The I IV V Chord Progression - Not just the Blues!

When learning music it can often feel overwhelming, after all there is a lot to learn and think about! Of course, it is really important that you develop good learning and practice habits right from the beginning too. However, in the midst of practicing your scales, chords, arpeggios, bends, slides, riffs and licks... etc. etc. It is vital that you never loose sight of Why you want to play - and the Why is usually to jam along with the music/songs that you love, the ones that inspired you to play in the first place. For many of us, we may progress and get inspired to write our own music too... but likewise, for equally as many, just being able to play along with their favourites is enough.

Regardless of whether you're happy jamming and playing covers of songs or are a budding Lennon and McCartney, the most efficient and fun way to learn and practice is through chord progressions. You have already learned one of the most used chord progressions in the history of western music! The I IV V (12 bar blues progression). 

Well, this progression isn't just limited to "the blues". In fact a vast majority of "rock and roll" music from the 50's and 60's utilised the 12 bar blues progression. With key artists in the Rock and Roll/Rockabilly, Jazz, Soul/R&B, Progressive/Classic Rock and more 'Modern" Rock and Pop genera's making full use of it. 

Whilst there are tons of great chord progressions to learn, and variations of the I IV V that you'll eventually play, the main aim here is to give you tons of variety with what you already know right now.

By combining your open chords with specific barre chords you can jam along with literally 1000's of songs... 

But is it really that simple? Well, Yes and No.

Yes because to begin with you can practice your I IV V progression in easy keys... for example: -

Key of A  - so the chord progression will be: - A D and E

Key of D  - so the chord progression will be: - D G and A

Key of G - so the chord progression will be: - G C and D

(see the chord progression charts below for chords in all 12 keys)

...and NO because a song may only use the I IV V progression partially (e.g. for the verse, chorus or bridge) and even songs that do use the progression in its entirety (i.e. a song composed only using the I IV and IV chords) may not follow the "12 bar blues" form. Meaning they use the chords in any order and for any length of time the artist required when writing the music. 

So, yes it's "EASY" to learn tons of songs by applying the I IV V progression, but you would still need to "learn" the song... i.e the structure, when the chord changes are etc. Additionally, for now you'll just be "strumming" chords in time to the song... Learning the actual strumming patterns, intros, fills, licks, riffs, solos, etc. etc. will be a different ball game (but at least you'll know over what chords that riff is played!).

Examples of songs that use the I IV V progression.

Below I've listed just 10 'easy' songs as examples that use the I IV V chord progression (you may want to listen to and in time, jam along). Some follow the 12 bar blues form, whilst others use only the I IV V chords in their composition.

Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival - Key of D: - D G A

Down on the Corner - Creedence Clearwater Revival - Key of C: - C F G

Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis - Key of C: - C F G

Hound Dog - Elvis Presley - Key of C: - C F G

It's only Rock and Roll - The Rolling Stones - Key of E: - E A B

Long Tall Sally - Little Richard - Key of F: - F Bb C

No Particular Place to Go - Chuck Berry - Key of G: - G C D

Semi Charmed Kind of Life - Third Eye Blind. Key of G: - G C D

Twist and Shout - The Beatles - Key of D: - D G A

Wishlist - Pearl Jam - Key of C: - C F G

I IV V Chord Progression Chart

Below we have the chord chart for the I IV V progression in all 12 keys.