Learn useful chord progressions

guitar chords in sequenceA chord progression is a sequence of chords. Three, four, five or so chords following after each other are forming a progression. It is easy in theory, but the delicate aspect is to find great, and perhaps original, combinations.

Below is lots of chord progressions presented, starting with fundamental and easy progressions that include few chords. It continues with progressions including more chords (there aren't any diagrams here, but the notes can be clicked on if you need to look them up).

Progressions with 3 chords

Here are some common progressions using only three chords:

DGA

G – C – D

A – D – E

In every sequence so far we have only used major chord. Now, let’s add some minor chords.

Progressions with 4 chords (including minor chords)

Here are some common progressions using four chords:

Em – C – D – G

Am – E – F – C

C – Dm – G – Am

F – Gm – Bb – C

Now, after you have seen some examples you probably getting your owns ideas for progressions.

Longer progressions

Here are some examples with longer sequences:

G – D – C – G – C – D – G

G – Bm – Em – C – G – D – Am – C – G

D – A – BmF#m – G – A – D

Notice that all progressions starts and ends with the same chord. This is not a must, but in most cases is sounds best then the sequence uses a tonal center. Another "trick" that is used in the three exemples above is to use the V chord (see degrees) before the last, because it resolves perfectly into the I chord.

Chord progressions as outro

When ending a song, the standard way is to return to the root of the key. There are some common progressions for this, among some fall into the category that is called cadence.

F – G – C

C – D – G

Ab – Bb – C

Progressions including chords with altered bass note

Including chords with an alternate bass note can enrich your sound. See inverted chords and slash chords for diagrams.

Dm – Dm/C – G/B

G – G/F# – Em – Em/D

Chord progressions for blues

A common progression you can use to get a blues feeling is…

E7 – A7 – E7 – B7 – A7 – E7

Hopefully you get some bluesy sound; otherwise, try to strum four times at each chord and give extra accent to the first and third beat. As you can see, we are using so-called dominant chords here. Try the same chord sequence without a seventh note, and you will lose the blues sound.


A bonus chord progression comes here with some minor blues:

Em – A7 – Em – B7 – A7 – Em

Almost like the one before but still a complete different thing.

Progression for jazz

Let’s get a little more sophisticated with these next sequences.

Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7

To really get the jazzy sound from your guitar you are advice to learn jazz chord. Let’s take another sequence, based on the same intervals:

Bm7 – E7 – Amaj7

Progressions for rock style

To get a rock sound you only need three barre chords:

Eb – Bb – Ab

Notice here you need to use barre chords to bring the “fat” rock sound to it. Begin with Eb using an A shape and use an E shape for Bb and Ab.

Progression for ballads

A chain of chord that could serve in a ballad …

Gmaj7 – Em7 – Am7 – D7

Cmaj7 – Cadd9 – Aadd9 – Dm7 – G7

Even more color could be added by substituting Em7 with Em13 and Am7 with Am11.

Progressions for flamenco

A typical chord sequence in Spanish and flamenco music:

Am – G – F – E

Progressions from famous songs

Parts of progressions that occurs in songs:

D – A – G – D (“Bad Moon Rising” by J. Fogerty)

G – D – Am7 – G – D – C (”Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by B. Dylan)

A – D – E – D – A (“Wild Thing” by The Troggs)    

Am – F – C – G (“The Passenger” by Iggy Pop)

Em – G – D – C (“The River” by B. Springsteen)

Miscellaneous chord progressions

Other progressions:

F – Fm – G – C – E

Bm – Em – A – D – G – C

D – Dmaj7 – G – Gmaj7

D – D/B – A – F#m – Em7 – A7 – D

F – C – A – Dm – Bb – C – F

Degrees – an essential shortcut for all songwriters

To make the process of organizing chord progressions for you a great way is to familiarize yourself with the term degrees. Instead of writing like G – D – C or D – A – G we can write I V IV. You may be puzzled with this, but the degrees are telling us the relationship of the chord according to the key (see the key and chord chart).

The notes that belong to the key of G are G, A, B, C, D, E and F. Therefore, G is number one (I), and D number five (V), and C number four (IV).

Let us now look at the key of D, the notes here are D, E, F#, G, A, B and C#. Therefore, D is number one (I), and A number five (V), and G number four (IV).

With this knowledge you can use the chord progression I – V – IV in all keys and from now on you will understand that are referred to the next time you see progressions written in Roman numerals. Note that minor chords are written by small letters like in the chord progression vi – I – V – IV.

Read also about chord progressions in various keys and the article about chords that sound good together.

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