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Rock Ballad Progressions I-iii-IV-V


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Rock Ballad Progressions

"The root notes of the last three chords in the “C-Em-F-G” rock ballad progression form a “3-4-5” ascending diatonic bass line. The use of the mediant (“Em”) in the rock ballad progression was a welcome change from the over-used “C-Am-F-G” doo-wop progression that was popular at the time. Paul McCartney commenting on the Beatles’ use of the mediant (“IIIm”) chord said, “It was a bit of a formula. We knew if you went from “E” (“I”) to “G#m” (“IIIm”) you could always make a song with those chords…that change pretty much always excited you.” Listen to the chorus of their 1964 hit I Feel Fine. A more recent example of this type of bass line is the main verse progression to Rod Stewart’s 1989 Have I Told You Lately shown below.

C / Em7 / F / G11 /

The box below shows other examples of this type of ascending bass line.

C Em F G- True Love Ways verse (Buddy Holly – 1959), A Summer Song verse (Chad & Jeremy - 1964), Fun, Fun, Fun chorus (Beach Boys - 1964), Mister Lonely verse (Bobby Vinton - 1964), A Lover’s Concerto verse (Toys – 1965), I Go To Pieces verse (Peter & Gordon – 1965), You Baby verse (Turtles - 1966), Georgy Girl verse (Seekers - 1967), Different Drum verse (Stone Poneys - 1967), Hurdy Gurdy Man verse (Donovan - 1968), Woman, Woman verse (Union Gap - 1968), Jean (Oliver - 1969), I Started A Joke verse (Bee Gees - 1969), Sooner Or Later chorus (Grass Roots - 1971), Crocodile Rock verse (Elton John – 1972), Ziggie Stardust verse (David Bowie - 1972), Nice To Be With You verse (Gallery - 1972), Bright Side Of The Road verse (Van Morrison – 1979), Every Time You Go Away verse (Paul Young - 1980), and Heaven verse (Warrant - 1989)
C Em/B F G- Take My Breath Away chorus (Berlin – 1986)
C Em/B Dm/A G11- Midnight Train To Georgia verse (Gladys Knight & The Pips – 1973)
C Em F G7-G7b9 - Live And Let Die verse (Wings - 1973)
C Em F Dm7-G7 C I Knew You When chorus (Billy Joe Royal – 1965)
C Em F G7sus- I Can Love You Like That verse (All-For-One - 1995)
C Em F G11- You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice verse (Lovin’ Spoonful - 1966) and Key Largo chorus (Bertie Higgins – 1982)
C Em Fmaj7 G- Weekend In New England verse (Barry Manilow - 1976)
C Em Fm G7 - I Don’t Want To See You Again verse (Peter & Gordon – 1964)
C-Cmaj9 Em F G Am-G-F Time Passages verse (Al Stewart – 1978)
C Em7 F G F Changes verse (David Bowie – 1971)
CEm7FG/B-Love Of A Lifetime chorus (Firehouse - 1991)
C Em7 F G11- The Right Time Of The Night chorus (Jennifer Warnes - 1977)

If you insert the “Am7” chord between the “C” and “Em7” chords in a rock ballad progression you create the “C-Am7-Em7-F-G” chorus progression to All-4-One’s 1994 hit I Swear." (Excerpt from Chord Progressions For Songwriters © 2003 by Richard J. Scott).

If you want to learn more about chord progressions containing the mediant chord, take a look at the following lesson:

The iii-chord - Mediant (Olav Torvund)
Chord Stream - I-ii-iii Progression (Olav Torvund)
Chord Stream - I-ii-iii-IV Progression (Olav Torvund)

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