Most common & popular chord progressions (2023)


  • 1Major and minor
  • 2How to read and notate chord progressions?
  • 3Examples of the most common chord progressions
  • 4Rules for writing chord progressions

All music is built on a harmonious combination of sounds. Two notes – interval. Three notes is already a chord. When only bass and vocals remain at some point in the song, their lines intersect and also form harmonies. So just two monophonic instruments are enough to create harmony. But richer, more beautiful, more pleasing and more audible textures are woven from chords. Every beginner musician should know at least the most common chord progressions.

You can read how to use the Amped Studio Chord Generator and try to create your own melody online.

Chord progression generator

Major and minor

Different sound combinations give different colors. The two most common musical moods are major and minor. The first can be described as happy, cheerful, joyful and solemn. The second is sad, thoughtful, serious and melancholic. They are formed by the most common chord progressions, and their characters depend only on the note arrangement.

Two tones, semitone, three tones, semitone is major key. Tone, semitone, two tones, semitone, two tones is minor. For example, in C major, the notes С, D, E, F, G, A, B are located at these intervals. We compose a chord progression only from these sounds to create a sunny mood. If we take D-sharp or G-flat, we get an inharmonious sound.

(Video) 7 super common chord progressions and why they work

Most common & popular chord progressions (1)

Gamma in C major

Most common & popular chord progressions (2)

Gamma in A minor

Most common & popular chord progressions (3)

D-sharp and G-flat are not included in the key of C-major

The A minor includes the same С, D, E, F, G, A, B, only in a different order: from A. This means that the chord progressions here will be built on the same triads as in C major. Such keys are called parallel. But one of them represents the light side (major colors), and the other dark. How to create the desired key, if both are the same triads? It all depends on the tonic, the base chord. In C major it is C major (C-E-G), in A minor it is A Minor (A-C-E).

Most common & popular chord progressions (4)

(Video) 5 Most Popular Chord Progressions of ALL-TIME

Tonic chords

How to read and notate chord progressions?

Since we have already met with C major and A minor, we will stay with them for now. This includes 7 triads: C major (C), D minor (Dm), E minor (Em), F major (F), G major (G), A minor (Am), reduced B (Bdim). The letter m stands for minor. Dim is a reduced form consisting of two minor thirds. We do not get the usual B or Bm, because that would make D-sharp and F-sharp, but these notes are not in our key.

Most common & popular chord progressions (5)

Most common & popular chord progressions (6)

Most common & popular chord progressions (7)

Most common & popular chord progressions (8)

In the most common chord sequences, instead of Em, E is played. This substitution has already become familiar to our ears. It came from a scale called the harmonic minor. E is the fifth step, which gravitates towards the tonic more than others. Although in A minor there is no G-sharp note, it is closer to tonic chord than G, and therefore sounds more intense and creates a more beautiful, logical transition. This can also be taken into account when building your own chord progressions.

The most common chord progressions are Am, C, Dm, E, F, G. But what if the key doesn’t fit? For example, it is uncomfortable for a vocalist to sing in it. Let us take another one. Here is F sharp minor: F#m, A, Bm, C#, D, E. As we can see, the chord structure has changed a lot. But in fact, these are all the same minor and major triads that have the same fingering patterns on the piano keyboard or guitar fretboard. Therefore, for convenience, musicians designate chord progressions not with letters, but with numbers.

(Video) 6 common chord progressions and why they work

  • I is tonic chord (in our examples these are C, Am and F#m);
  • II – the second step, a triad, which is built from the second note of the scale (Dm, Bdim, G#dim);
  • III – third, find the chords yourself according to the same logic;
  • IV – subdominant, one of the main steps, it seems to run away from I, sets the movement;
  • V – dominant, most of all tends to come to I;
  • VI – in the most common chord progressions replaces the subdominant, similar in sound to it;
  • VII – and this one looks like a dominant, they have two notes in common.

The VII degree of the minor in the parallel major will become the V (dominant). This means that through it we can make modulation into a parallel key. Let’s say we were playing a dark chord progression, Am-F-Dm-E, but we wanted to change the mood to light. Just modify the last circle: Am-F-Dm-G. And after G, the joyful C-Am-F-G will already sound logical. This is probably the most common and understandable transition to a parallel mode.

Here we have already analyzed the two most common and well-known chord progressions. But before moving on to other examples, let’s make a few remarks.

  1. By steps, chords can be denoted not only by Roman numerals, but also by Arabic ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
  2. In order to understand right away, a minor triad must be set or a major one, the first ones are indicated in small letters (for example, vi), the second – in large letters (for example, VI).
  3. There is a designation through a slash sometimes: for example, Am / C. This does not mean that you can put either Am or C. It means that we hold Am and the bass note C. On the guitar with the little finger, on the piano with any finger of the left hand.

Most common & popular chord progressions (9)

Examples of the most common chord progressions

The skeleton of any harmonic chain consists of tonic, dominant and subdominant, that is, I, V and IV steps. This is the basis that can be supplemented and modified. One of the links can be replaced by II, III, VI or VII. These steps are called side steps. But in a musical context, they still perform a dominant or subdominant function, because they create a similar mood and gravity. Probably the most common and popular chord progression is built on the tonic, subdominant and dominant. There it is.

Most common & popular chord progressions (10)

I-V-vi-IV. It is used both in melodious lyrical songs and in driving punk action movies. We see that it is major: because the main steps in it are indicated by large numbers, they are major. The main movement here is diluted with the sixth step.

Most common & popular chord progressions (11)

I-V-vi-iii. This is also one of the most common chord progressions. It comes from classical music and is usually referred to as the Pachelbel canon. This combination is used in Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major”.

(Video) 5 popular chord progressions and why they work

Most common & popular chord progressions (12)

I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-I. Do not be afraid of a large number of numbers, in fact, there are only tonic, dominant and subdominant, which are repeated in the prescribed order. This is the most common chord progression for blues improvisation. It is called the 12-bar blues.

Most common & popular chord progressions (13)

I-vi-IV-V. This chain in the 1950s was fixed to another popular genre. It is called doo-wop. Sounds very fun and positive. In general, doo-wop songs are quite enjoyable. Now this direction is used only for retro styling. But the chord progression is also used in new styles.

Most common & popular chord progressions (14)

i-VI-iv-v. One of the most common minor movements. We see here the same steps as in the previous one. Therefore, in terms of the degree of tension and the relationship between the chords, they are similar. But the general mood is quite different. Try to describe it yourself. Here are some more popular combinations for self-analysis.

  • I-IV-V
  • I-V-VI-IV
  • ii-V-I
  • vi-IV-I-V
  • I-IV-vi-V

Rules for writing chord progressions

Perhaps the most common method of harmonization is playing the melody. Just play the chords that include the notes of the melody. What exactly does it include? The article answers this question. In short: tone. The notes of the melody enter the tone, and all triads from this tone will be appropriate. The most common chord progressions in music are used in this way.

The safest way to build harmony is to rely on the tonic. It is played either at the beginning of the bar or at the end. If the tonic chord does not appear for a long time, the brain begins to take another degree as a basis, and the tonality for hearing changes. By the way, trusting your ears is also important. Music is subjective, and only you determine the degree of beauty and harmony. If you think a chord progression sounds good, just use it and do not be afraid.

(Video) Axis of Awesome - 4 Four Chord Song (with song titles)

Do not know where to start? Listen to the moves that sound in popular songs, world hits and modern works. Look at the analysis, because you have learned to read the notation. Take the chain you like and add or modify it. You can also take the most popular chord progressions that we just reviewed.

So, you have learned what chords and chord progressions are. You understood what intervals major and minor moods lie behind and how to create them with the help of harmony. You learned how to read numerical and alphabetic chains, you saw some of the most common chord progressions. And most importantly, you learned how to build them yourself. It remains to put the knowledge into practice. Do not delay, get started right now.


What are the 4 chords used in most pop 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 is the catchiest chord progression? ›

I – V – vi – IV

I, IV, V, and vi are the most popular chords in pop music. Put them in any order, and you're sure to have a solid chord progression on your hands, with a bit of instant appeal. This progression, though, is iconic. It was used in American rock band Journey's biggest, timeless hit.

What is the famous 4 chord progression? ›

The I–V–vi–IV progression is a common chord progression popular across several genres of music. It involves the I, V, vi, and IV chords of any particular musical scale. For example, in the key of C major, this progression would be: C–G–Am–F.

What are the 4 magic chords? ›

If we call the chords in “Four Chord Song” by their numbers rather than their names, our chord progression of E, B, C# minor, and A becomes I-V-VI-IV. In fact, regardless of what key they are in, all of our four-chord songs share the progression I-V-VI-IV.

What key is most pop in? ›

Major or Minor scale? C major and G major, along with their relative minor counterparts A minor and E minor, are often considered the best key and scales for Pop music. You can use Major or Minor scales. However, if you want the song to have a happy or upbeat feeling, then the Major scale is best.

What are the 3 most useful chords called? ›

The I, IV, and V chords are the three most common and arguably the most important harmonic elements in the musical universe. Built off of the first, fourth, and fifth notes of any major or minor scale, these three chords form the basis for much of the music found in several genres.

Is it illegal to copy chord progressions? ›

Are chord progressions protected under copyright? In most cases the harmony and chord progressions of a song are not going to be protected under copyright. This is because many chord progressions have been used for well over 95 years and would be considered Public Domain if someone were able to copyright them.

What are the 3 chords in every song? ›

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. There are tens of thousands of songs written with I, IV and V chords.

Can you plagiarize chord progressions? ›

Many songwriters are not aware of this, but chord progressions, as such, are not protected by copyright, and can be used by other songwriters. This makes sense, because if you had to come up with a unique progression that the world had never heard before for each song you write, you'd be out of songs very quickly.

What was the devil's chord? ›

In music a tritone consists of two notes that are three whole steps apart, such as “C” to “F#.” Not found in either the major or minor scales, and due to its discordant sound, it has been called “the Devil's Chord.”

What is the hardest chord to learn? ›

The F chord is typically the first major test in a beginner's journey. Many give up after attempting to learn the F chord. This is because it is a bar chord. If you have never played a bar chord before, the F is going to take extra patience and resistance to frustration.

What chord did the Beatles use most often? ›

section 7). The harmonic language of the Beatles mainly uses the chords I, IV and V (in C major: C, F and G major) and the relative minors vi and ii (A minor and D minor).

What chords go together in each key? ›

Groups of Guitar Chords that Sound Good Together
  • Progression 1: G, C, D, Em (common in multiple genres of music)
  • Progression 2: F, C, G, Am (commonly used in country music)
  • Progression 3: D, C, G, F (rock progression often used in drop D)
  • Progression 4: E, A, B, C#m.
  • Progression 5: E, D, A.
  • Progression 6: Dm, F, C, G.
Jun 14, 2022

What are the 8 fundamental chords? ›

It is easiest to start by learning 8 common open chords. These are E, A, D, C, G, Em, Am and Dm.

What is 4 notes in A chord called? ›

A tetrad is a set of four notes in music theory. When these four notes form a tertian chord they are more specifically called a seventh chord, after the diatonic interval from the root of the chord to its fourth note (in root position close voicing).

What is the least used key in music? ›

A-sharp minor is likely the least used minor key in music as it is not generally considered a practical key for composition.

What key can most people sing? ›

If the song's range is an octave or less, C to C is a great rule of thumb. But the melody in many songs (like #1 and #2 above) exceeds an octave. To accommodate, I would suggest expanding to an octave and a fourth range of A to D as the sweet spot for congregational singing. Most songs will fit within this range.

Why are most songs in C? ›

Major scales are the most common scales used in music and C major is the only one without any flats or sharps (black keys). That makes it easiest, technically and visually for a beginner to learn this scale first, play music in the key of C or learn to read sheet music.

What is the 2nd most important chord? ›

The most important chord in the major key is the major chord, followed by the dominant chord, then the minor chord.

What is the money chord? ›

You don't often see a B7 in the key of G, and when you do, it usually leads to an E or Em. In this case, it leads to a C chord. Sure, it's been done before, but did they know that when they wrote the song? Chuck would have called the B7 the “money chord” in that song.

What 4 chords are in every song guitar? ›

The 'four chord song' has been around since Pachelbel's Canon around the turn of the 18th century. These four chords are the magic I, IV, V and vi.

Can you sue for chord progressions? ›

While distinct Voice Leading is copyrightable, Chord Progressions (like 12 Bar Blues, ii-V-I, C-G-Am-F) are standardly used in all genres of music and do not belong to any one individual. Rhythm - In most cases, the sequence of rhythms and "groove" of a song cannot typically be copyrighted.

Do chord progressions repeat? ›

In pop music, chord progressions tend to unfold over a single line of lyrics, and loop back to the top to repeat until the section changes. But in other styles, like jazz and classical, they may never loop and repeat.

Can two songs have the same melody? ›

Same chords, no problem. Same tune, you have a copyright violation unless it is a song in the public domain. One exception: If you write new words to any existing song, it's considered to be a parody, which is protected.

What is the most famous chord? ›

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.

What are the 3 blues chords? ›

Essentially, the blues is a specific progression that uses the C7, F7, and G7 chords. (For the sake of brevity, I'll only look at playing blues in the key of C). The blues chord progression lasts 12 bars (thus the phrase “12-bar blues”) that move in a familiar pattern using those three chords.

What song has easiest chords? ›

1. “I Wanna Be There” by Blessed Union of Souls. This song has just three simple and major chords: G, C, and D. These are probably the easiest chords to learn first on the guitar, and once you have them, you can already learn how to strum a song.

What is the saddest sounding chord? ›

Minor is the place to start if you want to convey sad emotions and this chord progression can be used to create a depressing feeling with the music. It's hard to sound happy when you just use minor and diminished chords.

Can a song have two chord progressions? ›

While there are maybe two dozen well-known songs that feature just a single chord, there are thousands of two-chord songs. As I mentioned in the one-chord post, one of the most important aspects in music is tension and release, and simply adding a second chord often gives you all the tension and release you need.

What is the most unpleasant chord? ›

The term dissonant here is used to describe the unpleasantness of the 7-chord and describing the 7-chord as the most dissonant chord in the major key means that the 7-chord is the most unpleasant chord in the major key.

What is the Jimmy chord? ›

The Hendrix chord is usually a 7#9 chord, and more specifically, an E7#9. The chord shape is colloquially called the Hendrix chord because guitarist Jimi Hendrix frequently used it in a number of his songs like “Purple Haze.” Let's take a look at this chord below.

Why is it called the Hendrix chord? ›

The 7#9 chord is an extended dominant 7th chord with an augmented (sharpened) ninth. This chord form got its nickname because it was a favorite of Hendrix, who did a great deal to popularize its use in mainstream rock music.

What is a stinger chord? ›

6A "stinger chord" is a sharply attacked, but not necessarily loud, chord used to. reinforce moments of surprise or revelation.

What is a cowboy chords? ›

These so-called cowboy chords are great for beginners, as most require only three fingers to play. In other words, a cowboy chord is an open chord. This means that you don't press down the other strings but allow them to ring open instead.

What is a broken chord called? ›

An arpeggio is a type of broken chord.

Are there any 1 chord songs? ›

Among pop songs that stick to the one chord, notable examples include Sonny and Cher's 'The Beat Goes On', Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Run Through the Jungle' and Harry Nilsson's two efforts on the Nilsson Schmilsson album, 'Coconut' and 'Jump into the Fire'.

What chords did Bob Dylan use? ›

In addition to those, Dylan has used a handful of open-chord tunings, among them open G (D G D G B D), used on “I Was Young When I Left Home,” and open D (D A D F# A D) or open E (E B E G# B E), which he used extensively on Blood on the Tracks.

What chord did George Harrison invent? ›

Harrison responded: “I'm really pleased that you noticed that. That's an E7th with an F on the top, played on the piano. I'm really proud of that because I literally invented that chord,” the guitarist said. “The song was about the frustration we all feel about trying to communicate certain things with just words.

What are some nice chord progressions? ›

Top Ten
  • vi-V-IV-V. Starting on a vi is pretty unusual, but here it sounds great against the V-IV-V combination. ...
  • IV-I6-ii. A 3 chord progression here, which starts on the IV and adds a 6th to the root, before closing on a ii. ...
  • 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.

What are the 3 minor chords? ›

The answer: the three major chords (I, IV, and V) are D, G, and A, while the three minor chords (ii, iii, and vi) are E minor, F# minor, and B minor.

What are 69 chords? ›

A 6/9 chord is a major chord with a 6 and a 9 added. The interval pattern is : root (1), major third (3)

Are all 5 chords power chords? ›

Power chords are often used in rock music, and are also known as fifth chords. They're called fifth chords because they're made from the root note and the fifth. They're beefy, often crunchy and are super simple to play because it takes only three notes to make these types of guitar chords.

How many hours does it take to master guitar? ›

More Arbitrary Ratings of Proficiency
LevelHours NeededDaily Practice Investment
Beginning625156 days
Intermediate125010 months
Advanced25001.8 years
Expert50003.5 years
5 more rows

Why is it called an A5 chord? ›

The A5 Chord is made up of only two notes – A and E.

In music theory, these are the first ( I ) and fifth ( V ) notes (or “scale degrees”) of almost every scale in the key of A. Every note has an assigned “value” to it in the scale that it belongs to. Depending upon the scale, some of those values can change.

What is a #11 chord? ›

In music theory, an eleventh chord is a chord that contains the tertian extension of the eleventh. Typically found in jazz, an eleventh chord also usually includes the seventh and ninth, and elements of the basic triad structure.

How many chords exist? ›

Remember there are 4017 possible chords before we ever even get into voicing! There's so much variety that sometimes it's good to forget about theory for a second and just experiment.

What are the 4 pop chords guitar? ›

These four chords are the magic I, IV, V and vi.

What are the 4 parts of A pop music formula? ›

Pop songs (generally) stay in one key, are in 4/4 time, last between three and five minutes, are organized into chunks of four or eight bars, have a repeating chorus played two to four times, include the title sung at least three times, and feature short melodic fragments that repeat a lot to help everyone to remember ...

Why do pop songs have 4 chords? ›

It's not at all uncommon for a rock, country, or pop song to have four main chords — or even fewer. Part of this is because it's pretty easy to remember four chords. And it keeps the song accessible to average people…

Is 4/4 time signature commonly used in pop songs? ›

Pop, rock, country music, and classical all use this specific signature. It might be difficult to believe that songs that vary so much in rhythm adhere to the same 4/4 time signature. The way that's possible is because 4/4 does not mean that there can only be four quarter notes to each measure.

What are some cool chord progressions? ›

Top Ten
  • vi-V-IV-V. Starting on a vi is pretty unusual, but here it sounds great against the V-IV-V combination. ...
  • IV-I6-ii. A 3 chord progression here, which starts on the IV and adds a 6th to the root, before closing on a ii. ...
  • 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.

What is the easiest pop song to play on guitar? ›

For those beginning guitar players who want to learn a variety of popular pop songs, here's a list of 10 of the easiest with Fender Play:
  • Lukas Graham: "7 Years” ...
  • Twenty One Pilots: "Ride” ...
  • MGMT "Kids” ...
  • John Legend: “All of Me” ...
  • The National: “I Need My Girl” ...
  • Wilson Pickett: "Land of a Thousand Dances” ...
  • Andra Day: "Rise Up”

What makes a hit song? ›

The songwriter writes a song that is catchy, compelling and commercial. That means the song is well crafted, it connects to a broad audience and it causes action on the part of the listener. It may make them cry, laugh, dance, tap their feet, or go purchase the song. In any case, it causes them to react.

What is a middle 8 in a song? ›

In music theory, "middle eight" (a common type of bridge) refers to a section of a song with a significantly different melody and lyrics, which helps the song develop itself in a natural way by creating a contrast to the previously played, usually placed after the second chorus in a song.

How many bars is one song? ›

Most pop songs are around 80 bars long and are divided into various sections, each of which is usually 8 or multiples of 8 bars long. These sections are generally labelled alphabetically or given names (like 'verse 1′) for convenience. Naming similar sections makes the structure easy to see.

Why is it called A V7 chord? ›

Because they're based on the fifth degree of a scale, dominant chords are indicated with the Roman numeral “V” or, in the case of a dominant seventh, with “V7.” For instance, in the key of G major, the dominant chord (or V chord) would be a D, which is a major chord built on the fifth scale degree of G.

How many chord progressions should A song have? ›

It can help create the melody or give context to how the melody makes us feel. You can have as many chords as you like or work with just two – a progression has to have at least two. But a song can work with even a single chord.

Why is it called A 5th chord? ›

Power chords are often used in rock music, and are also known as fifth chords. They're called fifth chords because they're made from the root note and the fifth. They're beefy, often crunchy and are super simple to play because it takes only three notes to make these types of guitar chords.

Why is 4 4 so popular? ›

As you know by now, 4/4 is by far the most popular time signature in the world. With four steady beats in each measure, it provides for a very stable rhythm. The top number in the time signature is easily divisible by two, which is what makes it feel "even." This is also true for time signatures like 2/4, 2/2, or 12/8.

Is a polka 4 4 time? ›

The polka holds strong in 2/4 time, while the march and the gavotte are known to be in cut time. The waltz, mazurka, minuet, and scherzo are all 3/4 time, but their characteristics are clearly different.

Are most songs written in 4 4? ›

The most common meter in music is 4/4. It's so popular that it is often referred to as “common time”. This meter is used in a variety of genres, however most frequently in rock, blues, country, funk, and pop music.


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