The I Vi Iv V Chord Progression
The Professor
Aug 6 2013, 04:37 PM
Theory Instructor
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From: Manchester UK
The I vi IV V Chord Progression

When learning how to play guitar, we are usually introduced to common open-position chords, such as G, C, Am and Em, as well as chord progressions to some of our favorite songs that use these chord shapes in their construction.

While working on these chords and progressions, we often come across the term I-vi-IV-V chord progression in our studies. But what does this term mean?

In today’s lesson we’ll be looking at how you build a I-vi-IV-V chord progression, why we use Roman Numerals to describe these chords, as well as 10 classic songs that use this chord progression in their construction.

What Is the I vi IV V Chord Progression

To begin, let’s take a look at how you build a I-vi-IV-V chord progression, and what the Roman Numerals mean when referring to these, or any, chords.

When talking about chord progressions in a key, we use numbers, or when writing Roman Numerals, to describe the chords that are being used in that progression.

This is because each of those chords comes from one of the 7 notes in the parent scale of that key.

As an example, here is a C major scale with each of the 7 notes written as a Roman Numeral below each note in the scale.

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As you can see, if you want to build a I-vi-IV-V chord progression in the key of C major, you simply take the 1st, 6th, 4th and 5th notes of that scale, C-Am-F-G in this case, and build chords up from those three root notes.

In the case of major keys, the I IV and V chords are always major, and the vi chord is always minor, giving us C Am F G for this progression in the key of C major.

Here is how the I vi IV V chords look in a lead sheet style.

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List of 10 Songs With I vi IV V Chords

Even if you haven’t heard of the I-vi-IV-V chord progression before from a theory standpoint, you have no doubt heard countless famous songs that use these three chords.

Here is a list of 10 I-vi-IV-V songs to get you started with this applying this chord progression to the fretboard.

1. Chain Gang - Sam Cooke

2. Crocodile Rock - Elton John

3. Friday - Rebecca Black smile.gif

4. Happiness Is a Warm Gun - The Beatles

5. No Surprises - Radiohead

6. Stand By Me - Ben E. King

7. You Are Not Alone - Michael Jackson

8. Heart and Soul - Larry Clinton

9. Give a Little Love - Bay City Rollers

10. Earth Angel - The Penguins

Do you have a favorite I-vi-IV-V song? Share it in the comments thread below.

Test Your Theory Chops

Now that you have learned where the I-vi-IV-V chord progression comes from, and checked out 10 songs that use the I-vi-IV-V chord progression, let’s test you knowledge with a few theory question regarding these 3 chords.

If you decide to answer these questions, post them below and I can check your work, using the “spoiler” button to the left of this box as not to give away your answers.

First, here is a chord progression, see if you can analyze the three chords in E major, so which chord is the I, which is the vi, which is the IV and which is the V chord.


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Second, here is a chord progression that uses the I, vi, IV and V chords. How many keys can you write out using these chords? Post your answer(s) below.

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Do you have a question or comment about I IV V Chords? Share your thoughts in the comment thread below.

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This post has been edited by The Professor: Aug 7 2013, 10:07 AM

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