Popular Piano Chords Progressions
Many beginning pianists are surprised to learning that many of today’s
most popular songs are composed with only a few simple chords. Each song seems so different – the rhythms,
lyrics, and moods each appear so distinct – that it seems impossible that all of these songs could only
consist of a few basic chord patterns.
Any master of an art will tell you, though, that even the most complex products are still founded on the basics:
mighty ships are built with the same dimensions, magnificent skyscrapers follow the same architectural principles,
and even great works of literature employ similar literary devices to express their meaning.
Music is no different from these other fields. Whether playing classical music or learning
chords to today’s biggest hits, you’ll find similar chord progressions apparent in each one. In fact, many of these
pieces are so similar to one another that, with just the smallest dose of creativity, you can easily switch back
and forth between different songs without even playing different chords. The secret to accessing so many different
songs is simply to master the most popular chord progressions on piano.
A chord progression means that certain types of chords are played in a certain order. For example, the most
common type of chord progression is known as the “primary chord progression” and is playing by striking C, F, G,
and then C again.
Now, a shocking number of songs are composed around these three chords alone, and following this progression and
creatively experimenting with the order, inversions on piano, and rhythms allows
individuals the ability to master many songs within moments.
Many songs follow similar chord progression structures as this: any chord may
be used at the root (not only C), and then the progression develops with the IV and V chords, proceeding back
towards the root again. Try this with any other set of chords (D, G, A or A, D, E for example).
Another common chord progression is a variation of the primary chords. Instead of proceeding to the IV chord
after the root, you can play a progression that incorporates the II, looking like this: C, D, G, and back to C.
Like I explained above, many popular and historical songs are built off of this simple progression that begins and
ends with the root, and incorporates chords that progress together.
If you’re looking to build off of this short chord progression, you want to about which chords harmonically seem
to lead up to this. The VI chord progresses very smoothly to the II, and the III chord progresses very smoothly to
To play this all together, you would play III – VI – II – V – I, with the third, sixth, and second being minor
chords. This five-chord progression is another very popular combination; when played in the key of C you could
play: Em, Am, Dm, G, C.
You’ll be surprised to discover just how many easy piano
songs – classical and modern – are constructed off of these popular piano chord progressions. Armed with these
three simple progressions, you’ll also observe many similarities between songs that you overlooked before.
To play these progressions effectively, make sure that you first just practice playing each chord one at a time,
then steadily diversify your inversions, rhythms, passing tones, and own creative flair to play popular songs or
even begin creating songs of your own!