Piano Chord Progressions: I-vi-IV-V In Common Major Keys


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The I-vi-IV-V Chord Progression is the most common chord progression in all music genres. Some songs that you may recognize that have this chord progression are: Heart and Soul, Stand By Me, I Will Always Love You, Octopus’s Garden, Poor Little Fool, Every Breath You Take, to name a few. If you learn the chords in the six keys on this chart you will be on your way to playing many popular songs that use this progression.

The chords are shown on the top line as piano keys, and underneath in musical notation, first in Root Positions, then to the right in Close Inversions. Close Inversions are just what they sound like, “close.” The notes in the chord are inverted, or moved around so that the notes are closer to the notes in the previous chord. This way you are not jumping around the keys playing chords only in root position. Chords also usually sound better played in close inversions so that you have “voice leading” – the top or bottom notes of the chord either stay the same or move only one step.

As a professional piano teacher and accompanist, I recommend that you try learning to play chord progressions this way. Start by playing the chords in the positions shown with your right hand, along with the root of each chord with your left hand. Once you are comfortable playing the chord progression in all the keys shown, and in the two sets of inversions, you will be ready to try playing them in different inversions and switching from right hand to left hand. This will give you an easy and useful way to accompany songs.

If you haven’t studied music theory and don’t really know what the chord numbers mean, you should consider taking a basic music theory course. It is really worthwhile if you want to learn to play by ear, read music from chord charts, etc. And remember: chords come from scales. Learn your scales!

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