Rock And Roll Progressions

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Rock and Roll Progressions
(I-IV-V)

Introduction

Rock is a hybrid of both Black and White American music forms including Blues, R&B, Gospel, and Country & Western that emerged in the USA in the 1950's. The "I-IV-V" Rock and the Blues progressions were the basic building blocks of early Rock And Roll. The "I-IV-V" progression has that raw sound that helped define Rock And Roll. The Rock Progression, which is as simple as it is effective, has been used to write countless songs since Rock n Roll began.

As the classic "I-IV-V" Rock Progression became over used, songwriters soon found ways to breath new life into this progression by embellishing the three basic chords, using chord substitutions, chord quality changes, and various chord inversions as well as by changing the order the chords are played. Three-chord progressions allow six possible combinations if you Reverse and/or put the Middle Chords First. The chart below shows the six possible combinations for the Rock Progression with examples transposed to the Key of "E" to permit easier comparison and analysis. All of the examples cited in this lesson were taken from the book Money Chords : A Songwriter's Sourcebook of Popular Chord Progressions .

I-IV-VI-V-IV IV-V-IV-IV-I IV-I-VV-I-IV
E-A-BE-B-A A-B-EB-A-E A-E-BB-E-A

The I-IV-V Progression

Whereas the I-vi-IV-V7 Rock Ballad (Doo-Wop) Progression substituted the harder sounding IV chord for the softer ii chord of the I-vi-ii-V7 Standard Changes, the Rock Progression also omitted the softer sounding vi chord to create an even harder rock sound.

Examples of the classic I-IV-V Rock Progression include La Bamba verse (1959), Time Is On My Side chorus (1964), Like A Rolling Stone chorus (1965), Come And Get It verse (1970), Guitar Man verse (1972), Born To Run verse (1975), Rock And Roll All Nite chorus (1976), Two Tickets To Paradise ) chorus (1978), The River Of Dreams verse (1993), Mr. Jones chorus (1993), and I'll Be There For You chorus (1995)

Below is the openning verse progression to Bruce Springsteen's 1975 hit Born To Run.

E           A     B 
////  ////  ////  //// 
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. The I-IV-V and the I-IV-V7 progressions are essentially interchangeable and the latter is presented below for purposes of analysis. The same holds true for the I5-IV5-V5 progression. These Power Chord substitutions are most frequently encountered in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Music as these chords sound particularly good when distorted.

E-A-B6 = Mr. Big Stuff chorus (1971)
E-A-B7 = Everyday verse (1957) and Do You Love Me verse (1962), Twist And Shout verse (1964), Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds chorus (1967)
E-A-Bsus4-B-Bsus2-B = You've Got To Hide Your Love Away chorus (1965)
E-A-B7-B7sus4-B7 = Here Comes The Sun verse (1971)
E-A-B7b9 = Hey Nineteen verse (1980)
E-A6-B = Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye verse (1969)
E-Amaj7-B = Lady In Red verse (1987) and I Will Remember You verse (1995)
E-Esus4-E-A/C#-Bsus4 = Born To Run intro (1975)
Eadd9-Aadd9-B7sus = Missing You verse (1984)
E5-A5-B5 = I Love Rock 'N Roll chorus (1982)
C#m-A-B = I'm Eighteen verse (1971), Crazy On You chorus (1976).

The following chart shows a comparison of these progressions:

E-        A-    B6 
E-        A-    Bsus4-B-     Bsus2-B 
E-        A-    B7
E-        A-    B7-   B7sus4-B7 
E-        A-    B7b9    
E-        A6-   B
E-        Amaj7-B 
E-Esus4-E-A/C#- Bsus4 
Eadd9-    Aadd9-B7sus 
E5-       A5-   B5 
C#m-      A-    B
Steely Dan's verse to Hey Nineteen takes the I-IV-V Rock Progression and substitutes a "V7b9" chord for the typical "V" chord, creating the unique chord progression below.
E     A  B7b9
////  // //
The "C#m-A-B-C#m" progression is a slight variation on the "C#m-A-B" progression. This variation was used to create the Eye Of The Tiger verse (1982) and the Im So Excited chorus (1984).

Alice Cooper's I'm Eighteen takes the I-IV-V Rock Progression and substitutes a "vi" chord for the typical "I" chord, creating the chord progression below. As the "C#m" and "E" chords share the "E" and "G#" notes, they can be readily substituted for each other.

C#m   A  B
////  // // 
Ascending Bass Lines:

Ascending Bass Line Progressions are a type of Moving Bass Line Progression where the bass notes of each chord in the progression move higher typically following the "1-2-3-4", "1-2-4-5", or "1-3-4-5" note bass lines. Ascending Bass Line Progressions are popular with songwriters wishing to create a bright sound. Below are several well-known songs that created Ascending Bass Line Progressions by using chord substitutions and inversions which use notes other than the Root as the bass note.

E-E/G#-A-B = Expressway To Your Heart verse (1967) & My Life verse (1979)
E-E/G#-A-[E/B]-B = You're The Inspiration chorus (1985)
E-E/G#-A-B11 = With A Little Luck verse (1978)
Eadd9-Emaj7/G#-Amaj7-B11 = Somewhere Out There verse (1987)

The following chart shows a comparison of these progressions:

E-    E/G#-    A-      B
E-    E/G#-    A-[E/B]-B
E-    E/G#-    A-      B11
Eadd9-Emaj7/G#-Amaj7-  B11
On Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram's hit Somewhere Out There verse shown below, a great "1-3-4-5" note Ascending Bass Line was created by using both chord quality change substitutions and inversions. This process was used by both Billy Joel on his My Life verse and Paul McCartney on his With A Little Luck verse.
Eadd9   Emaj7/G#    Amaj7   B11
/  /    /  /        /  /    /  /
I-IV-V-I Variations:

This progression is similar to the Classic I-IV-V 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-IV-V-I progression are Words of Love verse (1957), Summertime Blues verse (1958), King Of The Road verse (1965), Little Bit O'Soul verse (1967), Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard verse (1972), Lay Down Sally chorus (1978), Old Time Rock and Roll (1979), and Give Me One Reason verse (1996).

Chord Substitutions:

Below are several well-known songs created by applying chord substitutions to the I-IV-V-I Variation Progression.

E-A6-A-B7-E = Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues verse (1972)
E-A7-B7-E = Heartbreak Hotel verse (1956), and All Shook Up verse (1957)
E-E/F#-E/G#-E-Asus2-B-E = To Be With You chorus (1992)
E-E7-A-B-E = That's All Right, Mama verse (1954)
E-E7-A-B7-E = Your Cheatin' Heart verse (1952) and If You Wanna Be Happy chorus (1963)
Em7-Am9-B7-Em7 = Elenore verse (1968)

The following chart shows a comparison of these progressions:

E-            A6-A- B7-E
E-            A7-   B7-E
E-E7-         A-    B- E 
E-E7-         A-    B7-E
E-E/F#-E/G#-E-Asus2-B- E
Em7-          Am9-  B7-Em7
The Turtles' verse to Elenore takes the I-IV-V-I Variation and substitutes a "i7" chord for the "I" chord and a "iv9" chord for the "IV" chord, creating the chord progression below. [ Note the effective use of the "bVI-V7" one bar Turnaround. ] The substitution of a Minor for a Major chord is a great way to add interest to a well-worn progression. This approach was used to write the verse to the 1959 Sleep Walk where the "IV" chord of the Rock Ballad Progression was substituted by the "iv" chord.
Em7                 Am9
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / / 

B7                  Em7       C   B7
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
Static Bass Lines/Pedal Points:

Static Bass Line/Pedal Point Progressions occur when the same bass note is sustained through a series of chord changes. A great Static Bass Line Progression is created by playing the "I-IV-V-I" progression over the unchanging bass note of the "I" chord. Below are several popular songs that used this approach followed by progression chord diagrams.

E-A/E-B/E-E = Downtown verse (1965), Goodbye To Love verse (1972), Closer To You chorus (1976), and Sometimes When We Touch verse (1978)
E-A/E-B7/E-E = You Needed Me verse (1978)

E=022100  A/E=0x222x  B/E=0x444x  E=022100
I-IV-V-IV Variations:

This progression launched a thousand bands. Songs written with the I-IV-V-IV progression include Get Off Of My Cloud verse (1965), Hang On Sloopy verse (1965), Game Of Love verse (1965), Good Lovin' verse (1966), You Baby verse (1966), (You're My) Soul And Inspiration bridge (1966), Wild Thing (See Tab) verse (1966), Angel Of The Morning verse (1968), Piece Of My Heart verse (1968), and The Joker verse (1974).

A further variation is the "I-IV-V-IV-V" Progression used to write the You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' bridge (1965), Angel Of The Morning chorus (1968), Still The One verse (1976), and Lido Shuffle verse (1977).

The Troggs' verse to Wild Thing takes the I-IV-V Rock Progression and adds an additional "IV" chord after the "V" chord, creating the chord progression below.

E     A     B     A
/ /   / /   / /   / /
Chord Substitutions:

E- A- Bm-A      = Louie Louie verse (1963)
E- A7-B7-A7-  E = Great Balls Of Fire verse (1958)
E5-A- B- A-A7-E = Truckin' chorus (1971)

The Kingsmens' 1963 hit Louie, Louie takes the "I-IV-V-IV" Rock Progression Variation and substitutes the "v" chord for the "V" chord, creating the chord progression below. This is another great Major to Minor substitution.

Static Bass Lines/Pedal Points:

Another great Static Bass Line Progression is created by playing the "I-IV-V-IV" progression over the unchanging bass note of the "I" chord. Below are a couple of popular songs that used this approach.

E-A/E-B/E-A/E      = Your Song intro (1970)
E-A/E-B/E-A/E-Am/E = Up Where We Belong verse (1982)
E     A     Bm    A
/ /   / /   / /   / /
The I-V-IV Progression

The I-V-IV progression, which reverses the "IV" and the "V" chords, was used to write such songs as The Eagles' Take It Easy verse (1972).

Chord Substitutions:

Below is a well-crafted song created by applying chord substitutions to the "I-V-IV" Progression.

E-B-Aadd9 = Heart Of The Matter verse (1990)

I-V-IV-I Variations:

Examples of the "I-V-IV-I" variation include Can't You Hear My Heartbeat verse (1965), To Love Somebody chorus (1967), Green Tambourine verse (1968), Fortunate Son chorus (1969), And It Stoned Me verse (1969), Go Your Own Way verse (1977), and I Think We're Alone Now chorus (1987).

Tommy James' chorus to I Think We're Alone takes the "I-V-IV" Rock Progression and adds an additional "I" chord after the "V" chord, creating the chord progression below.

E     B     A     E
////  ////  ////  //// 
Chord Substitutions:

Below are several well-known songs created by using chord substitutions and inversions. Notice the use of the Major to Minor substitution.

E-B/F#-Aadd9-E = Wedding Song (There Is Love) verse (1971)
E-Bm7-A-E = Fire And Rain verse (1970)
E-Bm7-A9-E = We Are Family verse (1979)
E-Emaj7-Bm7-A-Am-E = Kokomo verse (1988)

The following chart shows a comparison of these progressions:

E-      B/F#-Aadd9-E
E-      Bm7- A-    E
E-      Bm7- A9-   E
E-Emaj7-Bm7- A-Am- E

The Sister Sledge We Are Family verse takes the "I-V-IV-I" Rock Progression Variation and substitutes the "v7" chord for the "V" chord and a "IV9" chord for the "IV" chord, creating the unique chord progression below.

E          Bm7  A9     E
/ / / /    / /  / /    / / / /
Static Bass Lines/Pedal Points:

E-B/E-A/E-E = Substitute chorus (1966); You Don't Bring Me Flowers verse (1978)

The above songs created great Static Bass Line Progressions by playing the "I-V-IV-I" progression over the unchanging bass note of the "I" chord. The chord progression diagrams are presented below.

E=022100  B/E=0x444x  A/E=0x222x  E=022100
I-V-IV-V Variations:

Examples of the "I-V-IV-V" progression include Wishin' And Hopin' chorus (1964), Baby's In Black chorus (1964), Crimson And Clover outro (1969), Games People Play verse (1969), Wild World chorus (1971), What Is Life chorus (1971), Nights Are Forever Without You chorus (1976), It's So Easy chorus (1977), First Cut Is The Deepest chorus (1977), The Rose verse (1980), Jack & Diane verse (1982), and My Heart Will Go On verse (1999).

Chord Substitutions:

The "E-B7-Asus2-B7" New Kid In Town verse progression (1976) is an example of a song created by applying chord substitutions to the "I-V-IV-V" Progression.

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#-A/C#-  B      = Wonderful Tonight verse (1978)
E-B/D#-A/C#-A-B      = All Out Of Love chorus (1980)
E-B/D#-A/C#-  B11-B7 = He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (1970)
John Cougar's verse to Jack & Diane takes the "I-V-IV" Rock Progression and adds an additional "V" chord after the "IV" chord, creating the chord progression below.
E   B     A   B
/ / / /   / / / /
Static Bass Lines/Pedal Points:

E-B/E-A/E-B/E = We've Got Tonight verse (1978); Can't Get You Out Of My Head chorus (1975); The One That You Love chorus (1981)

The above songs created great Static Bass Line Progressions by playing the "I-V-IV-V" progression over the unchanging bass note of the "I" chord. The chord progression diagrams are presented below.

E=022100  B/E=0x444x  A/E=0x222x  B/E=0x444x  
The IV-V-I Progression

The IV-V-I progression, which plays the "I" chord last, was used in the Please Please Me bridge (1964), the Mother And Child Reunion verse (1972), and Cheeseburger In Paradise chorus (1978).

Chord Substitutions:

Below are several well-known songs created by applying chord substitutions to the "IV-V-I" Progression.

A-    B11-E          = How Sweet It Is chorus (1965)
A-    B-  E-Esus-E   = Light My Fire chorus (1967) 
A-    B-  E-Esus4-E7 = Margaritaville chorus (1977)
Amaj7-B11-Emaj7      = How Much I Feel chorus (1978)

Jimmy Buffett"s Cheeseburger In Paradise chorus progression is shown below.

A   B     E
/ / / /   / / / /
The V-IV-I Progression

The "V-IV-I" progression is the reverse of the classic Rock Progression. Examples of the V-IV-I progression are the Ring Of Fire chorus (1962), Love Me Do chorus (1964), Magic Carpet Ride verse (1969), Maggie Mae verse (1971), Sweet Home Alabama verse (1974), and I Still Havent Found What Im Looking For chorus (1987).

An example of a "V-IV-I-V" Variation is Ramblin' Gamblin' Man (1969).

Rod Stewart's verse to Maggie Mae takes the classic Rock Progression and reverses it, creating the chord progression below.

B         A         E
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
The IV-I-V Progression

The IV-I-V progression was used to write the choruses of Oh Susanna (1849), Down By The River (1969) and Up Around The Bend (1970).

IV-I-V-I Variations:

This progression is similar to the IV-I-V Progression except that the "I" chord is tagged on to the end in order to complete a musical thought or phrase. Examples of the IV-I-V-I progression include All I Really Want To Do verse (1965), People Got To Be Free chorus (1968), Down On The Corner chorus (1969), Candida chorus (1970), Knock Three Times chorus (1970), Me And Bobby McGee chorus (1971), and Changes In Latituded verse (1977).

Below is an example of a IV-I-V-I Variation Progression that could be used to play Cher's 1965 hit cover of Bob Dylan's All I Really Want To Do.

A   E     B   E
/ / / /   / / / /
The V-I-IV Progression

Although not used as often as the above combinations, the V-I-IV progression was used to begin the chorus of Candle In The Wind (1997).

Chord Substitution:

George Benson's Bridge to This Masquerade takes the V-I-IV Progression and substitutes a "v7" chord for the "V" chord, a "I7b9" chord for the "I" chord, and a IVmaj7" chord for the "IV" chord, creating the jazz progression below.

Bm7       E7b9      Amaj7
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
The I-V7-I-IV Progression

This progression adds an additional "I" chord to the I-V-IV progession between the "V" and "IV" chords. This progression, which has been around since the early 1700s, was used to write such songs as Auld Lang Syne verse (1711), Silent Night verse (1818), Blue Tail Fly "Jimmy Crack Corn" chorus (1848), Old Folks At Home "Swanee River" verse (1851), Save The Last Dance For Me verse (1960), Under The Boardwalk verse (1964), Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da verse (1968).

Chord Substitutions:

Below are some well-known songs created by applying chord substitutions to the I-V7-I-IV progression. The most popular substitution is the "I7" chord for the second "I" chord.

E-B7-E-E7-A = She'll Be Comming Round The Mountain verse (1870), Happy Birthday verse (1935), When The Saints Go Marching In verse (1946), Me And Bobby McGee verse (1971), Cover Of The Rolling Stone verse (1973), and Blue Bayou chorus (1977)
E-B7-E-E7-A7 = Muddy Water verse (1966)
E-B7-E7-A = Bring It On Home To Me verse (1962)
E5-B7sus-E5-A = Sundown verse (1974)
Emaj7-Bm7-E7b9-Amaj7-A6 = Misty verse (1955)
Eadd9-E-Bm7-E9-Aadd9-A = September Morn
verse (1980)
E7-B7-E-A7 = Mockingbird verse (1974)

The following chart shows a comparison of these substitutions:

E-      B7-   E-E7-A 
E-      B7-   E-E7-A7 
E-      B7-   E7-  A 
E5-     B7sus-E5-  A 
Emaj7-  Bm7-  E7b9-Amaj7-A6
Eadd9-E-Bm7-  E9-  Aadd9-A 
E7-     B7-   E-   A7 
The openning verse progression to Auld Lang Syne is presented at the bottom of the page. I always use the following Standard I-vi-ii-V7 Progression substitution that can be used whenever you run across this type of I-V7-I-IV progression:

E    C#m7   F#m7 B7     E    C#m7   F#m7  B7
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /   / /
E           B7          E           A 
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /   / /
I-V-I-IV Variations:

This progression uses the "V" chord instead of the "V7" chord in the I-V7-I-IV progression. (The I-V7-I-IV and the I-V-I-IV progressions are essentially interchangeable and the latter is presented here for purposes of analysis.) Examples of the use of this progression include Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms verse (1931), Crying, Waiting, Hoping chorus (1958), Sloop John B verse (1966), Kentucky Rain verse (1970), Sunshine (Go Away Today) verse (1971), and Glory Of Love verse (1986).

Chord Substitutions:

Below are some well-known songs written by applying chord substitutions to the I-V-I-IV progression variation.

E-B-   E-E7-A = Joy To The World chorus (1971)
E-B-B7-E-E7-A = Song Sung Blue verse (1972)
The chorus progression to Three Dog Night's 1971 hit Joy To The World is shown below.
E                   B         E 
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
E   E7    A   C     E   B7    E
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / / 
The I-IV-I-V7 Progression

This progression adds an additional "I" chord to the I-IV-V progession between the "IV" and "V" chords. This progression, which has been around since the late 1700s, was used to write such songs as Amazing Grace verse (1779), On Top Of Old Smokey verse (1861). In the Rock era, the progression was used to write such songs as Green, Green chorus (1963), and Mellow Yellow verse (1966).

Chord Substitutions:

Below are some well-known songs created by applying chord substitutions to the I-IV-I-V7 progression.

E-A-E-[G-A]-B7 = Please, Please Me verse (1964)
E-A-E7-B7 = Little Sister chorus (1961)
E-A9-E-B7 = Hi-De-Ho verse (1970)
E-E+-A-Am-E-B7 = It's My Party chorus (1963)
E5-A-E5-B7 = Bad Case Of Loving You chorus (1979)
E7-A7-E7-B7 = I Saw Her Standing There verse (1964) and Pink Cadillac verse (1988)
E9-A-Am-E-B7 = If I Fell bridge (1964)

Below you will find the first eight bars of the traditional Dixie compared to Elvis Presley's cover of An American Trilogy (which starts out with Dixie). This is an interesting study in chord substitution and arrangement. Notice the use of an inversion to help create a great Ascending Bass Line followed by the Standard I-vi-ii-V7 Progression.

E                       A                        
E           E/G#        A           A#o
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /   / /
    
E                       B7          E                         
E           C#m         F#m7 B7     E     A  
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /   / /    
The traditional verse progression is shown at the bottom of the page.
E                       A
/ /  / /    / / / /     / / / /     / /   / /
E                       B7          E
/ /  / /    / / / /     / / / /     / /   / /
The I-IV-I-V7 Progression

I-IV-I-V Variations:

This progression uses the "V" chord instead of the "V7" chord in the I-IV-I-V7 progression. (The I-IV-I-V7 and the I-IV-I-V progressions are essentially interchangeable and the latter is presented here for purposes of analysis.) Examples of the use of this progression include The Lion Sleeps Tonight verse (1961), Another Saturday Night (See Tab) verse (1963), Brown Eyed Girl verse (1967), Sweet Caroline verse (1969), and American Pie chorus 1972.

Chord Substitutions:

Below are some well-known songs written by applying chord substitutions to the I-IV-I-V progression variation. The I-IV-I-V and the I5-IV-I5-V progressions are essentially interchangeable and the latter is presented here for purposes of analysis. These Power Chord substitutions are most frequently encountered in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Music as these chords sound particularly good when distorted.

E-A-E-[F#m-G#m-A]-B = The Cheater verse (1966)
E-A6-E-B = Me And Julio Down By The School Yard intro (1972)
E-Asus2-E-Badd4 = Free Fallin' verse (1990)
E5-A-E5-B = Katmandu verse (1974)
E5-A5-E5-Bsus4 = Suite: Judy Blue Eyes verse 1 (1969)
E5-Aadd9-E/G#-B5 = You Shook Me All Night Long chorus (1980)

The chord diagrams to play the verse to Tom Petty's 1990 hit Free Fallin' are shown below followed by the openning verse progression to Van Morrison's 1967 hit Brown Eyed Girl.

E=022100  Asus2=x02200  E=022100  Badd4=x24400

E         A         E         B
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /
A further variation is the "I-IV-I-V-I" Progression used to write the (The Lights Went Out In)Massachusetts chorus (1967) and Spirit In The Sky verse (1970).

Your Assignment

I dont think weve seen the last of the Rock Progression and I assume clever songwriters will continue to find unique ways to resurrect this defining progression of Rock n Roll. Many guitarists are exploring Alternate Tunings , in part, to find new voicing to these tried and true chords. Your assignment now is to try create your own Rock Progressions using what you learned from this lesson.


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