My Top 5 Chord Progressions (“Chord Rotations”) + Video

I have a really, really cool trick to share with you today, and I thought I’d explain it by telling you about my Top 5 (or is it a Top 10? SPOILERS) Chord Progressions I use on a daily basis.

I’m super excited to share this one with you. Creating an interesting chord progression out of nothing is always a fun experience.

If you’d rather have all the work done for you in a long list of chord progressions, click here (it’s free).

–> Tl:dr? Check out the video instead:

 

#5: i or I

Doesn’t look like much, does it? It’s almost weird to call this a chord progression.

Until you look at songs like Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, Pink’s Get The Party Started or virtually every metal or funk song out there.

Using just the i (or less common, the I) has an almost hypnotic feel that draws you into the song very quickly.

But beware: Having just one chord demands a lot of you as a songwriter. Make sure that your hooks groove and that you have some memorable lyrics, otherwise this chord progression will get boring fast.

#4: vi – IV

When I write mellow, relaxed pieces, this is my go-to chord progression. Think of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication (the verses).

It’s simple, it’s pretty and it’s all colour, no direction (More on that here). In other words: It doesn’t have any twists and turns, which makes this one an easy listen.

#3: vi – I – ii – IV

You’ll find this one used in songs like:
Alex Clare – Too Close
Nelly Furtado – I’m Like A Bird
Five – Slam Dunk (Da Funk)

#2: I – V – vi – IV

I think we’ve met before, haven’t we?

This is easily the most popular chord progression in the world – and I use it, too.

I’ll pick this one whenever I need to write something happy with a pinch of sadness (More on creating emotions with chord progressions here).

Quoting songs that use it is almost pointless – which song doesn’t use it would be a better question.

Adele – Someone Like You
Avril Lavigne – Girlfriend
Axis of Awesome – Four Chord Song 😉
Jason Mraz – I’m Yours
etc.

The list goes on and on and on. Fact is: This chord progression doesn’t get old and more hits use this one than any other chord progression.

#1: vi – IV – I – V (Chord Rotations)

Look at these chords carefully. Notice anything?

I’ll give you a little hint: Compare with I – V – vi – IV (the most popular chord progression in the world). See it now?

This chord progression is basically just a rotation of I – V – vi – IV, which is why it works so well: It’s the sad version of a progression we’ve heard a gazillion times.

Some songs that use this progr

ession include:
Bruno Mars – Grenade
Avril Lavigne – Complicated
Flo Rida – Whistle

Chord Rotations(2)

Need More Major? Here’s The Kicker:

Ok, I’ll admit it, I love sad music.

Naturally, 4 of my Top 5 Chord Progressions are in minor. But what if you’re looking for more major chord progressions?

We’ve covered Chord Rotations – let’s use the principle to come up with some interesting Major relatives of our Top 5:

vi – IV becomes: IV – vi
I – V – vi – IV or vi – IV – I – V becomes: V – vi – IV – I or IV – I – V – vi
vi – I – ii – IV becomes: I – ii – IV – vi or IV – vi – I – ii

Cool right?

Need more Minor? Start rotating:

vi – I – ii – IV becomes: ii – IV – vi – I

This way, we’ve just come up with 5 new, interesting chord progressions that sound awfully familiar (which is why I said this might just be a Top 10)

Here’s an idea: Download my free 143 Chord Progressions and rotate the hell out of them.

What’s that? That’s over 400 Chord Progressions at your disposal? Sounds good to me 🙂

Grab ‘em now.

RELATED POSTS

Hit Song Chord Progressions Part 1

Hit Song Chord Progressions Part 2

QUESTIONS (Answer In The Comments)

  1. What’s your favourite Chord Progression?
  2. How can you rotate it to create new progressions?
Songwriting Coach & Composer

With recommendations from industry heavyweights Erwin Steijlen (Pink, Shakira), Conrad Pope (John William’s orchestrator), Jeff Rona (God of War III, Traffic) and Rene Merkelbach (Within Temptation), Friedemann started his songwriting/producing school Holistic Songwriting in November 2015.

He has since written a book The Addiction Formula, a 7 Day Audio Program on songwriting and video courses on Hook/Melody-Writing and Drum-Writing.

Written by Friedemann Findeisen

Songwriting Coach & ComposerWith recommendations from industry heavyweights Erwin Steijlen (Pink, Shakira), Conrad Pope (John William's orchestrator), Jeff Rona (God of War III, Traffic) and Rene Merkelbach (Within Temptation), Friedemann started his songwriting/producing school Holistic Songwriting in November 2015.He has since written a book The Addiction Formula, a 7 Day Audio Program on songwriting and video courses on Hook/Melody-Writing and Drum-Writing.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Petey Wheatstraw Reply

    Some of my favorite progressions are: I – v – bVII – IV (Mixolydian) for creating the feeling of being on a journey (especially in 6/8 Celtic groove). im7 – IV9 (Dorian) for a bluesy, funk vamp. For metal, I gravitate toward i – bII – bvii – bII (Phrygian) for a ‘menacing’ feel. Or for a slightly more exotic flavor using I7 – bvii (Phrygian Dominant). I – II (Lydian) with a tonic pedal is cool for creating an uplifting, soaring feeling. For a sultry smooth jazz vamp, I really like im9 – V9sus4 (Dorian). For uptempo dance club music, i – iv – bVII – iv (Aeolian) with a tonic pedal seems to work well. For an old school Beatles vibe, I really like IV – iv – I – I7. Rotating all these progressions would certainly yield many new options, although the vibe or feeling would obvioulsly change after rotating the chords. Thanks for a good article! Have a good one…

    • Friedemann Findeisen Reply

      Hey Petey,

      Some great chord progressions you got here. Will try these out soon but I’ve used i – bII – bvii – bII for my metal stuff as well. 🙂

      Best,
      Friedemann

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