Common Guitar Chord Progressions

by Genevieve Van Wyden
Learn a little music theory and use chord progressions.

Learn a little music theory and use chord progressions.

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When you play a chord on the guitar, you are playing different notes or degrees from the musical scale simultaneously. When a composer writes music for the guitar, he uses chord progressions using the degrees from the major scale. As guitarists play and jam with each other, one may tell the other, "play a One-Four-Five in the key of C," or he may suggest a Five-One progression in the key of A. Chords come from each key in the major and minor scales, such as A, D, E and F.

I VI V Chord Progression

The I chord in this progression carries the same letter name as the first note of the scale. For example, C is the first note of the scale in the key of C; therefore, the I chord is C. The fourth note of the scale in the key of C is F, so the IV chord is F; the fifth note is G, so the V chord is G. This progression is called the "One-Four-Five." As you play this progression, you play a C chord, then the F and G chords. This progression is used in folk, 12-bar blues, rock and bluegrass tunes, writes the ABCLearnGuitar website.

V I Chord Progression

The V I progression is also called the "Five-One." To play this progression in the key of D, you play an A7, then a D chord. Other Five-One progressions include C7-F (in the key of F), E7-A (in the key of A) and B7-Em (in the key of Em). Try playing the Five chord without the One chord and see how it sounds. Experienced guitarists might say that the chord sounds incomplete without the One chord as a followup, says the Cyberfret website.

I IV V7 Chord Progression

In the key of C, changing the G (a Five chord) to G7 creates a Five/Seven, which gives you a One-Four-Five/Seven. The chords in this variation of the One-Four-Five progression are C-F-G7. Substitute the G major with the G7 chord either as you are writing tablature for music or when you are improvising. If you transpose into another key, the next would be the key of G. Playing the One-Four-Five/Seven in G gives you G-C-D7. Return to the One chord and play another G.

ii V IV V Chord Progression

You can have chord progressions consisting of only two chords. For example, in the key of C, the Two-Five consists of Dm and G7. When you tack on two additional chords, use the Four-Five chords: F, then G7. When you play all four chords in a Two-Five-Four-Five, the chords are Dm-G7-F-G7. As you play these chords, see how they sound played one right after the other. Because this progression is written in the key of C, you can finish by playing a C chord. The chords in a Two-Five-Four-Five in the key of G are Am-D7-C-D7-G. Because this progression is written in the key of G, ending with the G chord is natural.

I VI Chord Progression

Finally, the One-Six consists of a chord in the first position and a chord in the sixth position. Try these chord progressions: E-C#m, A-F#m and G-Em. Because these chords are so close to each other, their sound is similar, with only a slight change in tone. This is particularly true of the G-Em chord progression. As you play the G, then the Em, the Em is only a little bit lower in tone.

About the Author

Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.

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