I - IV - V and I - IV - V7 progressions

Guitar background progression indicatedThe I - IV - V progression is the most common of all chord progressions. It's used in heaps of songs, either as the complete progressions or as a part of it. The I - IV - V is sooner or later prolonged to I - IV - V - I which include the “home chord” since the V built tension that wants to resolved in the I chord.

The first (I), the fourth (IV) and the fifth (V) is sometimes called principal chords and are built from the Major scale. If extracted from the C Major scale, the chords would be C, F and G.

The last part (V - I) is also called a perfect cadence (a cadence is an old term that refers to a sequence of chords that ends a phrase or section a music piece).

Notice also that a fourth (IV) and a fifth (V) makes an octave (I to I including two octaves). This harmonic relationship was discovered already by the Pythagoreans.

So, to translate the Roman numerals to “real” chords, here are some examples:

I - IV - V = D - G - A
I - IV - V7 = D - G - A7 (V chord as dominant)
I - IV - V - I = D - G - A - D (returning to "home")


These chords can be seen in the Bob Dylan song “Mr Tambourine Man”:

The first verse starts with I - IV - V:

D [intro] (G)Hey! Mr. (A)Tambourine Man, (D)play a song for (G)me

… and concludes with I - IV - V - I:

In the (D)jingle jangle (G)morning I'll come (A)following (D)you. 

Chord diagram for progression
The chords: D, G, A

I - IV - V progressions in all keys

The progression and how it's played in all musical keys:

Key I IV V
F F Bb C
B B E F#
Bb Bb Eb F
Eb Eb Ab Bb
Ab Ab Db Eb
Db Db Gb Ab
Gb Gb Cb Db
C# C# F# G#
D# D# G# A#
F# F# B C#
G# G# C# D#
A# A# D# F

Download a free .pdf file with the progressions including chord diagrams

I - IV - V7 progressions in all keys

The progression with a dominant 7th as the V chord in all keys:

Key I IV V
C C F G7
E E A B7
A A D E7
D D G A7
G G C D7
F F Bb C7
B B E F#7
Bb Bb Eb F7
Eb Eb Ab Bb7
Ab Ab Db Eb7
Db Db Gb Ab7
Gb Gb Cb Db7
C# C# F# G#7
D# D# G# A#7
F# F# B C#7
G# G# C# D#7
A# A# D# F7

Download a free .pdf file with the progressions including chord diagrams

I - IV - V7 progression with substitutions

The progressions must not include ordinary major and dominant 7th chords. The chords in it can be substituted in many ways. Some examples of this:

C - Fmaj7 - G9

E - Amaj7 - B7

Amaj7 - Dmaj9 - E13

D - Dsus4 - C - F

G - Csus4 - D7

I - IV - V7 progression with replacements

The substitution can also involve changing chord all together. The IV can be replaced with ii and the I can be replaced with vi, which in both cases are the relative minor. Some examples of this:

C - Dm - G

G - Am - D

Am - F - G

When I is replaced with vi, it's normally not done in the end of a verse or a chorus (if the song is in the same key as the I chord).

Other ideas for "spicing up" I - IV - V

Transitional chords can be put inside the progression:

C - Am - F - G

G - Em - C - D

In addition, other options such as bass lines can be added:

C - C/E - F - G


G - G/B - C - D

Expanding the I - IV - V

Although, this specific progression is essential, it's more often than not expanded in some ways throughout songs. One common variation is the I - IV - I - V, which involve a return to the I chord before continuing to the V.

For more information about I - IV - V and other progressions, see the 500 Guitar Chord Progressions ebook. It will give you a deeper insight about how chord progressions can be constructed.

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