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Three Chord Blues Progression

The three chord blues progression can be either major or minor. They are mostly 12 bars long before they return to a new verse.

This progression has been around since the end of the 18th century.

It still remains pretty much the same except for chord embellishment and substitution.

Jazz?Blues styles really change a lot of the chords so you wouldn’t recognize it as a standard Blues progression.

It still follows the basic rules of the I, IV and V changes in major and minor progressions.

This progression is used for many rock songs too, just played a little different.

When I use Roman Numerals the Upper case are for major chords like I, IV and V and lower case are for minor chords like i, iv, and v.

You will see me reference these chords like this all through the site.

This is the basic progression there are also many variations but this is the basic skeleton.

Basic Three Chord Blues progression Layout

Four measures of the I or i chord followed by

Two measures of the IV or iv chord followed by

Two measures of the I or i chord again then followed by

Two measures of the V or v chord then followed by

Two measures of the I or i chord then start over.

Basic Skeleton

IV or iv

IV or iv

I or i

I or i

Major and Minor Blues Progressions

The major blues progressions are made from the 3 major chords I, IV and V of the major scale.

The minor blues can come from the Natural minor scale which is the major scale starting on the 6th note. In which case the chords would be i, ii, and v. The minor chords are actually the vi, ii and iii of the major scale.

This is a variation of the above basic skeleton using a IV(major) chord in the 10th measure

Major Scale Chord Numbering

Major Progression Major Progression

Lets make a major progression in G using Dominant 7th chords.

Here are some chord diagrams

This is a variation of the above skeleton using a iv(minor) chord in the 10th measure

This is very basic dominant chord blues progression

Three Chord Minor Progression

Here are the chord diagrams for this progression

I hope you found this page useful.

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Guitar Seventh Chords will… Expand Your Sound Arsenal…

Turn those plain chords into something special. The guitar seventh chords give plain chords a new sound dimension. They can also be used to lead into a chord change giving you a more professional sound.

The Major 7th Guitar Chords

These chords produce a smooth sound however the 7th tends to overpower the root for improvising.

Here are some major 7th chord forms. These are movable forms. You just have to change your fingerings.

The I and IV chord or every major scale can be a major 7th chord.

The 6th note of the Harmonic minor scale also builds a major 7th chord.

Here is where the roots are for these chords are so you can keep track of what your playing.

5th string

4th string

5th string

4th string

3rd string

4th string

Dominant 7th Chords

These are the chords that are written with just a plain 7 after the chord letter. These guitar seventh chords are used in every style of music especially blues and jazz.

These chords are built on the 5th note of every major scale

They are also built on the 5th note of the Harmonic minor scale

In the Melodic minor scale they are built on the 4th and 5th notes

Here are some movable common forms.

5th string

5th string

6th and 1st string

4th string

3rd string

6th string

Minor maj7th Chords

These chords aren’t used a lot as strumming chords but they are useful in drop progressions. They have a very distinct sound due to the augmented triad in them.

These chords are built on the root note of the Melodic and Harmonic scales. However they find their way easily into drop progressions

These chords are usually seen in a drop progression. Here’s the roots.

5th string

4th string

1st string

3rd string

These chords are only one note different from the next group, the minor guitar 7th chords.

The Minor 7th Chords

This is a very common group of chords. This chord can have two names. An A minor 7th chord has the same notes as a C6th chord. It will depend if the song writer wants a C or an A for the bass note.

These chords are built on the 2nd, 3rd and 6th notes of the major scale.

They are built on the 2nd note of the Melodic minor scale.

In the Harmonic minor scale this chord is built on the 4th note of its scale

Here are the roots again for these chords.

5th string

3rd string

6th and 1st

4th string

5th string

5th string

2nd string

Minor 7th Flat Five Chords

These guitar seventh chords are closely related to the dominant 7th.

They are actually a dominant 9th chord without a root. The Bm7♭5 is a G9 no root chord

This chord is built on the 7th note of the major scale

In the Melodic minor this chord is built on the 6th and 7th notes

In the Harmonic minor scale this chord is built on the 2nd note of its scale.

5th string

3rd string

6th string

I hope you found this page useful.

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Three Chord ProgressionsLearning Guitar Songs

These three chord progressions for guitar will be the basics for hundreds if not thousands of songs.

Most are diatonic. In other words they come from one scale and not two or more scales as songs can and many times do.

Dead Flowers by the Rolling Stones is a good example. This song is in the key of D. Starting with D to A to G and back to D.

A lot of country songs use this I-V-IV progression.

Three Chord Music Styles.

The list of 3 chord hit songs is endless. There are tons of Rock and Blues songs that are 3 chords and a lot of Country songs and lets not forget Folk music where Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) got his start.

Folk music was very popular in the 60’s where a lot of the songs touched on political and social issues. The Byrds was another group that evolved from a Folk music background.

Here is a list of the 3 major chords for each major scale. These will make up all of the 3 chord diatonic progressions.

Major Chords List

In the list above the G♭ scale is equal to the F♯ scale. A G♭ chord is the same as an F♯ chord just written different for the key.

I-IV-V Chord Progressions

Here are some three chord progressions and some songs they are used in.

These are used in the same order as above I-IV-V.

Twist and Shout – Example

This song written by Bert Russell and Phil Medley was first made popular by the Isley Brothers and then The Beatles. The Beatles version is the one I like the best.

Here is the basic progression and chords.

C

C F G progression like twist and shout

Twist and Shout – mp3
Twist and Shout – Tab
(Opens New Window)

The single notes are G A B C. The chords are C F and G. The G chord I used is the F form moved up to the 3rd fret.

La Bamba – Example

This song uses the C F and G chords like above and the single notes are chord tones or C scale notes.

This song is a folk song made popular by Ritchie Valens in the late 50’s.

This song is sung completely in Spanish. It’s listed in Rolling Stone magazine at number 345 out of 500 for all time greatest songs of all time.

Here links to an mp3 download and sheet music downloads of this song.

La Bamba mp3
La Bamba – Tab
(Opens New Window)

C F G progression like LaBamba

My Best Friends Girl
Three Chord Progressions

This song was written by Ric Ocasek of The Cars.

This song is in F so your chords are F B♭ and C. The break in the song goes from B♭ to C and back a few times and then starts the I-IV-V over again.

The guitar in this song has a really great tone. It’s crisp, that’s the only word I can think of to describe it

My Best friends girl mp3 and sheet music links.

My Best Friends Girl – mp3
My Best Friends Girl – Tab
(Opens New Window)

F

F B-flat C progression like My Best Friends Girl

I-V-IV
Three Chord Progressions

This progression just plays the V chord before the IV. This is a common progression in Country and Folk music.

One example of this progression is the Rolling Stones song Dead Flowers.

The song uses the D, A and G in that order. The other changes in the song use the same chords just different timing.

Here’s a link to this Stones song mp3. They didn’t do too many with a taste of country music like this one

The very first chord is the Dsus2 chord. Lift your finger off the 1st string of the D chord. It only lasts two beats in the very beginning of the song.

Dead Flowers

Dead Flowers – mp3
Dead Flowers – Tab
(Opens New Window)

D

Dead Flowers – Example

D A G Progression like the Stones Dead Flowers

Another song that uses this progression is Bob Dylans song “Knocking on Heavens Door”

Here’s a link to this song. This song has been done by a lot of different people

Here’s the Chords

G

More Three Chord Progressions

Knocking on Heavens Door – Example

G D C Progressions like Bob Dylans’ Knocking on Heavens Door

This C chord in this song changes every other time to an Am7 which is a C with an added A note.

Once again these are only two samples. There are many other variations of three chord progressions for guitar.

V-IV-I Three Chord Progressions

This progression is used in a lynrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama”

The chords D C and G in that order are picked more than strummed.

Here’s links to mp3 and sheet music for this all time country rock song

Sweet Home Alabama – mp3
Sweet Home Alabama – Tab
(Opens New Window)

Here are the chord forms used.

G

D C G Progression like Sweet Home Alabama

The notes in between are played on the 5th and 6th strings on the 5th and 7th frets.

Someone else can play the actual chords along with this or do some lead work like the song.

I hope you found this page useful.

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Discovering Blues Guitar

Blues guitar is what you hear BB King and Eric Clapton play. It’s a style of music that has influenced many other music styles like Rock and Jazz

The blues music comes from the plantation workers(slaves) in the southern states of the U.S. As slavery was abolished many sought out new places to live. This is what gives Blues music it’s different styles.

Blues music is about having the Blues or depression. Many songs are about cheating spouses or being treated mean by another person.

Blues music from Texas is different than Blues music from the Chicago, Illinois area and the Delta area of Mississippi.

Blues Guitar Playing Styles

Slide Guitar

There are many playing styles but the slide guitar style is very popular. I don’t think they know who started this or if this idea was stolen from Hawaiian music.

Elmore James was one player who’s style is still kept alive by players like Johnny Winters. Elmore James style is also used in books for teaching slide guitar.

Duane Allman from the Allman Brothers was a very popular slide player who died before his time. He didn’t play in a strict blues style but more of a cross between Blues, Rock and Country music.

Dobro Slide

Bonnie Raitt comes to mind for this style. A dobro is a guitar that has resonators built into it and can be made of steel or wood.

The resonators have a sound similar to the little metal discs on a tambourine when you rattle them, to me anyway. This give the guitar a unique “steely” kind of sound. Dobro’s are usually tuned to an open tuning like E, D or G.

I have a page to get you started off into slide guitar.

How to Play Slide Guitar

Finger Style playing

Finger picking is good for blues on an acoustic guitar but can be used on an electric as well.

I believe Robert Johnson played using his fingers although his songs don’t sound like they were finger picked.

David Hamburger is another good acoustic blues slide player

Blues Scales

The Blues scales are essential for playing blues music but they are easy to learn after you understand the Pentatonic scales.

They have a major and a minor version just like the Pentatonic scales and their patterns on the guitar neck are almost identical.

Here is a link to the Blues scales page.

Blues Scales

Three Chord Blues Progression

This progression is the basis for all the different blues progressions. It’s a major chord usually a dominant 7th chord progression. There are many variations to it and it gets used in Rock and Country music which don’t really sound like a blues progression

Here is a page to learn more about this progression.

Three Chord Blues

Beginner Blues

You have to crawl before you walk. The blues can be very simple or very complcated as with all music.

The page below kind of sums up the above links on scales and progressions giving you a simple progression and scales to use. There is also a video link for beginning blues.

Beginner Blues

Minor Blues Progression

This progression is the minor version of the three chord blues progression. The only difference is the I and IV and sometime V are replaced with minor chords.

These also have many variations. The song “The Thrill is Gone” is one that has a variation from the basic progression.

Here is another page with some more info.

Minor Blues Progression

Good Blues Course

Call Now: 866-945-6042 Order By Phone

I hope you found this page useful.

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G Minor Scales

G minor scales are related to the B flat major scale. These keys are good to use for improvising. You can learn more in the mode pages.

The G minor natural scale has the same notes as the major key of B flat. Also called the G Aeolian mode.

G Natural Minor Scale

Chords in G Natural Minor Scale

G Melodic Minor Scale

Flat the 3rd of a major scale to make a melodic minor scale.

Chords in G Melodic Minor Scale

G Harmonic Minor Scale

Lower the 3rd and 6th note of the major scale to make a harmonic scale

This scale has a Latin sound.

I hope you found this page useful.

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The Aeolian ModeThe Natural Minor Scale

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We covered the Aeolian mode in the Guitar scales section under the name of the natural minor. But being it is a mode here we go.

This scale is good for improvising over minor chords. It contains the minor Pentatonic scale as well as the relative major Pentatonic scale

Guitar Scales Software

Learn Scales EasierTake it for a Free Ride

Guitar Scales Method

This mode can be used to improvise over the ii, iii or vi minor chords of the major scale.

You can also use it to build chords like you do in the major scale or the Melodic and Minor scales.

Free PDF – Send a Copy to a Friend

Aeolian Scales

Here is what it sounds like played against an A minor chord. It’s a fairly mild sounding scale.

Try starting on the second or ninth note on this scale on beat 2 it gives a minor 9th sound.

This scale also contains the C major scale plus the A minor and C major pentatonic scales.

The A Aeolian played against an A minor chord

The Aeolian List

The Aeolian Formula

This is how you make one from the Major Scale like so…

Aeolian Formula

1

2

3♭

4

5

6♭

7♭

Remember that this mode is the major scale starting from the 6th note.

This mode can be combined with its Tonic major scale too by adding the C♯, F♯ and G♯ notes while improvising. Experiment.

This would expand the scale to A B C C♯ D E F F♯ G G♯

This will give you another angle or way of thinking for improvising so your solo’s don’t get predictable

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Guitar Chord ProgressionsCommon Progressions

There are a lot of guitar chord progressions that are common for certain styles of music. By learning these progressions it will make learning songs much easier and easier to remember.

Learning these basic chord progressions will also increase the number of songs you know almost instantly.

Many songs will have slight variations of a basic progression. Giving it its own character.

During the 1950’s the I-vi-IV-V progression was used on thousands of songs. In the key of C that would be C-Am-F-G.

Some you still hear on oldies radio stations. This progression is like a time machine because of the overuse of this progression. It brings back a music era.

Progression Numbering System

All the chords will be written in Roman numerals. The upper case for major chords I, IV and V. The lower case for minor and diminished chords ii, iii, vi and vii.

All chord numbers are based on the major scale. like below.

The degree sign under the vii column stands for a diminished chord.

The G♭ and F♯ are the same scale. One is a flat key and one is a sharp key. Same pitch just written different.

By using the above list you can change the key of any song you want to any key you want.

Numbering Variations
Guitar Chord Progressions

To switch keys for every chord that’s not in the key of the music would get very confusing. That’s why it is easier to think in one key with some variations.

Many songs do not stay in one key(called diatonic). They often borrow chords from other keys for chord progressions. Any one of your major chords can become minor and the minor chords can become major.

They can also be flat or sharp from the key. A common chord for this is the VII♭. This is made into a major chord and played ½ tone lower. In the key of C this chord would be a B♭

Other variations are chord extensions like a 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th or 13th.

The iii minor sometimes will become a III7. A dominant 7th. The same with the ii and vi chords.

Key Changes
Guitar Chord Progressions

Sometimes the written music will show a key change if it’s going to last for a bit. Other times it may only be a bar or two and they don’t show a key change. This is why you should learn all of the major scales and their basic chords.

If you learn one key you have also learned half of two other keys. If you don’t understand yet check out the guitar chords page.

Now that you know how guitar chord progressions will be written out we can move on into the progressions. The number system lets you play the song in any key you want.

This is useful for singing so you can reach the notes or you may want to play in an open position for an acoustic guitar or in a closed position for a solid body electric.

You can write these numbers next to chord symbols in sheet music and song books. This is a good way to learn different keys and chord positions.

Chord Numbering Example

This is an example of how chords would be numbered for the first 4 chords of the C scale.

The chords are a Cma7, Dm7, Em7 and a Fma7. The notes are the chord notes also called an arpeggio.

With a little practice you can transpose to any key just read the notes and play them 1 whole tone higher or any other change without rewriting by knowing your music intervals.

Circle of 4ths
Guitar Chord Progressions

Have you heard about the circle of 4ths? Understanding this will make remembering songs a lot easier. Check out the link below.

Circle of 4ths

Circle of Fifths

This is similar to the circle of 4ths but you might be able to understand how all the keys work together better from this point of view.

Circle of Fifths

Two Chord Progressions

Most songs have more than two chords but a lot of songs are based on two chords. Check out the page below.

Two Chord Progressions page.

Three Chord Progressions for Guitar

Now we are getting into songs that are based on three chords. These songs are based on the I, IV and V chords of the major scale. Some are just extensions of the two chord progressions.

Three Chord Progressions

Four Chord Progressions

Now things seem to be getting complicated but it’s only one more chord. We can have an even 4 or 2 measures for these progressions and then repeat it.

There are many more options for 4 chord progressions. Check out the page in the link below.

Four Chord Progressions

12 Bar Blues Progression

This progression is the foundation for thousands of songs. It is based on the I, IV and V chords of the major scale.

12 bar blues chord progression

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Discover Slash Chords

What are slash chords? They sound like nasty evil chords but they’re actually pretty tame.

There are two types. One tells you what bass note to use for a chord like C/G. This means play a C chord with a G as the bass note.

The second one tells you to add notes represented as numbers like C6/9. This means to add a 9th to the C6 chord.

They don’t occur in every song but they happen enough that you should be familiar with them.

Chord Bass Notes – Slash Chords

Adding a bass note to use with a particular chord.

These are used by all musicians not just guitar players.

Am7/G would mean to play an A minor 7th with a G note as it’s bass note.

Another one you will see quite often is the I chord like C/G.

The reason for this is to follow a bass line. In other words you could play any C and it would fit in the music but with the C/G it would sound like the writer intended it to sound.

You may also see C/v which is the same thing they are just using the note degree or position instead of a letter

This isn’t as common as the note but you may see it and you’ll know what they mean.

All Chords = Slash Chords

You can use any note from the major scale for any chord from that scale

In other words in the key of C you have C D E F G A B C.

Now the C chord is C E G. So that leaves you with 4 other notes D F A B you can use with this C chord.

You can add the D as a bass note C/D. This makes this chord a C added 9th.

The next one is the C/F This you might call a C sus4th except it still has the 3rd in it. So you might call it a C added 11th

The next is C/A. This makes this chord a C6 or an Am7. You probably won’t see this because they would just use Am7.

The last one is C/B. You most likely won’t see this because it sounds really bad. This makes this chord a Cmaj7 but if you put the 7th before the root you will hear what I mean even though it is theoretically correct, maybe

Try this with these chords

That second chord sounds bad but it has the same notes as the first chord

It’s a minor ninth interval and is similar to a minor 2nd which you try to avoid playing together.

You could play each note individually and it wouldn’t sound bad but if you play them together they clash.

It’s a mathematical frequency thing but we just need to remember the minor 2nd/9th intervals.

All Major Scales

Every major and minor chord are in 3 diffeent keys.

The C chord is in the C, F and G scales. this gives us a couple more notes to use.

In the F scale you would have the B♭ or the dominant 7th note that is used quite often

In the key of G you have the F♯ note. This is the flat 5 of the C chord, in this case you would replace the 5(G) note. This might also be called a C flat5 chord.

This note would work in the A minor chord but this would be called an Am6 although you may see Am/F♯.

Drop Progressions

You will see these slash chords in progressions where the bass note drops.

The bottom line is the songwriter wants this specific chord for their song.

You will see sheet music where they should have put a slash chord in the music but they didn’t. This is where knowing about these chords comes in handy.

Eric Clapton’s song Wonderful tonight uses one of these chords in the progression. Led Zepplins’ Stairway to Heaven has one in it too.

G                    D        C                        D
It's late in the eve - ning     she's won-dring what clothes to wear
G                    D        C                        D
She puts on her make -  up        and brush-es her long blonde hair
C                    D            G     D/F♯  Em
   And then she asks -  me        Do I look al-right?    
Em           C                   D
   And I say Yes        You look won-der-ful to-night
G            D                 C                D 

In the line Do I look Al-right the bass is going from G to F♯ to E

The bass guitar is probably doing the same but with a note or two extra.

You would use these chords.

Adding Notes – Slash Chords

Here we add notes by using numbers. Each note in a scale also has a number name that goes with it like below.

If you have some music with a chord symbol like C/add9 or C/9. You just have to add a 9 which is a D to a C chord.

You could have a C6/9 chord wich would mean add a 9 to a C6 chord.

I hope you found this page useful.

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