A great way to learn the guitar is by mastering the essential chords and putting them together in a chord progression. This simply means a series of chords that are repeated to create the structure of a song.
This post covers 7 easy guitar chord progressions to help you understand what chords work together. You can use these chord progressions to help you compose music and also practice switching between chords.
We will use open chords for these examples, meaning that one or more strings are unpressed. This will make it easier to stay in one position of the guitar.
Before learning the chord progressions, let’s go over some basic music theory to help you understand some terms used in this post.
Understanding the number system
When stating a chord progression in music, we use the number system to help us understand the chord movements taking place within a key center. Each key center has a series of related chords that naturally work together. This is because related chords are derived from each degree of one scale, whether Major or minor.
The following chart shows you examples of the related chords (also known as diatonic chords) in Major keys. Letters alone represent Major chords, ‘min’ stands for minor chord and ‘dim’ for diminished chords.
Related chords in Major keys
|Key center||1||2 min||3 min||4||5||6 min||7 dim|
|C Major||C||D min||E min||F||G||A min||B dim|
|D Major||D||E min||F# min||G||A||B min||C# dim|
|G Major||G||A min||B min||C||D||E min||F# dim|
|A Major||A||B min||C# min||D||E||F# min||G# dim|
Related chords in minor keys
And here are some examples in minor keys below.
|Key center||1 min||2 dim||b3||4 min||5 min||b6||b7|
|C minor||C min||D dim||Eb||F min||G min||Ab||Bb|
|D minor||D min||E dim||F||G min||A min||Bb||C|
|G minor||G min||A dim||Bb||C min||D min||Eb||F|
|A minor||A min||B dim||C||D min||E min||F||G|
Now that you have a better idea of related chords within a key, let’s begin to apply them on the guitar.
Easy 3 chord progression – 1, 4, 5
For the first progression, we’ll be playing in the key of A Major. The 1, 4, and 5 chord are A Major, D Major, and E Major.
Pop chord progression – 1, 6 min, 4, 5
We’ll play the following simple chord progressions in the key of G Major. The 1, 6, 4, and 5 chord would be G Major, E minor, C Major, and D Major.
Pop progression – 1, 4, 2 min, 5
In the key of D, the 1, 4, 2 min, and 5 chord are D Major, G Major, E minor, and A Major.
Pop rock progression – 1, 5, 6 min, 4
In the key of G Major, the 1, 6 min, 5, and 4 chord are G Major, E minor, D Major, and C Major.
Easy minor chord progression – 1 min, 4 min, 5
Here is an example of an easy minor chord progression. This means that a minor chord is the tonal center. We will play this in the key of A minor. The 1 min, 4 min, and 5 chord are A minor, D minor, and E Major.
Note that we can also change chords within a key to create different musical effects. For example, in a minor chord progression, the 5 minor chord is typically changed to a Major quality to create stronger tension.
Minor chord progression – 1 min, b3, b6, 5
In the key of A minor, the 1, b3, b6, and 5 chord are A minor, C Major, F Major, and E Major.
If the F chord is difficult for you to play, you can simply play strings 4 through 2 or play it as an F Major 7 chord with the open 1st string. For other options, check out 13 ways to play an F Major chord.
Minor chord progression – 1 min, b7, b6, 5
In the key of A minor, the 1, b7, b6, and 5 chord are A minor, G Major, F Major, and E Major. This is sometimes referred to as a Spanish or Flamenco chord progression.
For more examples, see this post on how to play chord progressions in minor keys.
In this post, we covered 7 easy guitar chord progressions which you can practice once you learn the essential guitar chords. Learning these common 3 and 4 chord progressions are a fun and practical way to help you to kickstart your guitar learning journey.
To get the most out of these chord progressions, try playing them over different time signatures and strumming patterns.
After learning to play these chord progressions using open chords, the next step would be to play them in different keys by using barre chords. You can check out this other post on how to play barre chords on guitar and 5 tips to get better at playing them.
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