The   I  V  VIm  IV   Progression

You can find this progression in countless famous songs:

  • Train - Hey Soul Sister
  • Shakira - Waka Waka
  • U2 - With Or Without You
  • Jason Mraz - I'm Yours
  • The Police - So Lonely
...and thousands of other songs...

Since those song are not always played in the same key, you may not recognize immediately, that you're just playing the same chord progression you already played in another song before.

Practice the chord progression in the shown keys (C, D, E, G and A major). With that method you'll also learn how to transpose a song easily into another key (e.g. to adapt the song to the range of a singer).

How do you get those 4 chords?

All 4 chords of the progression belong to one major scale. On the staves you can see the chords that belong to the key that has been selected with the buttons above.

All major scales have major chords on the first, fourth and fifth scale degree.

On the sixth scale degree of a major scale there's always a minor chord

  • I. scale degree: a major third (C-E) above the root and a minor third (E-G) on top ⇒ C major chord.
  • IV. scale degree: a major third (F-A) above the root and then again add a minor third (A-C)F minor chord.
  • V. scale degree: again a major third on the bottom and a minor third on topG major chord.
  • VI. scale degree:  a minor third (A-C) plus a major third (C-E)A minor chord (written: Am or A-).

The tones that belong to a chord are obtained by layering thirds over the root tone. Depending on the key those thirds may be major thirds (2 whole steps) or minor thirds (a whole step + a half step).

If you're layering thirds over each tone of a scale, you end up with the diatonic chords (basic modal chords) of a scale .

All major scales are created in the same system: they have a half step between the 3rd and 4th note and between the 7th and 8th (=1st) note.

major third + minor third = major chord.
minor third + major third = minor chord.

In this video I'm strumming the I V VIm IV progression through all 12 keys (with just some of the chord variations shown above):