Apr 4, 2024

3 Easy Chord Progressions to Start Music Making (Explained)

3 Easy Chord Progressions to Start Music Making (Explained)

If you're a beginner looking to start creating your own songs on the piano and guitar or using music-making software (often referred to as Digital Audio Workstations), learning a few simple chord progressions is one of the best ways to kickstart your music-making journey.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover the essentials of chord theory, from basic chord-building concepts to 3 beginner chord progressions you can start playing today.

So, let's cut off talking and explore some easy chord progressions for songwriting!

What is a chord progression?

A chord progression is a sequence of chords played in a specific order, forming the harmonic foundation of a piece of music.

Chord progressions establish the mood and provide an emotional roadmap for the listener, guiding them through the song's narrative.

Why are chord progressions important?

Understanding chord progressions is crucial for anyone interested in songwriting or music production.

By familiarizing yourself with common chord progressions, you'll be able to:

- Write more compelling and engaging songs.

- Understand the structure of your favorite pieces.

- Communicate more effectively with other musicians.

How to build major and minor chords

Before diving into specific progressions, let's review how to construct major and minor chords, the building blocks of most chord progressions.

To build a major chord, you'll need the root note, the major 3rd, and the perfect 5th of the scale.

For example, a C major chord contains a C chord (root), E (major 3rd), and G (perfect 5th).

For a minor chord, you'll use the root note, the minor 3rd, and the perfect 5th.

A C minor chord consists of C (root), Eb (minor 3rd), and G (perfect 5th).

Using the number system to describe progressions

When discussing chord progressions, musicians often use Roman numerals to represent chords based on their scale degree.

Uppercase numerals (I, IV, V) represent major chords, while lowercase numerals (ii, iii, vi) represent minor chords.

For example, the progression I-V-vi-IV in the key of C would translate to C (I), G (V), Am (vi), and F (IV).

Progression 1: I-V-vi-IV

One of the most popular chord progressions for beginners and professionals alike is I-V-vi-IV.

This versatile progression works well across various genres, from pop and rock to folk and country.

In the key of C major, the chords would be:

C (I) - G (V) - Am (vi) - F (IV)

Note that while the chord progression is written in the key of C major, it has a diatonic Am chord in the middle.

Songs that famously use this progression include:

  • "Let It Be" by The Beatles
  • "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey
  • "With or Without You" by U2

Tips for using the I-V-vi-IV progression

- If you're a guitarist, try different strumming patterns and fingerpicking styles.

- Playing the progression in various keys to find the best fit for your voice.

- Use this progression as a starting point for writing original melodies and lyrics.

Progression 2: I-IV-V

Another essential chord progression for beginners is I-IV-V, a mainstay in genres like blues, rock 'n' roll, and country.

In the key of C major, you would play:

C (I) - F (IV) - G (V)

This simple yet effective progression creates a strong sense of resolution, making it perfect for choruses or entire songs. Examples of songs using I-IV-V include:

  • "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens
  • "Twist and Shout" by The Beatles
  • "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry

Tips for using the I-IV-V progression

- Practice the progression in different keys and tempos.

- Experiment with seventh chords (e.g., C7, F7, G7) for a bluesy feel.

- Try adding embellishments like hammer-ons, pull-offs, or slides.

Progression 3: vi-IV-I-V

The vi-IV-I-V progression, sometimes called the "pop progression" or "sensitive female chord progression," has been used in countless hit songs across various genres.

In the key of C major, the chords are:

Am (vi) - F (IV) - C (I) - G (V)

This emotionally evocative chord progression lends itself well to ballads and introspective pieces. Songs showcasing vi-IV-I-V include:

  • "Someone Like You" by Adele
  • "Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga
  • "Brick" by Ben Folds Five

Tips for using the vi-IV-I-V progression

- Experiment with different voicings and inversions of the chords.

- Try adding suspensions (e.g., Fsus4) for extra emotional tension.

- Use this progression in the verse or chorus of your song.

Putting it all together

Now that you've learned these three easy chord progressions, it's time for some chord progressions practice.

Remember, even simple progressions can be powerful songwriting tools when used creatively.

As you practice these progressions, challenge yourself to:

  • Adapt the progressions to different genres and styles.
  • Write original melodies and lyrics over the chord changes.
  • Combine progressions by adding passing chords to create more complex song structures.
  • Once you can easily play these pop chord progressions, learn how to build extended, diminished, and suspended chords to add more depth to your songs.

If you want to go deeper and start creating complex harmonies, try ChordChord, our AI-powered assistant for music producers and songwriters, which allows you to instantly come up with unique chord progressions in different music genres without prior music theory knowledge.


Learning popular chord progressions is the best way to develop your skills as a songwriter or music producer, as they've already proven effective in many hits.

Remember, the key to growth is consistent practice and experimentation.

Keep exploring new chord combinations, and don't be afraid to put your own unique spin on these tried-and-true progressions.

With dedication and persistence, you'll be writing unforgettable songs in no time!