7 Common Chord Progressions for Every Piano Player

piano chord progressions

Chord progressions offer a view of music from a whole new perspective. Once you know some common variants, you’ll be able to create your own music, learn and sight-read written music more quickly, and have a greater understanding of music in general.

First, what are piano chord progressions? Chord progressions are simply a sequence of chords. (A chord is two or more notes played together). Chord progressions exist to develop the music in a harmonically meaningful way. Often you can hear a “harmonic story” in each chord progression which includes a beginning, middle, and end.

In order to notate and analyze chords, musicians use a system of Roman numerals. In each major key, there are seven unique chords, built off the notes of the scale. Each chord in the scale can be major, minor, diminished, or augmented.

Here are the notations for each chord in a major scale: I (major), ii (minor), iii (minor), IV (major), V (major), vi (minor), and vii° (diminished). As you can see, a capital Roman numeral indicates “major,” and a lowercase Roman numeral indicates “minor.”

7 Piano Chord Progressions Everyone Should Know

The chord progressions on the following list can be used in any of the 12 major keys. For simplicity’s sake, each chord progression below is shown both in Roman numerals and in the key of C Major, as an example. (The last progression on the list is an exception, which is in minor).

In each genre of music, there are specific chord progressions that are commonly used and well loved. Below, you’ll learn seven of the most common piano chord progressions from jazz, gospel, blues, and more!

1. The 12-bar Blues Chord Progression

This chord progression is incredibly simple because it uses just three chords – I, IV, and V – but it has infinite possibilities for melodic improvisation. When played over 12 bars, this progression becomes a “12-bar blues.”

Note: A bar of music is a way of notating a set amount of time, or a certain number of beats, in the music. In the 12-bar blues, each bar would have four beats or counts, and each chord would last one bar. This makes 12 bars in total – one for each chord.

You can experiment with improvising on top of this chord progression using the blues scale. When this chord progression is used in a blues song, it’s repeated many times throughout the song. You’ll find the 12-bar blues in songs like Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” and Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”

Without further ado, check out the progression in C Major below. This chord progression, like all chord progressions, can be played in a variety of timings. Here, the chord progression (I-IV-I-V-I) is extended so it can last for 12 bars.

C – C – C – C – F – F – C – C – G – G – C – C

I – I – I – I – IV – IV – I – I – V – V – I – I

If you’d like, you can also practice this in other keys by transposing it. To do this, choose your key (say, G Major), and then use the sequence of Roman numerals above to create the same chord progression using the scale of G Major.

If you need more help or want to check your transposition, you can type in the chord names (i.e. C, G, F) here and they will be transposed to the key of your choice.

2. The “Cadential” Chord Progression

No piano chord progression list would be complete without this one, since it defies genre and is an essential ending progression. This is called a “cadential” chord progression in music theory, and it’s particularly common in classical, church, and gospel settings.

The ii-V-I chord progression is complete on its own, but it can also be made into the longer progression I-vi-ii-V-I. You can hear this progression in many jazz standards, including Miles Davis’ “Tune Up” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”

Here’s what this progression would look like in C Major:

Dmin – G – C

ii – V – I

3. The Songwriting & All-purpose Chord Progression

This progression will likely sound familiar to you, as it’s extremely popular and has a dramatic sound – thanks to the minor vi chord. The progression lends itself very well to songwriting.

It can actually be altered by starting on any of the chords in the progression and then continuing in the same order (for example, V-vi-IV-I). Changing it in this way creates different tonal sentiments, from melancholy to drama.

Songs using this progression are numerous, including the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Goin’ Down.”

Here it is in all four alterations:

C – G – Amin – F / G – Amin – F – C / Amin – F – C – G / F – C – G – Amin

I – V – vi – IV / V – vi – IV – I / vi – IV – I – V / IV – I – V – vi

4. The Classic 3-chord Progression

This is one of the most versatile piano chord progressions, yet also one of the simplest! It’s been widely used as the basis for many songs, especially in modern pop. It’s also a good one to practice improvisation, since the progression itself doesn’t take a lot of concentration.

You’ll recognize it in Richie Valen’s “La Bamba,” Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”

Here is the 3-chord progression in C Major, as an example:

C – F – G

I – IV – V

5. The Canon (AKA Pachelbel) Progression

This progression is named after Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, an idyllic work that has become very well known. It is a more extended version of the previous I-IV-V progression. Like the 12-bar blues, it can be repeated many times within a single song.

The Canon progression appears in many genres, particularly pop. You’ll hear it in Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” and Blues Traveler’s “Hook.”

The progression looks like this in C Major:

C – G – Amin – Emin – F – C – F – G

I – V – vi – iii – IV – I – IV – V

6. The 50s Progression

This progression is a throwback to the 50s, although it’s still in use today. It has several different catchy names that speak to its versatility including the “Heart and Soul” chords, the “doo wop progression,” and the “ice cream changes.”

You can hear it featured in songs like Ben E. King’s hit “Stand By Me,” Green Day’s “Jesus of Suburbia,” and Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up.”

This chord progression makes the rounds in many genres, including pop, classical, reggae, and doo-wop.

C – Amin – F – G

I – vi – IV – V

7. Andalusian Cadence

Now that you know a number of basic piano chord progressions in major, here’s one that has a bit more flair thanks to its roots in Flamenco music. This progression is in minor, and it also uses chords that are lowered by a half step (♭ VII and ♭ VI).

You’ll hear the Andalusian cadence in Ace of Base’s “Cruel Summer,” Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack,” and Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

The Andalusian cadence looks like this in C Minor:

Cmin – B♭– A ♭– G

i – ♭ VII – ♭ VI – V

Chord progressions are fundamental to playing the piano proficiently and understanding music on a deeper level. To learn more about chord progressions and the theory behind them, piano lessons are a great solution.

A teacher can help demystify music theory, and give you personalized exercises to train your ear and fingers. Try an online piano class, or take one-on-one piano lessons with a professional instructor near you to learn more.

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Top 50 Quotes from Musicians About Life, Love, Work & More

Quotes from musicians

Looking for some of the best quotes from musicians? Musicians have done much more than just give us great songs to enjoy. They have also provided some very wise and inspirational quotes to keep us going through life, work, and relationships.

Here are 50 quotes by musicians such as Beethoven, Madonna, and Ed Sheeran. From every era and genre, these musicians know just how to relate to us, in ways that few others can.

The Top 50 Quotes From Musicians

Quotes By Musicians About Life

Sometimes you just need to embrace life, accept your mistakes, and not take things too seriously. These inspiring quotes from musicians will remind you of that!

quotes from musicians

“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” John Lennon

quotes from musicians

“If everything was perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow.”  Beyoncé

quotes from musicians

“No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”  Taylor Swift

quotes from musicians

“You see, we are here, as far as I can tell, to help each other; our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our enemies. That is to help each other and not hurt each other.” Stevie Ray Vaughan

quotes from musicians

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” Frank Zappa

quotes from musicians

“Find someone who has a life that you want and figure out how they got it. Read books, pick your role models wisely. Find out what they did and do it.” Lana del Rey

quotes from musicians

“I’ve had great success being a total idiot.” – Jerry Lewis

quotes from musicians

“Do the things you believe in, in the name of love. And know that, you aren’t alone. We all have doubts and fear.” Carole King

quotes from musicians

“Imagination creates reality.” Richard Wagner

quotes from musicians

“Never stop fighting no matter what anyone says. If it’s in your gut, your soul, there’s nothing, no worldly possession that should come between you and your expression.” Kanye West

quotes from musicians

“Dare to wear the foolish clown face.” Frank Sinatra

quotes from musicians

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” BB King

quotes from musicians

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” John Cage

quotes from musicians

“Everything is scary if you look at it. So you just got to live it.” Mary J. Blige

Quotes By Musicians About Love

Is there a special someone in your life, but you don’t know how to tell them how you really feel? Leave it to these musical greats to help turn your feelings into words.

quotes from musicians

“Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.” Schubert

quotes from musicians

“Love is like nothing else on this earth, but only when it is shared with someone wonderful like you.” Mandy Moore

quotes from musicians

“I can live only wholly with you or not at all.” Beethoven

quotes from musicians

“Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”  Mozart

quotes from musicians

“What force is more potent than love?” Igor Stravinsky

quotes from musicians

“For suddenly, I saw you there

And through foggy London town

The sun was shining everywhere…” George Gershwin

quotes from musicians

“And, in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Paul McCartney

quotes from musicians

“‘Love’ is supreme and unconditional; ‘like’ is nice but limited.” – Duke Ellington

quotes from musicians

“Love is a special word, and I use it only when I mean it. You say the word too much and it becomes cheap.” Ray Charles

quotes from musicians

“I can do nothing but think of you…what have you done to me? Can’t you remove the spell you have cast over me?”  Johannes Brahms

Quotes from musicians

“I know of no better definition of love than the one given by Proust – Love is space and time measured by the heart.” Gian Carlo Menotti

quotes from musicians

“Love is like a faucet, it turns off and on.” Billie Holiday

Quotes by Musicians About Work

Need a pep talk? Whatever you’re going through at work, these quotes by musicians will give you the confidence to go for what you really want.

quotes from musicians

“One thing I’ve learned is that I’m not the owner of my talent; I’m the manager of it.”  Madonna

quotes from musicians

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”  Ella Fitzgerald

quotes from musicians

“You can’t knock on opportunity’s door and not be ready.” Bruno Mars

quotes from musicians

“You build on failure. Use it as a stepping stone and close the door on the past. Don’t try to forget the mistakes, but don’t dwell on it.” Johnny Cash

quotes from musicians

“The roughest roads often lead to the top.”  Christina Aguilera

quotes from musicians

“You can’t give up something you really believe in for financial reasons.”  Robert Plant

quotes from musicians

“To some extent I happily don’t know what I’m doing. I feel that it’s an artist’s responsibility to trust that.”  David Byrne

quotes from musicians

“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.” J. S. Bach

quotes from musicians

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” Leonard Bernstein

quotes from musicians

“Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing. If you’re not going to be confident, you might as well not be doing it.”  Aretha Franklin

quotes from musicians

“So put your heart and soul into it and give it everything you’ve got, and more power to you.”  Vinnie Paul

quotes from musicians

“If you do something you hate and have success, you’ll still hate it, if you do something you hate and fail, all the worse, if you do something you love and fail, at least you did something you loved, if you do something you love and succeed, double win.” Moby

quotes from musicians

“Make mistakes, make mistakes, make mistakes. Just make sure they’re your mistakes.” Fiona Apple

quotes from musicians

“It’s like if you want something so badly go out there and grab, just keep on doing it.” Ed Sheeran

Quotes By Musicians About Ourselves

Need some words of encouragement? These inspirational quotes will help you shine just the way you are, and discover what makes you truly unique!

Quotes from musicians

“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.”  Prince

Quotes from musicians

“Increase your confidence in your self-worth and in your ability to contribute good things to the world.”  Lindsey Stirling

quotes from musicians

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” Kurt Cobain

quotes from musicians

“Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I didn’t have to become perfect because I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness.”  Janelle Monae

quotes from musicians

“You don’t have to believe everything you think.” Erykah Badu  

quotes from musicians

“Where’s your will to be weird?”  Jim Morrison

quotes from musicians

“There’s always that argument to make – that you’re in better company historically if people don’t understand what you’re doing.”  Elliott Smith

quotes from musicians

“Trying to please everybody is impossible—if you did that, you’d end up in the middle with nobody liking you. You’ve just got to make the decision about what you think is your best, and do it.” John Lennon

quotes from musicians

“Until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.” Cher

quotes from musicians

“I’m one of those regular weird people.”  Janis Joplin

Each of these quotes from musicians made our top 50 list for various reasons. Some are famous and others are unexpected, but they all have something in common. They’re there to motivate you and help you view things the way only a true artist can!

Feeling inspired to hone your craft? Consider music lessons with an experienced teacher, or the free online classes at TakeLessons Live.

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Banjo vs Guitar: The Difference, Difficulty, & How to Decide

guitar vs banjo

The battle between the banjo vs guitar is a tough one, especially when you’re new to music and trying to decide which instrument is right for you. In order to make the right choice, consider the following factors, and check out the poll below to see what other readers think is the best instrument to play!

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Banjo vs Guitar: Key Things to Consider

Musical Style & Preferences

banjo vs guitar

It’s important to think about what style of music you want to learn. Keep in mind that all music instruction starts off with similar, basic concepts. So either instrument will suit the purposes of teaching you the skills you need to get started as a musician.

It’s not until you progress a bit that you start to understand the intricacies of a particular musical style. And it is a common misconception that the banjo is an instrument solely used for bluegrass. Both the banjo and guitar have been used in a wide variety of genres, including blues, jazz, folk, country, and even pop.

Both instruments lend an interesting sound to any genre of music. Even a few classical composers saw fit to use the banjo when it was introduced to them in the late 1800s. So, round one in the battle between the banjo vs guitar, does not go to either instrument. They both are very versatile and can facilitate many different styles of playing.

Difficulty of the Guitar vs Banjo

guitar vs banjo

Depending on your size, the banjo might be easier to play because the neck is smaller and there are less strings. Some banjos tend to be a bit heavy for certain people though, especially children.

What about the ease of pressing down on the strings? Well, this can be easily adjusted depending on the gauge of strings you use on either instrument. Thinner strings will be easier on the fingers, no matter what instrument you choose.

The tuning you decide to learn will affect your ease of playing. The banjo is tuned to an open tuning, called “Open G tuning.” The guitar is typically tuned to “Standard” which are the notes E, A, D, G, B, E, and this does not create an open chord like the banjo tuning does.

This means that whenever you pick up a banjo and strum across the strings, it immediately makes a pleasant sound because the strings are already tuned to one of the chords you will learn to play.

So in this round of the banjo vs guitar debate, it appears that the banjo has a leg up on the competition. However, it is important to understand that certain guitar styles, such as the dobro that we often see in bluegrass music, will also be tuned to an Open G tuning, thereby taking away any advantage that the banjo has over the guitar.

Learning & Playing Chords

guitar vs banjo

When you’re learning to play in open tunings on the banjo, you will learn simple two and three finger chords that make up the basic chords you need to play bluegrass music. For example, the first few chords you’ll learn in Open G tuning on the banjo will likely be G, C, and D.

People often ask if learning chords is more difficult on the guitar because there are more strings. This is certainly the case when you’re playing in standard tuning. However, the chord shapes on both the banjo and the guitar all fall into five basic categories.

Once you have learned the five basic chords (C, A, G, E, and D) you have the ability to play any of the chords that you will need to learn for either instrument.

How to Decide

Ultimately, the final decision comes down to which instrument makes you the happiest. Which do you enjoy playing the most? Whatever you decide, you will find that the same skills you learn on the guitar allow you to easily take up the banjo later on, or vice versa.

The best way to end the debate between the guitar vs banjo is to actually try a few private lessons. At TakeLessons, there are a variety of experienced teachers who play both the guitar and banjo, if you need some professional guidance making your final decision.

Regardless of which instrument you choose, when you start your musical journey on the banjo or guitar, it will be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make! Good luck, and let us know which instrument you decided on in the comments below.

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches banjo and guitar lessons in Winston Salem, NC. Willy has been teaching for over 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

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10 Cool Ukulele Riffs Anyone Can Learn to Play [+ Tabs]

Cool Ukulele Riffs

Every ukulele player should have a few cool ukulele riffs in their back pocket. In this article, you’ll learn 10 of the best riffs to impress your friends and add some variety to your repertoire.

When you first start playing the ukulele, you’ll most likely learn the four basic chords – C, G, Am, and F. Once you have a handle on these four chords, you’ll be able to play tons of songs. But after you get comfortable playing songs, you’ll want to spice up your repertoire.

One easy way to do that is to include ukulele riffs in your playing. A ukulele riff is a series of notes played within a song that creates a catchy melody. A riff can be played as a pattern of single string notes, or as a series of chords. Often the riff is repeated several times throughout the song and is easily recognizable.

10 Cool Ukulele Riffs to Learn Today

Eventually, you’ll be able to pick out riffs by ear, but when you’re just getting started it helps to have the notes tabbed out for you. Ukulele tabs are an easy way to learn the notes of a melody, even if you can’t read music.

Keep in mind that tabs don’t usually include the timing for how long to play each note. (It will help if you’ve heard these riffs at some point in your life, so you’ll know the rhythm).

Tabs also won’t tell you what fingers to use to play each note. As you advance in your skills, you’ll be able to choose an effective fingering quickly. So without further ado, here are 10 cool ukulele riffs with tabs below.

1. “Shave and a Haircut”

This quick riff was made popular by the late 80s, semi-animated movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

cool ukulele riffs

2. “Weak” by SWV

This fun riff is repeated over and over throughout the song. Like many ukulele riffs, this one has been transposed to a key that fits the ukulele, while still maintaining the integrity of the melody line.

cool ukulele riffs

3. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones

This opening riff is played by the guitar on the original recording. Because of the tuning of the ukulele, the tab below is written so that the melody is played higher than the original key.

cool ukulele riffs

4. “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley

This song simply requires a knowledge of the four essential ukulele chords (C, G, Am, and F). The turn around riff follows the chords.

cool ukulele riffs

5. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

One of the most popular, cool ukulele riffs is the opening of “Eye of the Tiger.” It’s a sure way to turn your ordinary ukulele into a rock and roll machine. Below are two different versions of the opening riff.

cool ukulele riffs


cool ukulele riffs

6. “Charlie Brown” Theme Song

A classic riff that has been played on piano, guitar, and now the ukulele. All the notes are on the one string (above the 5th fret) which makes this an easy riff you can learn to play today.

cool ukulele riffs

7. “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens

This opening riff is the longest riff on this list. It’s also a bit more challenging than all the rest because of the frequent changing of strings within the melody. It’s a fun challenge for beginning ukulele players that will help with finger coordination and speed!

cool ukulele riffs

8. “Friends” Theme Music

If you’re a Friends enthusiast, this is the ukulele riff you’ve been waiting for. Within the popular TV series, there are reprises of the original theme music that are used to help transition between scenes. This is one of those transitions that is used often.

cool ukulele riffs

9. “Simpsons” Theme Song

There are two tabbed versions of this popular riff below. The first is in the original key. Because of note limitations on the ukulele, the last four notes of the riff have to go up instead of down.

cool ukulele riffs

The second version is a transposed version of the riff. It has the same intervals as the original melody where the last four notes go down. Like most music, it is up to the individual artist to decide which version they prefer best.

cool ukulele riffs

10. “Beverly Hills Cop” Theme Song

This catchy ukulele riff has a great rhythm and you can learn to play it in a day. Plus, most of your friends have heard this riff, and even hummed it a time (or 10).

cool ukulele riffs

We hope you enjoyed this list of cool ukulele riffs to wow your friends and family. Be sure to check out Takelessons Live to learn more ukulele skills. You can also work with a local ukulele teacher to improve your technique.

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