Wednesday, 13 March 2013

4-chord Songs, part 2: I-V-vi-IV (the Pop-Punk Progression)

Here is the chart we have built for ourselves, using the Circle of Fifths:


If you select any row going across and pick out the chords in the first and third column (C/G7, F/C7, G/D7, etc), you can play 2-chord songs.

If you add the second column, you can play 3-chord songs (these, too).

And if you use all the chords going across any single row, you can play songs in the 4-chord Doo-Wop pattern.

That arrangement is I-vi-IV-V(7). Mixing those same chords up a little, you get another well-known chord progression. The Pop-Punk progression is arranged I-V(7)-vi-IV (or other rotations in this order, such as vi-IV-I-V and IV-I-V-vi), and is the basis for:
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • Waltzing Matilda
  • the first 4 chords of Oh! Darling (the Beatles)
  • Let It Be (the Beatles)
  • Take Me Home, Country Road (John Denver)
  • Beast of Burden (the Rolling Stones)
  • Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)
  • the chorus of Down Under (Men at Work)
  • With or Without You (U2)
  • Africa (Toto)
  • I'm Yours (Jason Mraz)
  • Hey Soul Sister (Train)
  • and all these songs, too

If you've noticed that this is a particularly catchy pattern of chords, you wouldn't be alone. Some years ago, this Axis of Awesome act memorably demonstrated the progression's popularity:



Want to write an easy-to-play pop or indie song? Start with 4 chords.

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