Chord Sequences and Progressions

Chord Progression Lesson


In this lesson you are going to learn about some common chord progressions used in popular music styles.


What is a Chord Progression? A chord progression is a series of chords played in a sequence which repeats throughout a song. Chord progressions often last for four bars before repeating. In classical music these chords are usually notated in sheet music using roman numerals. In popular and jazz music, chords are notated by letter names. In this lesson we are going to look at both the roman numerals and the letter names of the chords progressions.



I-V-vi-IV: This exercise is in the key of C Major and the roman numerals in the title refer to the sequence of chords. First, let’s look at the chord in each bar:

  • Bar 1: I (one) or C. This is a chord of C Major played as a triad. Because the key of the exercise is C Major and C is the first note of the scale, this is chord is called chord I (one).
  • Bar 2: V (five) or G. This is a chord of G Major played as a triad. Because the key of the exercise is C Major and G is the fifth note of the scale, this is chord is called chord V (five).
  • Bar 3: vi (six) or Am. This is a chord of A minor played as a triad. Because the key of the exercise is C Major and A is the sixth note of the scale, this is chord is called chord vi (six). Minor chords are always written with a ‘m’ after the letter name to show it is a minor chord.
  • Bar 4: IV (four) or F. This is a chord of F Major played as a triad. Because the key of the exercise is C Major and F is the fourth note of the scale, this is chord is called chord IV (four). 

The style of this exercise is a ballad or slow romantic song. The left hand harmony pattern helps the piece flow so the melody can sing out over the top. Your job is to complete the right hand melody after the first eight bars .


Songs that use this chord progression: Let it be by the Beatles, Love Story by Taylor Swift, Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.
Here is Love Story by Taylor Swift: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xg3vE8Ie_E

I-V-vi-IV.pdf

I-IV-V: For the next chord progression exercise you are going to play in a reggae style. After you have played the two quavers on beat 2 of the left hand, replace your fingers on the chord on beat three to damp rhythmically.

The accompaniment imitates a guitar strumming rhythmically. 

Like in the last exercise, your job is to complete the right hand melody after the first eight bars.


Songs that use this chord progression: Stir it Up by Bob Marley, Amazing GraceAfrica by Toto, Despacito by Luis Fonsi.
Here is Stir It Up by Bob Marley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3UqvWk8-uw

I-IV-V.pdf
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I-vi-IV-V: You are really getting to know the common chords in C major now!

In this last exercise, you are playing in a modern pop and RnB style with a syncopated rhythm in the left hand harmony part. This is written as eight bars of ‘verse’ and then an eight bar ‘chorus’. Your job is to complete the second half or the verse and then complete the second part of the chorus.


Songs that use this chord progression: Stand by Me by Ben E. King, Beautiful Girls by Sean Kingston, My Girl by The Temptations, Baby by Justin Bieber.
Here is Stand by Me by Ben E. King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwZNL7QVJjE

I-vi-IV-V.pdf

Grade 3 exam pieces which prominently feature Chord Progressions

Lever harp:

Silent Night arranged by Amanda Whiting (Trinity)

A Harmonic Waltz by Whiting & Robertson (Trinity)

Interrupted Blues by Whiting & Robertson (Trinity)

Chaconne by Clarke arr. Powell (ABRSM)


Pedal harp:

Silent Night arranged by Amanda Whiting (Trinity)

A Harmonic Waltz by Whiting & Robertson (Trinity)

Interrupted Blues by Whiting & Robertson (Trinity)

Chaconne by Clarke arr. Powell (ABRSM)