Sunday, 3 March 2013

4-Chord Songs, part 1: I-vi-IV-V7 (the Doo-Wop, or 50s, Progression)

The 3-chord song patterns we reviewed all used the I, IV and V chords. That is to say, on the Circle of Fifths below, any of the chords written in red upper case letters around the outside of the grey circle (the I or root), plus the two chords on either side of it. Counterclockwise is the IV chord, and clockwise is the V chord. In the key of C, the three chords are C (I), F (IV) and G or G7 (V or V7). In the key of D, the three chords are D (I), G (IV) and A or A7 (V or V7). This pattern works for any key, although ukulele songs tend to be written on the part of the circle that runs from Bb to A.

image from Wikipedia

One way to add a fourth chord is to look to the relative minor, the lower case green letters on the inside of the grey circle. The relative minor, or vi (minor sixth) chord of C is A minor. (The A minor scale uses the same notes as the C major scale, only it starts and ends at A instead of C.)

Once you hear the Doo-Wop Progression, or the songs which use it, you'll understand the name. Its basic pattern is I-vi-IV-V(7); in the key of C, this would be C-Am-F-G7—an easy loop for the fingers, and a very familiar sound. Here are some of the songs which use it:

  1. Blue Moon
  2. Heart and Soul
  3. Beyond the Sea (Bobby Darin)
  4. Everyday (Buddy Holly)
  5. All I Have To Do Is Dream (Everly Brothers)
  6. Stand By Me (Ben E. King)
  7. Please Mr. Postman (The Marvelettes)
  8. Runaround Sue (Dion)
  9. I Love How You Love Me (the Paris Sisters)
  10. Sherry (the Four Seasons)*
  11. Up On The Roof (The Drifters)*
  12. Monster Mash (Bobby "Boris" Pickett)
  13. Unchained Melody (The Righteous Brother)
  14. I've Just Seen A Face (The Beatles)
  15. Wonderful World (Sam Cooke)
  16. Octopus's Garden (The Beatles)
  17. Crocodile Rock (Elton John)
  18. YMCA (The Village People)
  19. Every Breath You Take (The Police)

There is even a Wikipedia entry just for songs using this progression here.

When I was fiddling around with these chord changes, my son wandered into the room and noted that one of the songs from the musical Grease has lyrics built around these chords. Those Magic Changes is fifth from the bottom on the above-linked Wikipedia list.

Stacey then found the following video with lyrics, making it easy to play along and get the pattern embedded into your fingers.

*thanks to Stacey for the contribution of these songs to the list

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