Common Chord Progressions

In this article you will discover chord progressions that are commonly found in popular music, plus see examples of songs that use them.

man playing acoustic guitar outside

As a songwriter you know that chord progressions are of the utmost importance to your music…but with all the choices available it can be hard to know which ones to put in your songs.

Luckily, songs in a variety of genres use fairly similar chord progressions, with the same few popping up again and again.

In this article we share chord progressions commonly used in modern music. Feel free to use them in your songs.

The Standard One: I V vi IV

This is the most standard progression of all. It has been used in dozens upon dozens of hits because…well…it just sounds good.

Songs That Use:
I V vi IV
Taylor Swift – Bad Blood

Rihanna – California King Bed

Journey – Don’t Stop Belivin’

All American Rejects – Dirty Little Secret

The Beatles – Let It Be

U2 – With Or Without You

Here’s something that’s worth watching: The Axis of Awesome put together a compilation of many songs using this chord progression in this video.

The Resolving One: vi V IV V

This chord progression is a bit different, having two V chords in it.

The repeating V makes the vi V IV V progression excellent for transitioning on.

Songs That Use:
vi V IV V
Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On

Adele – Rolling In The Deep

Knife Party – Rage Valley

Skrillex – Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites

Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal

Queen – I Want To Break Free

For a different sound, try using a I chord in place of the vi chord to create the I V IV V progression.

The Meaningful One: I IV vi V

Get ready to dump a whole bunch of seriousness on your listener with the I IV vi V progression.

Songs That Use:
I IV vi V
Lindsey Stirling (feat. Lzzy Hale)- Shatter Me

Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway

Boston – More Than A Feeling

Bryan Adams – Summer Of 69

Jason Derulo – Trumpets

Taio Cruz – Dynamite
The Transitional One: I V6 vi V

Rather than letting tension resolve, this chord only adds to it which makes it an interesting progression to place near the beginning of a passage.

Songs That Use:
I V6 vi V
Lupe Fiasco – The Show Goes On

Lady Gaga – Speechless

One Direction – Live While We’re Young

Travie McCoy (feat. Bruno Mars) – Billionaire

Christina Perri – A Thousand Years

ABBA – Mamma Mia
The Simple One: V IV I V

There’s nothing complex about this chord progression. All you have to do is start on the fifth, end on the fifth, and sound awesome in the middle.

Songs That Use:
Lorde – Royals

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine

Train – Drive By

Green Day – 21 Guns

Johnny Cash – Ring Of Fire

Good luck with your songwriting!