Beginner Chord Progression

What is a chord progression?

You can learn to hear the roman numerals

Watch These 2 Videos

Hear a chord progression as numbers

Start by finding a key center

All songs have a key center, this means that a song is “in the key of”. Every key has seven chords and you can number them from one to seven using Roman Numerals.

In the key of C, we have these chords: C – Dm – Em – F – G – Am – Bdim. To replace these with roman numerals you simply number them, like this:

C (I) – Dm (II) – Em (III) – F (IV) – G (V) – Am (VI) – Bdim (VII)

Let’s take the song The Drugs Don’t Work as an example.

The verse chord progression is CAmEm, followed by FGC

This makes the roman numerals: IVIIII and IVVI.

Whenever you learn a song, you should always work out what its Roman Numerals are.

Hear the roman numerals

SWS in C

Use the SWS to change key

As there are only seven chords available, you will soon start to see different combinations that pop up in songs, these are called chord progressions.

For example, the IV – V – I progression that we had at the end of The Drugs Don’t Work is super common and can be found in thousands of popular songs.

By seeing them as numbers you can start hearing them as sounds. Do this and it doesn’t matter what key we are in. ABE, for example, is the same progression as FGC, just in a different key.

As long as we translate a chord letter to a number we can start this journey of understanding music. Eventually, you’ll be able to hear and even predict chord progressions.

What’s important to understand is that every chord, seen as a number, has a certain sound.

We examine this concept further in the guitar course using actual songs.

Explain Any Song

What you’ve seen here is the foundation to understanding music. It is the chord progression that supports the melody, it’s the chord progression that determines the key and hints any modulations or variations.

In intermediate chord progressions, you find out about possible variations to these seven chords. Together, with these first seven chords, they can explain any song, no matter what style.

All scales, arpeggios, arpeggio substitutions, you name it, it’s always done in the language of the chord progression.

The secret to understanding chord progressions, lies within taking note when playing actual songs.

Only this will make the connection between the Roman Numeral and the actual sound clear. Only now can the language of the chord progression be understood.

Guitar Lessons

Talking About A Revolution – Step 1

In this lesson, we are going to strum new chords in the same way as you did when you played a G.

We simply apply the same pattern to Em, D, and Cadd9.

Go to Talking About A Revolution step 1.

Redemption Song – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Today we start looking at another acoustic classic in Redemption Song by Bob Marley.

Before we look at all the different chord progressions, let’s first establish what chords are available in the key.

Go to Redemption Song step 1.

Robin Hood – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Today we start working on a song that contains a new slash chord.

We touched on this as you played Redemption Song with the G/B, today we learn a D/F# as we play the verse from Robin Hood.

Go to Robin Hood step 1.

One More Cup Of Coffee – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Today we start working on a new song in One More Cup Of Coffee.

Only four chords are used in this song. Instead of feeling at home with chord I, we find our home in chord VI as this song is “in minor”.

Go to One More Cup Of Coffee step 1.

The Drugs Don’t Work – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Today we start looking at a new song in The Verve’s monster hit The Drugs Don’t Work.

The chords are all from the key of C. Let’s start by looking at the chord progression and how we can extend the chords.

Go to The Drugs Don’t Work step 1.

Time Of Your Life – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Let’s start learning Time Of Your Life.

As the chord progression is pretty fast, take your time. It’s much better if you can play it well at a slow speed than fast but not accurately.

Go to Time Of Your Life step 1.

Wonderwall – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this step, we play the progression of Wonderwall with and without extensions.

This will enable you to more clearly hear the difference the extensions make, once we add them.

Go to Wonderwall step 1.

Rewind – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Today we start working on a new song as we learn Rewind by Paolo Nutini.

In this step, we focus on the chords and the progression. Just like in One More Cup Of Coffee, chord III has become IIIx.

Go to Rewind step 1.

Ain’t No Sunshine – Step 1 (Free Preview)

Today we start working on the last song of this course as we play Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers.

This is a modern standard, expect it to come up in many jam sessions and gigs.

Go to Ain’t No Sunshine step 1.

Related Pages


Beginner Chord ProgressionWhat do you need to know in order to play real songs?

What exercises should you practice to warm-up and improve your technique? How do you understand and change the key of a song?

Go to Beginner guitar exercises.


Learning how to play guitar is best done through playing and learning from songs.

Not only will learning songs help you with switching between chords and improve your rhythm playing. Songs also hold the key to how music works theoretically.

Go to Beginner guitar course.

Beginner Acoustic Songs

You can learn how to play these beginner songs on the acoustic guitar.

Ain’t No Sunshine, The Drugs Don’t Work, One More Cup Of Coffee, Redemption Song, Rewind, Robin Hood, Talking About A Revolution, Time Of Your Life, and Wonderwall.

Go to Beginner acoustic songs.

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