Chord progressions in various keys

As a guitarist, you sometimes need guidelines regarding which chords to play together. It is for this purpose a recommendation to know the relationship of chords in different keys, but some suggestion of chord progression could also come handy.

Sometimes known songs and the artist is mentioned after a chord progression. This may make the progression more familiar to you, but it's just lesser parts of the song and mainly for fun.

Chord progressions in the key of C

The key of C is one of the most common keys for a guitarist. One reason is that there are many open chords with unchallenging shapes (with F as a little trickier exception) that can be played together.

C – F – G – C

C – Dm – G – C

C – Em – Am – F

C – G – Am – F – G

C – E – Am – D – G

C – G/B – Am – F

That is of course possible in some cases to substitute G with G7, Em with Em7 and so on. If the sequence doesn't end with a C it is because it can continue with additional chords or start over again alternatively resolve into an ending C.

Chord progressions in the key of D

The D major is another central key for guitarists. Many well-known songs such as “Bad Moon Rising”, “Summer of ‘69” and “Free Fallin’” goes in his key.

D – A – G – D (“Bad Moon Rising” by J. Fogerty)

D – G – A – D

D – F – G – A 

D – F#m – Bm – A – D

D – Bm – F#m – G – A – D

D – Dsus4 – D – Dsus4 – A – Asus4 – A – Asus4

Chord progressions in the key of E

Because of the notes in the standard tuning (E, A, D, G, B, e) coincide with the key of E, there are plenty of opportunities to embellish the chords.

E – A – B – E

E – D – G – A – D

E – A – C – D

E – G#m – C#m – A

E – E/G# – B/A – A

E – A – G – B – A – E

The key of E is often used in rock and metal situations; therefore, you could try some of these progressions with power chords.

Chord progressions in the key of F

The key of F is less favored by guitarists since I (F) is often played as a barre chord and the same thing applies for ii (Gm) and IV (Bb). Therefore, it's not one of the central keys from a guitar perspective, but there are some chord progression worth knowing nevertheless.

F – Bb – C – F

F – Gm – Bb – C

F – Dm – Gm – Bb

F – A – Dm – Bb

F – Dm – A – Bb – C – F

The A chord doesn't belong to the F major key, but still can be played in some situations.

Chord progressions in the key of G

G major is perhaps the most viable of all keys for a guitarist. Especially when playing open chords is this a very convenient key to play in. Lots of famous songs composed in this key could be mention and some of them are “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Wonderful Tonight”. It is also very well suitable for country and bluegrass.

G – C – D – G

G – D – C – G

G – D – Am7 – G – D – C (”Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by B. Dylan)

G – C – G – D (”Brown Eyed Girl” by van Morrison)

G – Bm – C – G

G – B7 – C – D

G – D#/F – Em – C

Chord progressions in the key of A

The last major key to look on is A. It is definitely a useful key and common in music compositions with guitars involved. One drawback is that the iii (C#m) can’t be played in any easy way as an open chord (except with voicings). C# minor can be substituted with C# major.

A – D – E – A

A – D – E – D – A (“Wild Thing” by The Troggs)    

A – C – G – E

A – A/C# – D – E   

A – C#7 – F#m – D (“You Got It” by Roy Orbinson)    

Chord progressions in the key of Am

We will finally include two minor keys in this journey. We choose A and E minor because they are probably the most used when it comes to the guitar.

A minor is relative to C major and it means that the same chords (plus for example D) can be used for these keys.

Am – G – C – F

Am – F – C – G (“The Passenger” by Iggy Pop)

Am – D – G – Em

Am – Am/E – F – G

Am – Am/G – F – C – G – Am  

Chord progressions in the key of Em

Just as for its relative key, G major, E minor is used in many famous songs. Three examples are “Heart of Gold”, “The River” and “Come as You Are”.

Em – C – D – G (“Heart of Gold” by N. Young)

Em – G – D – C (“The River” by B. Springsteen and “Come as You Are” by Nirvana)

Em7 – G – Dsus4 – Asus4 (“Wonderwall” by Oasis)

Em – A7 – B7 – Em


There are of course much more chords and keys to learn and if you want to go more into depth a recommendation is the book The Guitar Player's Songwriting Bible.

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