Learn Guitar Chord Progressions

what is a chord progression?

how the numbers reveal the chords in a progression

common chord progressions diagram


What is a chord progression?

If you visited the main website you already know that a chord progression is simply a sequence of chords, which is pleasing to the ear, and is repeated throughout a composition. Some progressions consist of only two chords, most have three or more. The song “Brown Eyed Girl” is a 3-chord progression (chords are G-C-D). It is referred to as a 1-4-5 progression, the most commonly used progression in popular rock and blues.

Progressions are numbered

Take the 1-4-5 progression for example. This is the same 3-chord progression that the L-shape reveals on the fretboard. Let’s see what those numbers mean.

Another way to find the chords

Since sharps and flats don’t follow any numerical sequence, the numbered names for chord progressions can’t tell us which notes are sharp or flat—not by themselves

Fortunately, there is an simple way we can get those numbers to reveal the chords for us. We just need to play the scale on our guitar, “and that will bring us back to doh”.

1-4-5 Progression: C-F-G (or -G7)

Here’s our old friend again. It truly deserves its place at the top of the list. No other chord progression can boast the enormous contribution to music, that this simple progression has made. Countless numbers of great song writers, musicians and bands have this humble triad to thank.

1-4-5 Progression: C-F-G-C

One of many variations on the 1-4-5 progression. This was used by Clapton in “Long Tall Sally” (in the key of A).

1-4-5-4 Progression: C-F-G-F

A nice variation on the 1-4-5 progression. This is used with great effect in the classic rock song “True Love”.

1-4-1-5 Progression: C-F-C-G (or -G7)

Another variation on the classic 1-4-5.

1-5-6m-4 Progression: C-G-Am-F

Paul used this for “Let It Be” (he plays it once, then changes the last two chords to F-C); U2 used it for “With or Without You” and Toto, for “Africa.

1-2m4-5 Progression: C-Dm-F-G (or -G7)

Used by the Troggs in “All My Love Is Around”. Very pleasing progression.

1-5-6m-4 Progression: C-Am-F-G (or -G7)

A personal favourite of mine. It’s a tried and true progression that I’m sure you’ve heard before. Used a lot in the 50’s and 60’s. The first time I heard it was in the instrumental “Sleepwalk” by Santo and Johnny (except they used an Fm instead of the F, which adds a nice sense of melancholy.) “Stand By Me” is a good example of this progression’s compelling sound.

1-2m-3-4-5 Progression: C-Dm-E-F-G

Pretty cool sound. Was used by Dylan in “Like a Rolling Stone”.

1-3m-4-5 Progression: C-Em-F-G

Widely used throughout rock history: “Fun, Fun, Fun” Beach Boys, “Hurdy Gurdy Man (Donovan); “I Started a Joke” ( Bee Gees); “Crocodile Rock” (Elton John); “Live and Let Die” (Paul McCartney, Wings).

My Chords System    Chord Charts    Progressions    Your 1st Guitar    Guitar Anatomy    Tuning Tips    Songs