5 Common Chord Progressions to Help You Play 100's of Songs (2024)

4. Am - F - C - G, vi - IV - I - V

Beginning with a minor chord, this progression tends to sound darker and sadder than the other four progressions. Examples of songs that use this progression include the entirety of “Cheap Thrills” by Sia, the chorus of “Africa” by Toto, the entirety of “Apologize” by OneRepublic, and the chorus of “Numb” by Linkin Park. Watch our video on “Zombie” by The Cranberries to learn this emotive progression.

5. C - F - Am - G, I - IV - vi - V

Our final progression is very similar to progression number 4, the only difference is the I and vi chords have switched places. What you’ll end up with is a similar sounding chord progression, just not as sad as the progression in number 4. Examples include the verse and chorus of “Say” by John Mayer, the entirety of “Magic” by B.O.B, the entirety of “Escape” by Enrique Iglesias, the verse and chorus of “Good Life” by One Republic, and the intro riff of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar.

Many of these songs don’t just use the same four or five chords over the entire song. Most of the time, they’d use a combination of different chord progressions for the different sections of the song (verse, prechorus, chorus, etc.), but there’s a good chance that each of the sections uses one of the five common chord progressions.

How Many Chords Do I Have to Practice?

You may have noticed by now that all of these chord progressions really only use a different combination of four chords - the I, IV, V, and vi chords. This means that if you learn these four chords in the five most common guitar keys (C, A, G, E, D), you’ll be ready to play a huge number of songs.

My suggestion is to start with the key of G, as that’s the easiest key to play in, and then work your way through the keys of A, C, D, and finally, E.

Using the Capo to Change keys

Now, what if a song isn’t in one of the common guitar keys?

Well, that’s where your trusty capo will help you out. All you’ll need to do is pick the nearest common guitar key in relation to the key of the song, and then use the capo to move those chords up to get to your target key.

Take note that the capo can only move the key up and not down. So for example, if the song you’re trying to play is in the key of B major, you’d use your chords from the key of A instead of C (you can move A up to B, but you can’t move C down to B).

For a more in-depth study of how to use a capo, check out our video lesson and accompanying article.

Last Word

It really isn’t that difficult to learn how to play pop music on the guitar. As I’ve pointed out, pop songwriters don’t really use that many different chord progressions. With these five chord progressions, you’ll be able to play enough songs to last you a lifetime. These progressions also show up occasionally in other genres of music, so keep an ear out for them in your journey as an aspiring musician. Remember, start off with the key of G, then A, C, D, and E.

For those of you having trouble with playing the chord changes check out the chart below and this accompanying video!

5 Common Chord Progressions to Help You Play 100's of Songs (2024)


5 Common Chord Progressions to Help You Play 100's of Songs? ›

The I–V–vi–IV progression is a common chord progression popular across several genres of music.

What chord progression is used of hundred of popular songs? ›

The I–V–vi–IV progression is a common chord progression popular across several genres of music.

What is the 1 3 5 chord rule? ›

The Basics: Triads and the 1 3 5 Rule

In simple terms, the rule states that the root note serves as the starting point, the third note determines whether the chord is major or minor, and the fifth note adds stability and support to the chord's structure.

What is the most useful chord progression? ›

Top Ten
  • I-V6-vi-V. ...
  • I-V-vi-iii-IV. ...
  • i-III-VII-VI. ...
  • i-V-vi-IV. ...
  • i-VII-III-VI. ...
  • I-vi-IV-V. Nearly 150 hits use this epic progression, from Avril Lavigne to Leonard Cohen. ...
  • I-IV-vi-V. Another combination of extremely popular chords. ...
  • I-V-vi-IV. The 'Axis of Awesome' chord progression.

What is the catchiest chord progression? ›

1. I-V-vi-IV (1, 5, 6, 4) So many songs are based on the same common chord progressions. The I-V-iv-IV progression is called “the most popular progression” for a reason.

What are the 4 chords for all songs? ›

They use the same four chords: I, IV, V, and vi, which are probably the most common chords in all of pop music. Because of this, they all sound somewhat similar; the difference is in the order of the chords.

What are the 4 golden chords? ›

The famous four chords used in many pop song progressions are the I, V, vi and IV chords of a major key. The roman numerals represent the numbers of the major scale we begin a chord from (1, 5, 6, 4) so in C major this would be C, G, Amin, F or in G major it would be G, D, Emin, C.

What is the 7 chord rule? ›

A seventh chord is built by adding an extra note to a triad which is an interval of a 7th above the root note. e.g. If you build a triad on C you will use the notes (C-E-G). If you add a another note a 7th above C then you will have C-E-G-B. You have just created a basic seventh chord.

What is the 1 4 5 chord theory? ›

The numbers 1, 4, and 5 refer to degrees in the major scale. For example, in the C major scale, the 1st note is C, the 4th note is F and the 5th note is G. In the key of C, C, F, and G are all played as major chords. Any song that makes use of these chords is considered a type of “1 4 5” chord progression.

What are the three magic chords? ›

The I (tonic), IV (subdominant) and V (dominant) chords (primary triads) together encompass all seven tones of the tonic's major scale. These three chords are a simple means of covering many melodies without the use of passing notes.

What are some cool chord progressions? ›

Pianote / Chord Progressions / UPDATED Apr 23, 2024
ProgressionNumber SystemChords in C Major
Pop ProgressionI-V-vi-IVC-G-Am-F
Pop Progression (Altered)vi-IV-I-VAm-F-C-G
Jazz Progressionii7-V7-I7Dm7-G7-Cmaj7
12 Bar BluesI-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-I or VC-C-C-C-F-F-C-C-G-F-C-C or G
6 more rows

What is the best simple chord progression? ›

5 Common Chord Progressions
  • 1-5-6-4. C, G, Am, F.
  • 6-4-1-5. Am, F, C, G.
  • 1-4-5-4. C, F, G, F.
  • 1-6-4-5. C, Am, F, G.
  • 2-5-1-6. Dm, G, C, Am.

What is the heaven chord? ›

Heaven Chord on an F

Firstly, play a 1st inversion F Major Chord in your left hand with the notes A, F, and C. Secondly, play a 2nd Inversion C Major Chord in your right hand using the notes G, C, and E. Remember that you can omit the C from the left hand so that you don't end up doubling that note in the right hand.

How to make beautiful chord progressions? ›

One of the easiest ways to make any chord progression sound pretty is to take any basic triad and give it some additional tonality. Start by turning these chords into a major, minor 7th, or dominant 7th chords! All you have to do is play a major and minor triad PLUS the note right below the octave.

How many chords are used in most pop songs? ›

Almost every song in the pop charts is built around the same four chords. And it's nothing new – they're the same three chords that Pachelbel used in his famous Canon. But why do we keep coming back to this exact structure? We've all heard them – those people who complain that 'all modern music sounds the same'...

Why is the 1 4 5 chord progression so popular? ›

The 1 4 5 chord progression is a progression that can be utilized in any key. It has been used both in major and minor keys. Once the progression is learned harmonically, it can be easily recognized and applied in one's playing. It is a quick and easy way to sound adept, while simultaneously fulfilling musical needs.

Are most songs written in C major? ›

C major is one of the most common keys used in music.

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