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What is the Most Common Chord Progression in the World? with Shawn Persinger


The Ubiquitous I V vi IV Chord Progression.    


I am quite aware that this topic has been covered several times in other on-line music blogs and lessons; The Axis of Awesome has gone as far as to write an entire comedy/music bit performing many of the songs listed below (in keeping with their group’s name, it is “awesome”) but I do believe I have room to chime in on the subject.


Some Salient Points


For the most part very few of these songs actually play this progression ad nauseum. As fabulous as The Axis of Awesome’s “4 Chord Song” is they neglect to point out that, for instance, “Don’t Stop Believing” full verse progression is actually:


I            V            iv            VI     then          I             V             iii                 IV

E           B           C#m        A                        E            B            G#m            A


Need I point out that’s five chords? And then the chorus is something completely different.


A few fantastic exceptions to this rule are The Police’s “So Lonely” (they do change keys but they keep the chord progression the same), U2’s “With or Without You” and Jack Johnson’s “Taylor” though “Taylor” also strays from the progression in the instrumental intro, coda and outro (same as intro).


The Axis of Awesome also play their song in the same key throughout, though the original versions of the songs they sing are actually in different keys. (I’m not knocking The Axis ofAwesome; I think their great. I’m just pointing out the not so obvious).


What does the Roman numeral mean? The major scale is made up of seven different notes. For instance the key of C = C D E F G A B C. Key of G = G A B C D E F# G.


Those are the pitches in those keys but you can turn those single notes into chords by stacking every other note (up to three notes) on top of each other: C = C E G, G = G B D, etc.


The Major Scale Chord pattern is the same for all keys. The pitch names change from key to key but the quality (Major, minor or diminished) of the chord remains the same. Here is the pattern:


I            ii            iii            IV            V         vi            vii

Major   Minor    Minor      Major     Major   Minor        Diminished


Key of C chords = C Major, D minor, E minor, F Major, G Major, Am, B diminished


Key of G chords = G Major, A minor, B minor, C Major, D Major, Em, F# diminished


Below is an incomplete list of I V vi IV songs. I’ve made note of the song title, artist, key and how much of the song actually maintains the progression. There are also a few “minor” versions of this chord progression all that means is the song starts on the minor “vi” chord instead of the “I” for instance “Save Tonight” is:


vi             IV            I             V

Am            F            C            G


Do I need to tell you all you need do now is search Youtube and starting playing along?

(Note: As you can see I stopped listing the keys, etc. after 40 songs…isn’t that enough?)


I            V            vi            IV            CHORD PROGRESSIONS




I            V            vi            IV


C            G            Am            F

G            D            Em            C

D            A            Bm            G

A            E            F#m            D

E            B            C#m            A


  1. So Lonely: The Police                              Keys of C & D               Entire Song
  2. With or Without You: U2                         Key of D                        Entire Song
  3. Taylor: Jack Johnson                               Key of C                        Entire Song (Except Intro and Coda)
  4. Soundtrack to My Life: Kid Cudi              Key of C                        Entire Song
  5. Under the Bridge: R.H.C.P.                      Key of E                        Verse
  6. Beast of Burden: The Rolling Stones        Key of E                        Verse
  7. Damn It: Blink 182                                  Key of C                         Verse & Chorus
  8. Hey Soul Sister: Train                              Key of E                        Verse
  9. Down Under: Men at Work                       Key of D                        Chorus (Partial)
  10. Let It Be: The Beatles                               Key of C                        Partial Verse
  11. What’s My Age Again: Blink 182              Key of F#                        Partial Verse & Chorus
  12. As Is: Ani DiFranco                                  Key of Bb                       Verse
  13. Out of Habit: Ani DiFranco                      Key of E                          Partial Verse
  14. Glycerine: Bush                                       Key of F                        Verse
  15. When I Come Around: Green Day            Key of G                        Verse
  16. My Name is Jonas: Weezer                      Key of C ¾                   Partial Verse
  17. No Woman, No Cry: Bob Marley              Key of C                        Verse & Partial Chorus
  18. How Far We’ve Come: Matchbox 20        Key of C                        Entire, Chorus Am
  19. Don’t Stop Believing: Journey                  Key of E                        Partial Verse
  20. Run: Snow Patrol                                     Key of C                        Chorus
  21. Head Over Feet: Alalanis Morissette        Key of C                        Verse
  22. Today: Smashing Pumpkins                    Key of E                        Partial Verse
  23. Jessie’s Girl: Rick Springfield                   Key of D                        Partial Verse
  24. Effortlessly: Sister Hazel                         Key of G                        Verse & Chorus
  25. Move Along: All American Rejects           Key of Eb                        Intro
  26. Save Tonight: Eagle Eye Cherry               Key of Am                        Entire Song
  27. The Passenger: Iggy Pop                         Key of Am                        99% (Has an E in it)
  28. Grenade: Bruno Mars                              Key of Dm                        Chorus
  29. Peace of Mind: Boston                             Key of C#m                        Intro & Outro Melody
  30. I Want You to Want Me                             Key of A                          Chorus
  31. No One Else: Weezer                               Key of E                             Chorus
  32. Heat of the Moment: Asia                        Key of Db                        Twisted version.
  33. One Last Breath: Creed                              Key of D                        Verse
  34. Self Esteem: The Offspring                      Key of Am                         Verse & Chorus 75%
  35. Country Roads: John Denver                   Key of A                           First part of Chorus
  36. Black Label Society: In This River         Key of Ebm                        Verse
  37. Michelle Branch: All You Wanted         Key of Fm                           Chorus
  38. One Republic: Apologize                        Key of C#m                        Entire Song
  39. Avril Lavigne: Complicated                    Key of Dm                        Chorus
  40. Zzzzz: The Cab                                        Key of D                           Entire (except Pre-Chorus)
  41. Beautiful: James Blunt
  42. You and Your Hand: Pink
  43. Poker Face: Lady Gaga
  44. If I Were a Boy: Beyonce
  45. Forever Young: Alphaville
  46. Jason Mraz: I’m Yours
  47. Amazing: Alex Lloyd
  48. Happy Ending: Mika
  49. Can You Feel the Love Tonight: Elton John
  50. Wherever You Will Go: The Calling
  51. She Will Be Loved: Maroon 5
  52. Pictures of You: The Last Goodnight
  53. Fall at Your Feet: Crowded House
  54. Not Pretty Enough: Kasey Chambers
  55. The Horses: Daryl Braithwaite
  56. Sex and Candy: Marcy Playground
  57. Take on Me: A Ha
  58. Africa: Toto
  59. You’re Gonna Go Far Kid: The Offspring
  60. You Found Me: The Fray
  61. Tom: Natalie Imbruglia
  62. Superman: Five for Fighting

Shawn Persinger, a.k.a. Prester John, is a self-proclaimed “Modern/Primitive” guitarist who owns Taylor 410s and 310s. His latest sister CDs, Rise O’ Fainthearted Girls and Desire for a Straight Line (one instrumental, one vocal), with mandolinist David Miller, showcases a myriad of delightful musical paradoxes: complex but catchy; virtuosic yet affable; smart and whimsical.

Thank you for reading.