We’re gonna dive into some chord progressions that are absolute must-knows for any guitar player worth their salt. Not only will they give your songwriting game a boost, but they’ll also help you develop a better ear for chords in general. Plus, being familiar with these progressions will make it way easier to learn new songs on guitar. How cool is that?
If you’re new to the world of chord progressions, get ready to have your mind blown. It’s amazing how many songs use the exact same progression, just in a different key. It’s like discovering a secret code that unlocks a whole bunch of new tunes for you to play around with. And trust us, you’ll never get tired of using these tried-and-true patterns.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty, we need to cover some basic music theory to help you recognize these progressions in any key. So let’s get started!
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Roman Numeral System And Chord Progressions
Have you ever wondered how musicians communicate with each other about chord progressions? Well, one way they do it is by using the Roman Numeral System! Don’t worry if it sounds complicated at first, it’s actually pretty straightforward.
The Roman Numeral System is a way to describe the pattern of a chord progression, regardless of the musical key it’s in. The key thing to remember is that it focuses on the distance between chords, rather than the chords themselves. This is because what we hear when we listen to music is the way chords relate to each other.
Now, let’s dive into an example together to see how this works.
The I – IV chord progression
If you’ve ever wondered what makes a lot of popular music sound so catchy and memorable, chances are it’s the I-IV chord progression. This simple yet powerful progression is the foundation of countless songs across genres and has been used by everyone from Bob Dylan to John Lennon.
So, what exactly is the I-IV chord progression? It’s as easy as counting to four. In any given key, the “I” represents the root chord, or the first chord of the key. In the key of C, for example, the “I” would be a C major chord. The “IV” chord is simply the fourth chord in that key, counting up from the “I”. In the key of C, the “IV” chord would be an F major chord.
To play the I-IV progression, simply strum the “I” chord four times, then strum the “IV” chord four times, and repeat. It’s that simple! And if you’re playing in a different key, just remember to count up four notes from the root chord to find the “IV”.
While this progression may seem basic, it’s incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. For example, many songs use the I-IV progression to transition from the verse to the chorus, or as a big-picture concept throughout the entire song.
So next time you’re jamming on your guitar or playing piano, try incorporating the I-IV chord progression into your playing.
The I – IV – V chord progression
If you want to establish a key and create a sense of movement in your music, the I-IV-V chord progression is a great place to start. This progression is even more popular than the I-IV progression, because it adds in the important V chord. When you play the V chord, it creates a strong desire to return to the I chord, which really drives the music forward.
To give your ears some practice, try listening closely as you play the chords. In the key of C, for example, you would add in the G major chord. Your I-IV-V progression would look like this:
I (C) – IV (F) – V (G) – V (G)
Notice how we repeated the V chord for an extra bar? This is because most chord progressions follow a pattern that fits 2, 4, or 8 bars. So if you have 3 chords, one of them is going to be repeated in order to make sense for the listener.
But don’t be afraid to switch things up! You can use this progression in a different order or repeat a different chord instead. Check out these famous examples of the I-IV-V progression:
- “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens
- “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones
- “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan (in the chorus)
- “Under Pressure” by Queen (using a common variation, I-V-IV-V)
- “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles (in the verses, with a different order: I-V-IV-V)
- “Buddy Holly” by Weezer (in the first half of the chorus)
The I – V – VIM – IV chord progression
Get ready to be amazed because we’re about to reveal the most popular chord progression in music history. This one chord progression has been used in hundreds of hit songs, and it’s called the I – V – VIM – IV progression. If you’re not familiar with music theory, that’s okay, we’ll break it down for you.
In the key of C, the I – V – VIM – IV chord progression looks like this:
C – G – Am – F
You’ll notice that we added a lowercase “m” to the VIM chord to indicate that it’s a minor chord instead of a major chord. Just like with the I-IV-V progression, it’s common to mix up the order of the chords a bit. For example, in the key of G, the progression would look like this:
G – D – Em – C
With G being the I, D the V, C the IV (just like before) and adding Em as the VIM.
This chord progression is incredibly versatile and has been used in many different genres, from R&B to pop to rock to reggae. Some examples of hit songs that use this progression include “California King Bed” by Rihanna, “Clean” by Taylor Swift, “Time to Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli, “Cryin'” by Aerosmith, “Feeling This” by Blink 182, “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley, and hundreds more. In fact, there’s even a Wikipedia article dedicated to listing these songs.
Finally, let’s take a look at a minor chord progression.
The IM – BVII – BVI chord progression
If you’re into music theory, you might have learned that major and minor chords and scales can be distinguished by the emotions they convey. Major chords usually sound happy, while minor chords often sound sad. This is also true for minor chord progressions, and the most common one is the IM-BVII-BVI chord progression.
Let’s take the key of A minor as an example. The chord progression chart would look like this: Am-Bb-C. The first chord, Am, is the Im chord because it’s the root chord of the key. The second chord, Bb, is the flat seventh chord or the BVII chord. Lastly, the third chord, C, is the flat sixth chord or the BVI chord.
But this chord progression isn’t limited to the key of A minor. For example, in the key of G minor, the progression would look like Gm-F-Eb. Here, the G chord is minor because we are in a minor key, making it the Im chord.
It’s not uncommon to mix up the order of these chords or repeat a different one. In fact, you’ve probably heard this progression in various popular songs, such as the final section of “Stairway to Heaven” (in the key of A minor), “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan (popularized by Jimi Hendrix), and “Dream On” by Aerosmith.
So there you have it! The IM-BVII-BVI chord progression is a simple but effective way to create a melancholic mood in your music. Give it a try and see where it takes you!
So we have talked about some super important chord progressions that will help you level up your music theory knowledge. These four progressions are like the building blocks of a solid foundation when it comes to creating your own music or analyzing others’.
Trust us, learning these progressions is totally essential if you want to become a music theory whiz. They’re tried and true, and you’ll notice that they appear in all sorts of different songs for a reason – they just work!
Make sure to get these popular chord progressions down pat and commit them to memory. You’ll be amazed at how often you start hearing them in all kinds of music. Pay attention to every song you listen to and start exploring the amazing power and beauty of chord progressions.
Once you’ve got these essential chord progressions down, don’t be afraid to start experimenting and breaking the rules a bit. Some of the most exciting and unique things in music come from trying out new things and pushing the boundaries.
So, what are you waiting for? Get practicing and start exploring the fascinating world of chord progressions!
You may also watch this video tutorial to learn more: