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Chord Progressions - The 50's cliche Part 1: I-vi-IV-V7-I

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Previous page: Chord Progressions - The vi-chord (relative minor) Next page: Chord Progressions - The 50s Cliche - Part 2: Relations between chords

Endless of songs are based on the I - vi - IV - V - I progression. If we use The Beatles as a starting point, it is said that the main influence as far as this progression is concerned, was Please Mister Postman, originally recorded by The Marvelettes. The Beatles made their cover version on the album With The Beatles. The Beatles recorded the song in A-major, with the chords A-F#m-D-E.

Look at the I-vi-IV-V progression for more examples.

We start a closer look at the progression in the key of C. In C the chords areC - Am - F - G7 - C.

Before diving into some of the subtleties and theoretical aspects of the progression, let us start with some fingering sequences that should be second nature to all guitarists. If you play in the keys C or G, the progression work well with open string chords. First in the key of C:

 

C Am F G7 C

You might choose to play the F to G7 as barré chords, but then you are already on you way to the moveable progressions that I will present a little later.

In the key of G, the chords are G-Em-C-D7:

G Em C D7 G

Note the fingering. You might finger the G, Em and D7 in other ways. There is not right way to finger these chords. But you have to choose fingerings that give easy changes from one chord to the other. In this progression, I prefer to finger the chords as shown. In other progressions, where I am coming from and going to other chords, other fingerings might be better.

If you use barré-chords, you can move the progression to different positions, and by that to different keys. To get an understanding of the relations between the chords, we can start by playing horizontally, with the same basic chord voicings. I am not saying that this is the best way to play the chords, ut if you want to understand the chord relations, it is a good way to start. We can once again go to the key of C, and this time start with a C played as an "F-shape" barré chord based on 8th fret. Then the Am is a "Fm-shape" chord on the fifth fret. For the F you have several options. You can move down to an "F-shape", which is of course at the first fret. If you do this, the best way to proceed with G, is to move up to 3rd fret, keeping the "F-shape" altered to a 7 chord.

C Am F G7 C

We can play the same progression starting with the "Bb-shape". We will once again start by playing it horizontally, this time in the key of F, with "Bb-shape" and "Bbm-shape" fingerings. In the key or F, the progression will have the chords F, Dm, Bb and C7. This will give you the following fingerings:

F Dm Bb C7 F

 

You will notice that the change from Bb-shape to Bbm-shape and back to Bb-shape requires a lot of finger movement. Another way to finger the Bb-shape, is to make a partial barré with the third finger on 2nd, 3rd and 4th string. This fingering need some practice. You have to be able to make a partial barré on the three strings, and still keep the first string open (fretted by the full barré with the first finger). But when you have the fingering down, the changes will be smoother. When you go from this "Double barré" fingering of Bb-shape to Bm-shape, you lift the third finger partially, keeping only the 4th string down. Then you add the 2nd and 4th fingers. You might then choose another voicing and fingering for the 7th chord. You can then fret the 1st string with your 4th finger, one fret above the partial barré. We can add that if you keep the partial barré over the top four strings, you will get a 6th chord.
Bb-shape Bb7-shape

You can of course choose other chord voicings and fingerings, with less horizontal movement. In they key of C, once again starting with the C as an F-shape in 8th fret, and continuing with the Am as an Fm-shape on 5th fret, you can then play the F as a Bb-shape on 8th fret and the G7 as a Bb7-shape on 10th fret.

C Am F G7 C

 

Still another possibility is to finger the F is what could be called a "D-shape" or "C-shape" on fifth fret. It is a bit harder, but i sounds nice. You can then finger the G7 by moving up to the 7th fret (but you have to omit the G on 5th string to get the 7th on 3rd string, unless you have six fingers on your left hand)
F G7

You should also get the next fingering, starting with an Bb-shape, programmed into you playing autopilot. We might choose the key of D:

D Bm G A7 D

These barré chord positions are moveable. If you learn these fingerings, you can play the progression in any key. And then it is time to move on to get some understanding of how these chords work, and to look at and listen to some more subtle variations of the same progression. We will do that in part two of the lesson.

Backing Tracks

The "50's Cliche" I-vi-IV-V progression 50C
These are MIDI backing tracks of the progression above. They are in 8 keys and three tempos (65, 90 and 120). Use them to get the sound of the cords, and as backing tracks. They are long 10-15 minutes, which makes them boring as listening track, but good for practise.
65 very slow C D Eb E F G A Bb
90 Slow C D Eb E F G A Bb
120 Medium C D Eb E F G A Bb

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Previous page: Previous page: Chord Progressions - The vi-chord (relative minor)Next page: Chord Progressions - The 50s Cliche - Part 2: Relations between chords Next page:

Previous page: Next page:
Previous page: Chord Progressions - The vi-chord (relative minor) Next page: Chord Progressions - The 50s Cliche - Part 2: Relations between chords