guitar chord progressions

5 Popular Guitar Chord Progressions You’ll Instantly Recognize

guitar chord progressions

What’s the fastest way to learn songs on the guitar? Learn the guitar chord progressions involved! Below, Greeley, CO teacher Andy W. shares a quick refresher lesson and what you’ll need to know to play songs by Lorde, Pearl Jam, the Beatles, and more!

 

For this lesson, you’ll learn the specific chords used in one song for each progression.  To play other songs that use the same progression only in other keys, it’ll be important that you have a basic understanding of how Roman numerals can be used to label chords.

So, if you’re not familiar with using Roman numerals, here’s a quick run-through:

The most basic way to make chords is to play the notes in a scale alternating every other note.  One of the most basic chords is a triad.  A triad has three notes.  So, if you make one chord built from each note in the C Major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B), these are the chords you end up with:

  • C major (C, E, G)
  • D minor (D, F, A)
  • E minor (E, G, B)
  • F major (F, A, C)
  • G major (G, B, D)
  • A minor (A, C, E)
  • B diminished (B, D, F)

Triads built from the 1st, 4th, and 5th scale degrees are major chords. Triads built from the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th scale degrees are minor chords. A triad built from the 7th scale degree is a diminished chord.

Now, if you use Roman numerals to label each chord that we just made from the C Major scale, you see this:

I (Cmaj), ii (Dmin), iii (Emin), IV (FMaj), V (G), vi (Amin), vii° (Bdim)

Notice that upper-case Roman numerals are used for major chords, while lower-case Roman numerals are used for minor and diminished chords.

Next, it’s time to play! Below are five popular guitar chord progressions in pop music. When you play the other songs in other keys, just think about the progressions in terms of Roman numerals to understand the relationship between them.

1. D-C-G: Royals – Lorde
This same chord progression is also used in these songs, only in a different key:
More Than a Feeling – Boston; You Got It – Roy Orbison

2. G, C, G, D: Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morisson
This same chord progression is also used in these songs, only in a different key:
Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond; Ballad of John and Yoko – The Beatles

3. E-C#min-A-B: No Surprises – Radiohead
This same chord progression is also used in these songs, only in a different key:
Every Breath You Take – The Police; Happiness is a Warm Gun – The Beatles; Duke of Earl – Gene Chandler; Last Kiss: Pearl Jam

4. G-A-C-G: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Club Hearts Band – The Beatles
This same chord progression is also used in these songs, only in a different key:
The Boys Are Back In Town – Thin Lizzy; Ride Captain Ride – The Blues Image; All Around the World – Oasis

5. C-G-Amin-F: Let It Be – The Beatles
This same chord progression is also used in these songs, only in a different key:
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey; You’re Beautiful – James Blunt; Land Down Under – Men at Work; Soul To Squeeze – Red Hot Chili Peppers; Man In the Mirror – Michael Jackson

After learning these five extremely popular guitar chord progressions, I hope you can play more of your favorite songs and also have a starting place for writing your own!

AndyWAndy W. teaches guitar, singing, piano, and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!

 

 

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Photo by Andrew Gustar 

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