A great way to play the piano is by using chord progressions. Chord progressions create a wonderful foundation for a song, but leave lots of room for creativity (scroll down for your chord progressions chart).
Get a Chord Progressions Chart
Here’s a Major Key Chord Progressions Chart showing four popular chord progressions in every major key. You can get a copy below and use it as a reference at the piano:
What Are Chord Progressions?
Chord progressions are when chords move from one to another.
Here’s a common chord progression:
C – Am – F – G
If you listen to this chord progression, you’ll probably recognize it from a lot of different songs. It’s been used over and over again in many songs and many keys through the years.
Identifying the Key for a Chord Progression
One way to identify the key a chord progression belongs to is to find the chord that sounds like it resolves the progression.
If the progression is from the key of C major, then it will sound like it resolves with a C major chord.
The C – Am – F – G chord progression is from the key of C major, because it sounds complete, or resolved when we play a final C chord.
Another way to help identify the key for any given chord progression is to look for primary chords. These are the most commonly-used chords in any key, and they are often found in popular chord progressions.
In the C – Am – F – G progression, you may notice the chords C, F, and G are the three primary chords in the key of C major.
So looking for primary chords is another way to identify the key for a particular chord progression.
How to Play a Chord Progression in Any Key
Once you learn a particular chord progression, you can play it in any key by substituting the chords from another key.
C – Dm – Em – F – G – Am – Bº – C
These are the types of chords we’d find, no matter which major key we were using. The notes would change, but the types of chords would be consistent (since all major scales are built using the same pattern, their chords would also follow a pattern).
Using Roman Numerals to Label Chord Types
To simplify, we can use Roman numerals to label chord types:
I – ii – iii – IV – V – vi – viiº – I
The first chord is built off the first note of the scale, the second chord is built off the second note of the scale, etc.
So let’s take our chord progression, C – Am – F – G, and substitute Roman numerals:
I – vi – IV – V
This means our chord progression started with the first chord of our major scale (C), then moved to the sixth chord of the scale (Am), then the fourth chord (F), and then the fifth chord (G).
Playing the Progression in G Major
If we wanted to play the chord progression in another key, now we just need to find the I, vi, IV and V chords of another key.
Here are the chords for the key of G major:
G – Am – Bm – C – D – Em – F♯º – G
We can substitute the appropriate chords:
G – Em – C – D
These are the I – vi – IV – V chords of the G major scale, or key.
Other Common Chord Progressions
Here are some other popular chord progressions for major keys:
I – IV – vi- V
In C major, this would be:
C – F – Am – G
In G major:
G – C – Em – D
I – IV – I – V
In C major:
C – F – C – G
In G major:
G – C – G – D
I – V – IV – V
In C major:
C – G – F – G
In G major:
G – D – C – D
There are lots of other chord progressions, but these can get you started!
It’s lots of fun playing the piano with piano chords. There’s so much room for creativity and personal expression!
Chord progressions are the foundation for impromptu playing, and now that you know how to build different chord progressions, you’re on your way!