed, make you feel like you’re flying through the clouds, or just generally sound magical. There’s no one way to create these feelings, and hundreds of chord progressions can do the trick.
In fact, I tend to believe that chord progressions are only a very small piece of the puzzle when you’re trying create a certain style of music.
I’ve spent many hours listening to new (to me) music and drawing upon memories of music that evoked dream-like emotions. I’ve recorded 11 chord progressions from 11 songs and also added guitar tab and sheet music to help you visualize/replicate them.
1. I iii I iii
This comes from a song called Moments by Deep Watch. It’s simple, but often simplicity in the chord progression can create more opportunities to be creative in your voicings. This song used very slow and very dramatic reverb. And of course, you don’t hear a lot of bass in there either.
2. Imaj7 II6 Imaj7 II6
I found this chord progression in a song called Moving On by Dayonas Dream. It’s basically a I II I II chord progression, but there’s a lingering note (the 7th note in the major scale) that just hangs around. It makes the I chord into a major 7th and the II chord into a 6 chord.
3. Imaj7 IVmaj7 Imaj7 IVmaj7
This song comes from arguably the greatest video game ever made, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This game was a staple for me in my junior high days and I can still vividly remember the dream vibe you get the first time you walk into Zora’s Domain. For me, this was the first dreamy chord progression I can remember getting stuck in my head.
I also found Zora’s Domain on chordify where you can play along with the entire song and see the chord charts for these chords.
4. i iadd9 i iadd9
This super simple progression is from Nattjus by a band called Manvarv. This part of the song stuck out to me because the chord progression seemed somewhat static, but there was a sort of slow, disjointed melody over it. It gave me the impression of being stuck in a loop, but the loop continued to change.
5. Imaj7 III/Imaj7 Imaj7 IV/Imaj7
This progressions comes from the hit Netflix show Stranger Things. You may disagree, but I consider much of the music in the show to qualify as “dreamy.” This progression comes from the title theme. The arpeggiated notes play out a C major 7 chord throughout the entire intro while the bass plays something of a melody, alternating between big hits on the I (C) and the III (E) in the C major scale.
Somewhat Related Article: 13 Dark Chord Progressions
It’s probably worth mentioning that when you play this progression on guitar, it’s completely underwhelming. What makes this progression work is the arpeggios played over the big hitting bass. Otherwise it would just be dull.
6. iadd9 VImaj7 IIImaj7 iadd9
Going back again to my classic video game roots, this chord progression is the aquatic ambience music from Donkey Kong Country (on SNES). Now that I’m starting to reflect on this, it seems that water based areas in video games often have dreamy music in them.
7. i VI iv i
I’m sure you can find this chord progression in hundreds of songs, but I found it in a song called Saturno. These simple chords anchor the dreamy sounds of various synth melodies in another slow moving song.
8. I ii vi IV
This chord progression comes from one of the dreamier (perhaps even spacey) songs by one of my favorite bands, Muse. The song is call Starlight. This is another very simple chord progression that gets its sound from a rhythmic bass line and a sustained piano part playing individual notes in octaves. There are also some arpeggiated synth parts that show up at various points in this song that add to the vibe.
9. IV iii ii I
I had to take just one more song from The Legend of Zelda and this song is from the Great Fairy’s Fountain. You often hear this song played on the harp, which has to be the most stereotypical “dreamy” instrument in existence. You could probably play just about anything on harp and make it sound lighter than air. And I found another chord follow along for this song too.
10. IV ii IV I
There’s an incredible harp interlude in Claude Debussy’s “Danse sacrée et danse profane.” This chord progression is taken from the end of one of the phrases of that harp solo.
11. i VI VII v VI v iv
If it’s not already clear, I have been greatly influenced by video game music. For my last chord progression I’m referencing the title song from Final Fantasy X, “To Zanarkand.” It’s just a wonderful piano piece with a lot of arpeggiated melodies. This chord progression is from the song’s intro.
And I found sheet music for the song here.
As I listened to hours of music (while researching dreamy chord progressions) I decided to write down some of the things I noticed over and over again. Here are some observations I had:
- The major 7 chord is used a lot
- Progressions with only two chords are common
- Often no discernible tempo, no percussion, and chords change slowly
- Harps are a dreamy instrument
- Contrast of driving bass and melodic notes can create a dreamy sound
- Chord progressions are only a small part of the recipe
So that’s what I noticed. Let’s get right into these 11 dreamy chord progressions.
How To Make Your Music Sound “Dreamy”
Now that we have some sample chord progressions to work with, let’s talk a bit about other aspects of the music that can affect the way it makes you feel
Like any style of music, there are multiple ways of accomplishing the dreamy sound. And it can of course be different for each individual listener, so always experiment with sounds and find something you love.
Here are some ideas that you can try:
- Don’t use a click track or even a percussion instrument. Create your tempo entirely by feel.
- Try contrasting the voicing of the chords and the melody. For example, use a bass instrument for the chord progressions and a treble instrument for the melody or vice versa.
- Try using more echo or other delay effects
- Mess around with different synthesizer settings
- Try using arpeggios (either prominently or as a background accompaniment)
- If you have a clear tempo, try slowing your tempo and see how it sounds
- Don’t be afraid to use sound effects (birds chirping, sound of the wind, rain sounds, etc.)
If you have other ideas to add, comment them below this article and I’ll add them to the list!
These 11 dreamy chord progressions should give you a great starting point to begin experimenting with your music.
Chord progressions are great, but often the difference between one style of music and another is in the instrumentations, rhythms, tempos, and general orchestration of the piece. Don’t be afraid to experiment with any chord progressions that interest you. Chances are you’ll be able to find a way to make them fit your preferred style.