Music Theory

Common Chord Progressions for Piano Students

By Rebecca Carlson
Common Chord Progressions for Piano Students.

Learn how to play some of the most common piano chord progressions for beginners

Are you ready to up your piano game? Knowing how to play chord progressions will make it easier to sight read, memorize, compose, and improvise music. In this article you’ll learn some of the most common chord progressions, as well as famous chord progressions from popular music.

Want to see how to play any chord on the piano? Download Hoffman Academy’s free Ultimate Piano Chord Chart

What is a chord progression?

A chord progression is a sequence of chords in the accompaniment of a song. Many pop and folk songs have simple chord progressions that repeat. These help define what notes are going to be played in both melody and harmony. Repeated chord progressions help tie a song or piece of music together. Knowing the chord progression can help make the song easier to memorize. Also, recognizing familiar chord progressions as you sight read makes it easier to learn new music.

If you’re composing a song, chord progressions are a powerful tool. There are certain progressions that sound particularly satisfying, or that are associated with different emotions or styles of music. Composers use these traits to get the effect they want in the music they’re creating.

Chord progressions are also important when improvising. Have you ever wondered how a group of jazz musicians can make up music as they go along and it all sounds good? Jazz musicians can do this because they know what chord is coming next and they know what notes will sound good with each chord.

How do you know which chord to play and when to play it? 

If you have sheet music with chords written on it, then simply look at the chord symbols, which are written above the staff. You can play the notes of the indicated chord in any rhythm until the chord changes – just look for the next chord symbol.

If you don’t have sheet music, use your ears! Carefully listen to the sound of each chord. Now, sing the melody or listen to a recording while playing chords. Which chord sounds best to your ears as you go through each measure of the song? There’s no one right way to play the chords to a song. It depends on what kind of sound you’re trying to create. Experiment with chords and see what sounds best to you!

Learn more about the way melody and chords work together in this article: How to Choose Piano Chords.

Easy two-chord progressions for beginners

The first chord progression to learn is I – V7. In the key of C, this chord progression would be C – G7. An easy way to play these chords is to play the notes C-E-G for the C chord, then the notes B-F-G for the G7 chord. This allows your hand to stay in the same position to play these chords. If you’re not used to playing triads yet, an even simpler way to play these chords would be to play C-G for the C chord and F-G for the G7 chord.

The C-G7 Chord Progression

With these two chords, you can play along with several simple folk songs, such as “Eensy Weensy Spider,” “Down by the Station,” “Rain, Rain, Go Away,” and “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush.” There are even a few popular songs that use this two-chord chord progression, such as “Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon, and “Jambalaya” as recorded by the Carpenters.

Simple four-chord progressions for beginners

Watch this video tutorial to learn how to play a variety of easy four-chord progressions on piano.

One of the most common four-chord progressions in music is I – V – vi – IV. In the key of C, this chord progression would be C – G – Am – F. To play this chord progression, start by playing the notes C-E-G. Then move your hand to play G-B-D, then A-C-E, then F-A-C. You can move your hand up or down the keyboard to play each of these chords, depending on your preference. This chord progression is used in the chorus of “Let it Go” from Frozen, “Demons” by Imagine Dragons, and “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz.

C-G-Am-F chord progression

Another popular chord progression is I – vi – IV – V. In C major this is C – Am – F – G.To practice this chord progression, start with C-E-G, then move to A-C-E, then F-A-C, and then finish with G-B-D. You’ll hear this chord progression used in “Heart and Soul,” “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift and “Baby” by Justin Bieber.


You can also find many songs in a minor key that use the i – VI – III – VII chord progression. In the key of A minor, the chords would be Am – F – C – G. Play A-C-E, move to F-A-C, to C-E-G, and then finish with G-B-D. This is the chord progression in “Hello” by Adele and “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran.

Am-F-C-G Chord Progression

Back to major keys, let’s take a look at the I – IV – iv – V chord progression. In the key of C major, this one would be C – F – Am – G. Start by playing the notes C-E-G. Then move to F-A-C, to A-C-E, and then to G-B-E. This particular chord progression lends its sound to “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction and “More than a Feeling” by Boston.

The C-F-Am-G chord progression

Did you notice that all of these progressions use the same four chords but in a different order? They’re sometimes called the four standard chords, and they’re widely used in all genres of music. 

Common piano chord progressions: Major chords

While all of the chord progressions we’ve looked at so far use both major and minor chords, there are also songs that use only major chords. Each major key signature has only three major chords, the I chord, the IV chord, and the V chord. In the key of C, these chords are C major, F major, and G major. A simple I – IV – V chord progression is used in many songs like “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens and “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles. 

The C-F-G chord progression

Common piano chord progressions: minor chords

The i – VII – VI – V chord progression starts with a minor chord and has a minor feel to it, even though most of the chords in the progression are major chords! This minor feel is maintained because when using a natural minor scale, the VI and VII chords are major, and with a harmonic or melodic minor scale, the V chord is also major. In the key of A minor, the chords will be Am – G – F – E. Start by playing A-C-E, then move down one step to G-B-D, then down one step to F-A-C, and then down again to play E-G♯-B. It’s a fun chord progression because the bottom note of each chord steps down. You’ll hear this chord progression in “Believer” by Imagine Dragons and “Happy Together” by the Turtles. 

The Am-G-F-E chord progression

Enjoy playing your favorite piano songs with these chord progressions!

Once you know these piano chord progressions, listen for them in your favorite songs and watch for them when you’re looking at a new piece of sheet music. You can even use them to improvise and compose songs of your own. 

For more about piano chords, check out our article on How to Read and Play Piano Chords.

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