Common Chord Progression Examples

A company known as HookTheory has produced several useful resources for musicians in the learning phase.

Among these is TheoryTab, a database of thousands of popular songs categorized in various ways, but particularly by chord progression.  Today I want to show you how you can listen to common chord progression examples by using TheoryTab's songs sorted in this manner.  You'll find tracks in various keys so you can learn the progression through various chords, but also you'll start to realize how recycled all of these progressions really are.  Fortunately there are nearly unlimited melodies and harmonizations we can run through them.

Listed in 3 sections are chord progressions considered appropriate for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced players.  Each progression is given a unique name that describes where, when, and how to use it.  The one thing that this site can't do is teach you the basics of music theory.  So they're expecting you to understand the difference between major and minor chords, how they're indicated by capital or lower case roman numerals based on the root scale degree, and what the superscript numbers next to them mean.

Here's an example, where you can see the label and actual progression at the top of the image:

common chord progression examples

As you can see, this one is called "Simple Yet Powerful."  The IV - I6 - ii progression is a piece of cake but effective.  The examples are full of killer artists like Radiohead, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and even Hans Zimmer, the king of movie scores.

They have it stocked with video game songs, anime soundtracks, and examples from all types of genres so you can really get a feel for the chord progression.  Everyone will have something they can connect to as they move along their journey of mastering their instrument and songwriting.

The coolest part though is when you click into any given song.  It pulls up a beautiful piano roll that can play each part of the song back to you in MIDI or you can check out the full version that's pulled from YouTube.  You can loop it, transpose it on the fly (amazing feature by the way), change the tempo, and more.  Here's an example of the intro to Styx's Come Sail Away:

piano roll progression

This is one of the most useful tools to hit the net in a long time.  Check it out here at HookTheory.com.  Finding an appropriate chord progression for your song will never be a challenge again.  Don't let this become a crutch though.  You don't want to be the guy with complex songs on record but can't hang with other musicians when jamming on the fly.  You need to internalize this information so you don't end up looking like a dummy.

Learn the theory behind progressions, like the circle of fifths, and you'll be inventing your own that perfectly express the feeling behind your songs instead of being stuck with whatever you find on that site.

circle of fifths

Another cool option we've shared before are chord maps.  Check these out if you want something to print out and put in your pocket.  They help you create your progressions without bogging down with the complex reasoning behind resolving one chord into the next, which can get confusing even for veterans of the game.