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Classic Rock (

Classic Rock Tab

Top 1000 Classic Rock Songs



Classic Rock (I-bVII-IV) Progressions


Following the early days of Rock And Roll that relied on Blues (I7-IV7-I7-V7-IV7-I7-V7), Rock Ballad/Doo-Wop (I-vi-IV-V), and Rock (I-IV-V) progressions, 1960s and 1970s Classic Rock moved on to chord progressions created with "Borrowed Chords" from another key, in particular the bIII, bVI, or bVII chords, to create a darker overerall Blues feel. All of the examples that you will see in this lesson were taken from the book Money Chords : A Songwriter's Sourcebook of Popular Chord Progressions and transposed to the Key of "E" to permit easier comparison and analysis.

The I-bVII-IV Progression

Examples of the I-bVII-IV Classic Rock Progression include Last Time verse (1965), Hush verse (1968), Magic Bus verse (1968), Good Times, Bad Times chorus (1969), Sugar Magnolia chorus (1970), Won't Get Fooled Again verse (1971), You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet verse (1974), Good Lovin' Gone Bad chorus (1975), Don't Stop (Hear Song - RealPlayer / See Tab) verse (1977), Whip It verse (1980), Centerfold chorus (1982), and Southern Cross verse (1982).

Below is an example of a Classic Rock Progression that could be used to play Fleetwood Mac's 1977 hit Don't Stop.

E    D     A   
/ /  / /   / / / /
Chord Substitutions:

The general Chord Substitution Rule holds that chords that share two or more notes in common can be readily substituted for each other. Below are several well-known songs created by using chord substitutions and inversions which use notes other than the Root as the bass note.

E-D-A/B = Tell Her About It verse (1983)
E-D-A/C# = Tuesday Afternoon (Forver Afternoon) bridge (1968)
E-D/B-A = Nowhere To Run chorus (1965)
E-Dmaj7-A-Aadd9 = The Way It Is chorus (1986)
E-Dadd9-A = Signs chorus (1971)
E-Esus4-E-Dadd9-A/C#-A = More Than A Feeling verse (1976)
E5-D-A = Back In Black verse (1981) E7-D-A = She Said She Said verse (1966) and Born On The Bayou (Hear Song - RealPlayer / See Tab) chorus (1968)

Below is an example of a Classic Rock Progression chord substitution used on Martha & The Vandelas' 1965 hit Nowhere To Run (Hear Song - RealPlayer) chorus. Note that a "D/B" chord is the same as a "Bm7" chord.

E         D/B  A 
/ / / /   / /  / /
I-bVII-IV-I Variations:

This progression is similar to the I-bVII-IV Progression except that the "I" chord is tagged on to the end in order to complete a musical thought or phrase. Examples of the I-bVII-IV-I progression are I Can't Explain verse (1965), Gloria verse (1966), If I Were A Carpenter verse (1966), Dear Mr. Fantasy verse (1968), Hey Jude outro (1968), Take A Letter Maria chorus (1969), No Sugar Tonight chorus (1970), All Right Now chorus (1970), Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) verse (1973), Casey Jones chorus (1973), Takin' Care Of Business verse (1974), Rock 'N Me verse (1976), Take The Money And Run verse (1976), Take Me To The River verse (1978), Sweet Child O' Mine verse (1988), and You Got It verse (1989).

The verse to The Who's I Can't Explain (Hear Song - RealPlayer / See Tab) was created using the I-bVII-IV-I progression below.

E    D     A    E
/ /  / /   / /  / /
Chord Substitutions:

Below are several well-known songs created by applying chord substitutions and inversions to the "I-bVII-IV-I" progression.

E-D-F#m-E = All Night Long (All Night) verse (1983)
E-D-A/C#-A-E = China Grove (Hear Song - RealPlayer / See Tab) verse (1973)
E-D5-A5-E = Peace Of Mind (Hear Song -RealPlayer / See Tab) verse (1977)
E5-D-A-E5 = Good Times, Bad Times verse (1969)
E5-D5-A5-E5 = Addicted To Love verse (1986)

Below is the four bar verse progression for The Doobie Brothers' 1973 hit China Groove, which features a "IV/3" inversion.

E                     D    A/C#       A      E
/ / / /    / / / /    /    /    /     /    / / / / 
The verse to Boston's 1977 Peace Of Mind used Power Chord substitutions for the "bVII" and "IV" chords, creating the progression below.
E                   D5  A5    E
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
I-bVII-IV-bVII Variations:

The Communications Breakdown verse (1969) was written using this progression. Simple Minds' chorus to their 1985 hit Don't You (Forget About Me) (Hear Song - RealPlayer / See Tab) takes the I-bVII-IV progression and adds an additional "bVII" chord after the ""IV" chord, creating the chord progression below.

A further variation is the "I-bVII-IV-bVII-IV" Progression used to write the Centerfold (Hear Song - RealPlayer / See Tab) verse (1982). Another variation is the "I-bVII-IV-bVII-I" Progression used to write the Closer To The Heart verse (1977).

E         D         A         D
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
Chord Substitutions:

Below are two great songs created by applying chord substitutions and inversions to the "I-bVII-IV-bVII" Progression.

E-D-A-F#m = Main Street verse (1977)
E-D-A/E-D = Night Moves (Hear Song - RealPlayer / See Tab) verse (1977)
E7-Dadd9-A-D11 = We Are Family (Hear Song - RealPlayer) chorus (1979)

Bob Seger created the verse to his 1977 hit Main Street by substituting the "ii" chord for the last "bVII" chord, creating the chord progression below.

E         D         A         F#m
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
I-bVII-IV-V Variations:

This variation, which tags a "V" chord after the "IV" chord, was used to write such songs as The Night Before verse (1965), Just Like Me verse (1966), Windy verse (1967), Rock And Roll Part 2 verse (1972), and Carefree Highway chorus (1974).

The Beatles' 1965 verse to The Night Before (See Tab) was written with the "I-bVII-IV-V" progression shown below.

E         D         A         B
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
The I-IV-bVII Progression

The I-IV-bVII progression reverses the last two chords of the I-bVII-IV" progression.

I-IV-bVII-I Variations:

Examples of this variation include 49 Bye-Byes verse (1969), Lola verse (1970), and Good Lovin' Gone Bad verse (1975).

Chord Substitutions:

E-Amaj7-Dmaj7-E = This Guy's In Love With You verse (1968)

Static Bass Lines/Pedal Points:

E5-A/E-D/E-E5 = Hollywood Nights verse (1978)

E         Amaj7     Dmaj7     E 
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
I-IV-bVII-IV Variations:

The I-IV-bVII-IV progression inserts an additional "IV" chord between the "I" and "bVII" chord in the I-bVII-IV" progression. Neil Diamond wrote numerous songs early in his career based on this progression such as Cherry, Cherry verse (1966), I Got The Feelin' (Oh No No) verse (1966), and Thank The Lord For The Night Time verse (1967). Other examples include Note Fade Away verse (1957), Dirty Water verse (1966), What I Like About You (1979), and Crazy Little Thing Called Love verse (1980).

A further variation is the "I-IV-bVII-IV-I" Progression used to write the verse to Like A Rock (1986). Another variation is the "I-IV-bVII-IV-bVII-IV-I" Progression found in the verse to Yes's 1972 Roundabout.

The verse to Neil Diamond's 1966 hit Cherry, Cherry was written using the I-IV-bVII-IV progression shown below.

E    A     D    A
/ /  / /   / /  / /
Chord Substitutions:

Below are several well-known songs created by applying chord substitutions and inversions to the I-IV-bVII-IV progression.

E-A-   Dadd9-A-   E = Paradise City chorus (1989)
E-A/C#-D-    A/C#   = (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction verse (1965)
The bVII-IV-I Progression

This progression plays the first chord of the "I-bVII-IV" progression last, creating a Circle Of Fifths movement. Examples of the bVII-IV-I progression include Magical Mystery Tour intro (1968), With A Little Help From My Friends chorus (1968) and Hurdy Gurdy Man chorus (1968).

Chord Substitutions:

D/E-A-E = Polythene Pam verse (1969)
D-Aadd9-E = Rikki Don't Lose That Number verse (1974)

The I-bVII-bIII Progression

These progressions come in two flavors. The first is the "I-bVII-bIII-IV" Progression used to write Cat's In The Craddle chorus (1974). The other is the "I-bVII-bIII-I" Progression used for All Day And All Of The Night verse (1965) and Hello, I Love You chorus (1968). A further variation of the last progression is the "I-bVII-I-bIII" Progression on the You Better Run verse (1966).

The I-V-bVII Progression

There are two popular variations of the "I-V-bVII" Progression.

I-V-bVII-I Variations:

Examples of songs written around the "I-V-bVII-I" progression include You've Got To Hide Your Love Away verse (1965), I'm A Believer verse (1966), and Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) chorus (1970).

Chord Substitutions:

E-B-Dadd9-E = I'm A Loser verse (1964)
E-Bm-D-E = Good Morning Good Morning verse (1967)

I-V-bVII-IV Variations:

Examples of songs written around the "I-V-bVII-IV" progression include Build Me Up Buttercup verse (1969) and It's Still Rock And Roll To Me verse (1980).

Chord Substitutions:

E-Bm-D-A-E = Let It Rain verse (1970), It Don't Come Easy verse (1971), and Baker Street verse (1978)
E-Bm7-D-A-E = Cinnamon Girl verse (1969)

Descending Bass Lines:

Descending Bass Line Progressions are a type of Moving Bass Line Progression where the bass notes of each chord in the progression move lower generally in half or whole steps typically following the "8-7-6-4", "8-7-6-5", "8-7-b7-6", "6-5-4-3", and "6-5-#4-4" bass note patterns. Descednding Bass Line Progressions are popular with songwriters to create a romantic mood. Below are several examples of songs that created Descending Bass Line Progressions by using chord substitutions and inversions.

E-B/D#-D-A/C# = Walk Away Renee verse (1966)
E-B/D#-D6-A = Give Me Just A Little More Time verse (1966)
E-B7/D#-D-Am/C-E/B = It Don't Matter To Me verse (1970)

The I-bVII Progression

This progression drops the "IV" chord from the I-bVII-IV progression. The I-bVII progression dates back to the late 1950s and probably is the origin of the I-bVII-I and I-bVII-IV progressions that followed. Examples of th I-bVII progression include Tequila verse (1958), I Only Have Eyes For You verse (1959), Only In America verse (1963), Five O'Clock World verse (1965), Psychotic Reation verse (1966), Talk Talk verse (1967), Soul Man chorus (1967), L.A. Woman verse (1967), Hello I Love You verse (1968), Let's Get Together verse (1969), Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again verse (1971), and Cocaine verse (1980), All Night Long (All Night) chorus (1983).

Chord Substitutions:

Below are several well-known songs created by applying chord substitutions and inversions to the "I-bVII" progression.

E- D/B = Uptight (Everything's Alright) verse (1966) and Shapes Of Things verse (1966)
E- Dadd9 = Tired Of Waiting verse (1965) and I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home verse (1970)
E- Dadd9/E = Helplessly Hoping chorus (1969)
E- Esus4 (5x) E-D = Monday, Monday verse (1966)
E- Esus4 (2x) Dadd9-E = We Can Work It Out verse (1966)
E-E/D#-D-D/C# = Hold On Loosely chorus (1981)
E5-D = Whole Lotta Love chorus (1969)
E5-D5 = Magic Man verse (1976)

Below is the chord substitution used on Stevie Wonder's 1966 hit Uptight (Everything's Alright) (Hear Song - RealPlayer) verse. Note that a "D/B" chord is the same as a "Bm7" chord.

E    D/B   E    D/B
/ /  / /   / /  / /
Static Bass Lines/Pedal Points:

E-D/E... include On Broadway verse (1963), Got To Get You Into My Life verse (1976)
Emaj7-D/E... Never Can Say Goodbye

I-bVII-I Variations:

You Really Got Me verse (1964), Time Won't Let Me verse (1966), Sunshine Of Your Love verse (1968), and Ramblin' Man chorus (1973)

Chord Substitutions:

E-D-E-[B-D] = American Woman verse (1970)
E5-D5-[G5-D5]-E5 = Paranoid verse (19--)

bVII-I Variation:

This progression is the reverse of the I-bVII progression. Examples include Big Bad John verse (1961), The Lonely Bull verse (1962), You've Got Your Troubles chorus (1965), and How Can I Be Sure intro (1967).

D5-E5 = Mississippi Queen chorus (1970)

Static Bass Lines/Pedal Points:

D/E-E = Suite: Judy Blue Eyes verses 5-7 (1969), Rocky Mountain Way (1973), You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling verse (1978) and (I've Had) The Time Of My Life verse (1987)

The I-bIII-IV Progression

The second common type of Classic Rock Progressions are formed with the "Borrowed" "bIII" chord. Examples of songs that use this progression include Green Onions verse (1962), Magical Mystery Tour chorus (1966), and Suicide Blonde verse (1990).

Chord Substitutions:

E-G-A7 = Bad Wisdom verse (1992)
E-G6-A7 = 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover chorus (1976)
E7#9-G-A = Purple Haze verse (1967)

I-bIII-IV-I Variations:

Examples of the "I-bIII-IV-I" Progressions include On The Road verse (1965), After Midnight verse (1970), Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) verse (1970), Will It Go Round In Circles verse (1973), and Cat's In The Craddle verse (1974).

Chord Substitutions:

E-G6-A7-E = Long Cool Woman (In A Red Dress) verse (1972)
E-E7-G-A-E-E7 = I Am The Walrus verse (1967)
E5-G5-A-E5 = La Grange verse (1973)
E5-G5-A5-E5 = Rock And Roll Hootchiekoo verse (1974)
E5-E6-E7(4x) G-A-E(4x) = Born To Be Wild verse (1968)
E7-G-A-E7 = Helter Skelter verse (1968) and Higher Ground verse (1973)
E7-G-A7-E7 = Superstar verse (1971)
E7-G7-A7-E7 = Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band chorus (1967

A further variation is the "I-bIII-IV-I-IV-bIII" Progression used to write the verse to Spirit's 1969 I Got A Line On You.

Static Bass Lines/Pedal Points:

E-G/E-A/E-E = I Can See For Miles verse (1967)
E-Gmaj7/E-A/E-E = No Time chorus (1970) )

More Variations:

Em-G-A-B = Out Of Limits verse (1963)
E-G-A-C = I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone verse (1967) and Gimme Some Lovin' chorus (1967)
Em-G/D-A7/C#-C = Temptation Eyes verse (1971)
E-G-A-D = Bend Me, Shape Me verse (1968)
E-G-A-G = I'm Crying verse (1964)
E9-G-A-G-D = Rikki Don't Lose That Number chorus (1974)


G-E = These Boots Are Made For Walking chorus (1966)

The I-IV-bIII Progression

The "I-IV-bIII" Progression was used to write such songs as Get Ready verse (1970) andBitch verse (1971).

Chord Substitutions:

E5-A-G = I Just Want To Make Love To You verse (1977) and My Sharona verse (1979)

I-IV-bIII-I Variations:

A blues form of this progression dates back to before the Civil War was used in work songs. Examples of the "I-IV-bIII-I" Progression include I'm Mad (Again) verse (1961), I'm A Man verse (1965), Rocky Mountain Way verse (1973), I've Got The Music In Me verse (1974), It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It) verse (1974), Slow Ride chorus (1976), and Bad To The Bone verse (1981).


G5-A5-E5 = Bang A Gong (Get It On) chorus (1972)
Other Variations:

E-A-G-A = Back In The USSR verse (1968)
E5-A5-G5-C5 = Smells Like Teen Spirir verse (1991)

Progressions With bVI Chords


E7-A-C-B = Suzie Q verse (1957)
E- A-C-G-D = Suffragette City chorus (1972)
E-E7/G#-A-C = Mama Told Me (Not To Come) chorus (1970)
E-C = Honey Don't verse (1956)
E4-C = Barracuda verse (1977)
E/B-C = Sunset Grill verse (1985)

E-C-E = Peggie Sue chorus (1957) and It Won't Be Long verse (1963)
E-C6-E = Everybody Knows verse (1964)
E-C-D = Suffragette City verse (1972)

Circle Of Fifths:

The Circle of Fifths can be used to create chord progressions by starting with any chord on the wheel and moving in either direction using as little or as much as you like to produce new progressions.

C-G-D-A-E = Hey Joe verse (1966) and Hush chorus (1968)
C-G/B-D/A-A/C# = Maybe I'm Amazed verse (1977)

Your Assignment

Your assignment now is to try create your own Classic Rock Progressions using what you learned from this lesson. If you want to learn more about popular chord progressions, check out the Chord Progressions site at and Money Chords : A Songwriter's Sourcebook of Popular Chord Progressions available at and Barnes &

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