Common Chord Progressions


I had a basic chord diagram book when I was learning how to play guitar and the chords were grouped by key. I would spend hours playing chords in different combinations, and I would often stumble upon sequences that sounded like a song I had heard on the radio. Sometimes, it was easy to recall the name of the tune, and other times the chord progression just sounded *really* familiar. It turns out, there are a handful of chord progressions that are used in thousands of popular songs.

I really enjoyed the slow process of discovering each progression by learning cover tunes and writing my own songs using them, but I can also see the value in exploring them in a more systematic method. As part of a basic music theory class I teach that covers major scale harmony, I offer these common chord progressions to students as “jumping off points” for beginning songwriting and ear training exercises. Students are asked to transpose chord progressions to different keys, and customize the instrumentation, groove, tempo, dynamics, and melody. Need a music theory primer? Check out The Method Books!

To download this free Play-A-Long, install the iReal Pro App and then click the link below on your phone or tablet. If the link isn’t working, please email me and I will send the playlist directly to you: leadcatpress@gmail.com

12 Popular Chord Progressions

Chord Progression

Chord Progression

In the Key of C

Song Title

I  vi  ii  V

1 6 2 5

C Am Dm G

“Heart and Soul”

I  vi  IV  V

1 6 4 5

C Am F G

“Blue Moon”

I  vi  V  IV

1 6 5 4

C Am G F

“You Live, You Learn”

I  IV  V vi

1 4 5 6

C F G Am

“The Warrior”

I  IV  vi  V

1 4 6 5

C F Am G

“Stay, Stay Stay”

I  IV  I  V

1 4 1 5

C F C G

“Brown Eyed Girl”

I  IV  V  IV

1 4 5 4

C F G F

“Wild Thing”

I  IV  ii  V

1 4 2 5

C F Dm G

“Run Around”

I  iii   ii   V

1 3 2 5

C Em Dm G

“Melody”

I  iii  IV  V

1 3 4 5

C Em F G

“Man in the Mirror”

I  iii  vi  V

1 3 6 5

C Em Am G

“Run Away Train”

I  V  vi  IV

1 5 6 4

C G Am F

“With or Without You”

I  V  ii  IV

1 5 2 4

C G Dm F

“Closing Time”

I  V  iii  IV

1 5 3 4

C G Em F

“The World Has Turned…”


Susan Palmer teaches jazz, blues, and rock guitar styles in Seattle and via webcam. Since 2006, she has been the guitar instructor at Seattle University. Palmer created and taught, “The Rock Project” at Cornish College of the Arts from 2010-15, and she was music instructor at Seattle Girls School for the 2016-17 school year. Palmer is the author of, The Guitar Lesson Companion Method Book Series which is used by teachers and students in over 10 countries, including faculty at Berklee College of Music. Her extensive collection of lesson videos and jam tracks are available for free on YouTube. Palmer’s current and former students perform regularly throughout the country, including these Seattle venues: The Comet, The High Dive, Skylark, Neumos, The Hard Rock Cafe, Chop Suey, The Tractor Tavern, The Rendezvous, The Sorrento Hotel, The Crocodile, The Mix, Cafe Racer, The Edgewater Hotel, The Sunset, and other private events.

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I wrote “The Guitar Lesson Companion” Method Books to help students get more out of their guitar lessons and to help teachers save time and be more effective in their studios. These books offer a clear, flexible, and progressive structure with plenty of good sounding exercises, which help students reach their goals faster than ever before. Fellow Guitar Teachers: Are you ready for a guitar method book that takes you and your students seriously? Let’s meet in the The Teachers’ Lounge.


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The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume One is a music reading primer, a chord and scale jam guide, and a basic theory workbook. It’s jam-packed with comprehensive exercises that were designed to take an absolute beginner step by step into the intermediate stages of playing. This book will challenge the average student for 2-3 years with weekly lessons.

The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume Two is an advanced theory workbook, a chord tone and mode improvisation guide, and a stylistic chord resource. It is a continuation of the first volume, designed with the serious intermediate and advanced level music student in mind. This book will challenge the average student for 2-3 years with weekly lessons.


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