The ability to use your clock chords to play the most common chord sequences will be really useful when you are jamming with your friends, learning a song that you don’t really know.
There are hundreds of possible chord progressions out there. Thankfully for the budding guitarist, many modern pop songs use just a few. This article presents five of the most common chord progressions, and learning them will allow you to play hundreds of songs. Note that the chord progressions will be presented in the key of C and in Roman numerals so that they can be easily transposed to other keys.
- Top Simple and Easy to Remember Chord Sequences
- 1. C – G – Am – F (I – V -vi – IV)
- 2. C – F – G (I – IV – V)
- 3. C – Am – F – G (I – vi – IV – V)
- 4. Am – F – C – G, vi – IV – I – V
- 5. C – F – Am – G, I – IV – vi – V
- How Many Chords Do I Have to Practice?
- Using the Capo to Change Keys
- FAQ for Play Chord Progressions by Position
- What are chord progressions?
- How many types of chord progressions are there?
- What is the significance of a chord progression?
- How do you play a chord progression by position?
- What is the difference between playing a chord progression by position and by name?
- What is the benefit of playing a chord progression by position?
- What does playing a chord progression by position mean?
- How can I play a chord progression by position?
- How often should I change chords in my progression?
- How do I memorize the positions of chords on the guitar fretboard?
- Why do chord progressions change from position to position?
- What are the most common chord progressions in Western music?
- How do I know what chords to play in any given position?
Top Simple and Easy to Remember Chord Sequences
A good way to become more familiar with the various guitar chord shapes is by playing chord progressions by position all over the fretboard. What I mean by this is pick a position on the neck and play all of the chords of the progression in that single position rather than moving to familiar chord shapes we already know. Let’s take a look at a common chord progression to see how this works.
1. C – G – Am – F (I – V -vi – IV)
This just might be the most popular chord progression in Western popular music. There is an actual mathematical explanation as to why it’s such a pleasant progression. The quick summary is that these four chords are opposites of each other. The V chord is the opposite of I, the vi is the opposite of V, and the IV is the opposite of vi. The contrast between them is what makes the progression sound so good.
Songs that use this progression include the verse of “Let It Be” by The Beatles, the entirety of “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley, the chorus of “Love Someone” by Justin Bieber, the verse and chorus of “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, the verse of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, the verse of “Hey Soul Sister” by Train, the chorus of “Someone Like You” by Adele, and the list goes on and on. Watch our video on “ Collide” by Howie Day and learn this popular progression!
2. C – F – G (I – IV – V)
Our second chord progression may be considered the foundation of classic rock ‘n’ roll, modern rock, and pop music. It is extremely common in songs from the 1960s to 1970s and traces its roots all the way back to the blues. Playing these three chords in different variations will also give you some other common progressions. A good example is the 12 bar blues which goes I – I – I – I – IV – IV – I – I – V – IV – I – V.
Another example is I – IV – V – IV which allows us to play songs like “Louie Louie” by Richard Berry and “Wild Thing” by The Troggs. An example that uses the simple I – IV – V progression is the entirety of “Stir it Up” by Bob Marley. We cover how to play this chord progression for the verse of “ Good Riddance” by Green Day . Take some time to play around with these three chords and you’ll be surprised by how many songs you can play by simply rearranging the order of the progression.
3. C – Am – F – G (I – vi – IV – V)
Also known as the 1950s progression because it was very popular in that decade, this chord progression is associated with the mainstream popularity of the doo-wop genre at the time. Popular songs that use this progression include the entirety of “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, the verse of “Chain Gang” by Sam Cooke, and the verse of “Unchained Melody” made popular by The Righteous Brothers. Many modern pop songs also use the 50s progression, examples include the entirety of “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston, the chorus of “What About Now” by Daughtry, and funnily enough, the entirety of “Friday” by Rebecca Black.
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.
T ake 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.
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.
Playing chord progressions by position is a great way to familiarize yourself with the different chord shapes found all over the neck. It helps open up the fretboard and reduces dependency on only playing open chords and basic barre chord shapes.
This method can be applied to any chord progression in any key. Experiment by taking songs you already know and playing those chord progressions by position.
FAQ for Play Chord Progressions by Position
What are chord progressions?
Chord progressions are a series of chords that follow a common pattern. They are usually written in the order of I, IV, V or I, V, IV.
There are many different types of chords, but the most common chord progression is I-IV-V. This is the most basic chord progression and is used in many songs.
How many types of chord progressions are there?
There are only 12 types of chord progressions.
Chord progressions are a key component in the structure of a song. They provide the framework for the melody and lyrics, and they can also dictate a song’s mood.
The most common chord progression is I-IV-V, which is used in most pop songs.
What is the significance of a chord progression?
A chord progression is a sequence of chords played one chord at a time. It’s the backbone of the song and it can dictate how the song feels.
The significance of a chord progression is that it can dictate how the song feels.
How do you play a chord progression by position?
Playing a chord progression by position is a great way to learn how to play chords.
The first step is to find the root note of the chord progression. If you are playing a song in the key of C, then the root note would be C.
The next step is to find the key signature, which tells you how many sharps or flats there are in that key. In the key of C, there are no sharps or flats and therefore it’s just C major.
If there was a sharp in that key, then it would be called G major and if there were two sharps in that key then it would be called D major.
If there were any flats in that key then it would be called F major.
What is the difference between playing a chord progression by position and by name?
Playing a chord progression by position is when you know the numerical order of the chords in the progression. Playing a chord progression by name is when you know the chords by their names, such as G major, C minor, and D7.
The difference between playing a chord progression by position and by name is that one tells you the order of the chords, and one tells you what chords are being played.
What is the benefit of playing a chord progression by position?
Playing a chord progression by position means that you play it from the root, then the third, then the fifth and so on. This is a very common practice in jazz music.
Benefits of playing a chord progression by position include:
- The sound is more full because you are doubling up on notes that are close together
- Makes soloing over chords easier because you can use any note in the scale to create melodies
- Creates less tension because there are no unaccented notes
What does playing a chord progression by position mean?
Playing a chord progression by position is a type of fingering for the guitar, in which one finger per fret is used to play chords. It allows for the guitarist to play chords with more than three notes, such as seventh chords, without having to use more than four fingers.
How can I play a chord progression by position?
A chord progression is a sequence of chords that are played in a certain order. The most common chord progressions use I, IV, and V chords. A chord progression can be played by either strumming or fingerpicking the chords in their order.
How often should I change chords in my progression?
A progression is a series of chords played one after the other. Chords are the building blocks of progressions. A progression can be as simple as two chords played one after the other, or it can be as complex as four or five chords played consecutively. For example: C – G – Am – F
The progression in this example is made up of a two-chord sequence and a three-chord sequence.
The best way to figure out how many chords you need for your own progression is to experiment and see what works for you. You should also consider what type of song you are composing, whether it’s a ballad, rock song, etc., and how many chord changes will work well with that genre’s style.
How do I memorize the positions of chords on the guitar fretboard?
The guitar fretboard is a map of the guitar’s neck, or fingerboard. The strings are numbered from 1 to 6, starting from the top string on the left. The numbers correspond to the order in which they are played.
Memorizing the positions of chords on the guitar fretboard is not an easy task. However, it can be done by using some simple tricks and techniques that will help you memorize them more easily and quickly. One way is to associate each chord with a color and then use that color when playing that chord.
For example, if you have D major chord, you could associate it with yellow and use yellow for every D major chord you play after that. Another trick is to visualize your fingers as being a set of steps on a staircase so you can remember the positions of chords on the guitar.
Why do chord progressions change from position to position?
A chord progression is a series of chords that are played one after the other and make up a song.
There are many reasons why chord progressions change from position to position. The most common reason is to create a sense of tension and release in music. This can be done by playing chords with different notes, intervals, or rhythms.
What are the most common chord progressions in Western music?
In Western music, there are 12 possible chord progressions that can be used to create a song. These chord progressions are made up of the following chords: I, IV, V7, vi, ii, iii (or ii7), IV7/III (or iv6/iii), iiadd9/V (or iiiadd11/V), VImaj7 (or V6), and VI.
There are two ways in which a chord progression can be created: by starting on the tonic or the dominant. For example: The most common chord progression is I-IV-V-I or I-vi-ii-iii.
How do I know what chords to play in any given position?
The best way to learn chords is to learn the different positions on the guitar. Once you know where a chord is on the guitar, you can play it in any position.
There are six basic positions: first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. The first position is where your index finger naturally falls when you hold your guitar. The second position is two frets higher than the first position. The third position is three frets higher than the first position. And so on and so forth until you reach the sixth position which is twelve frets higher than the first position.
Playing a chord in a different position means that you’ll have to move your fingers around on the fretboard in order to make it happen. This can be difficult at first but with practice it to do easier.