Chord progressions are the backbone of every song. From pop and blues to metal and punk rock, and much more, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with these simple concepts if you ever want to write your own songs or understand your favorite songs a little deeper.
Chord progressions are usually written and referred to with the use of Roman numerals. In this blog post we’re going to refer to major scales and keys.
For example, the C major scale is this:
C - D - E - F - G - A - B
When we’re thinking about chords within a major scale, we use roman numerals like this:
I - ii - iii - IV - V - vi - vii(dim)
The capitalized numerals are major chords while the lowercase ones mean minor chords. The 7th chord is a diminished chord.
With this knowledge in mind, we can take any major scale and create chord progressions. Let’s examine 3 very common chord progressions.
I-IV-V Chord Progressions
The I - IV - V chord progression is one of the most common chord progressions in music. The I is the root note of the chord, followed by the 4th and 5th scale degrees of the scale.
For example, if we’re working on a C scale, that means the I chord is the C major chord. This means F is the IV and the G is the V.
So if you wanted to play a I - IV - V chord progression in the key of C, the chords will be this:
C - F - G
For a refresher on how to find the I - IV - V chord progression, watch the lesson below.
I–V–vi–IV Chord Progressions
This progression is also used by a number of artists and is the basis of countless pop songs. Since we already know how to identify the I, IV, and V chord from earlier, all we have to do is find the vi chord of a scale.
In a major key, the vi chord is always a minor chord.
Let’s get the C major key again and form the progression. It will look like this:
C - G - Am - F
Fun fact: these are the first 4 chords of “Let it Be” by The Beatles! You can take this chord formula and apply it to a bunch of different major scales. Give it a try.
Country 12 bar Chord Progression
This progression uses the 12 bar form, which is generally associated with the blues, but you can also take that form and twist it for country style playing as well.
In the Country Level 1 course, Instructor Anders shows us how to do this by using the I - IV - V chords of a key.
Let’s take the Key of G for example. The G major is the I chord, the C major is the IV and the D major is the V. We’ll be taking these chords and putting them in a pattern like this:
I - IV - I - V - I
G - C - G - D - G
You’ll play the first G for 4 bars, and then play the rest of the chords for 2 bars. For more on this, be sure to check out our Country Level 1 course here.