Chord progressions in various keys

As a guitarist, you sometimes need guidelines regarding which chords to play together. It is for this purpose a recommendation to know the relationship of chords in different keys, but some suggestion of chord progression could also come handy.

Known songs and the artist is sometimes mentioned after a chord progression. This may make the progression more familiar to you, but it is just lesser parts of the song and mainly for fun.

Chord progressions in the key of C

The key of C is one of the most common keys for a guitarist. One reason is that there are many open chords with unchallenging shapes – with F as a little trickier exception – that can be played together. You could also listen to playing examples with sound, however, these are only simple demonstrations.

C – F – G – C
C – Dm – G – C
C – Em – Am – F
C – G – Am – F – G
C – E – Am – D7 – G
C – G/B – Am – F

It is often possible to substitute G with G7, Em with Em7 and so on. If the sequence doesn't end with a C, it is because it can continue with additional chords or start over again alternatively resolve into an ending C.

Chord progressions in the key of D

The D major is another central key for guitarists. Many well-known songs such as “Bad Moon Rising”, “Summer of ‘69” and “Free Fallin’” goes in his key.

D – A – G – D (“Bad Moon Rising” by J. Fogerty)

D – G – A – D

D – F – G – A 

D – F#m – Bm – A – D

D – Bm – F#m – G – A – D

D – Dsus4 – D – Dsus4 – A – Asus4 – A – Asus4

Non-diatonic chords included

Non-diatonic chords are chords that fit together, but has notes in the chords that doesn't belong to the key. In the key of D, F major is such a chord.

D – F – G – A 

Chord progressions in the key of E

Because the notes in the standard tuning (E, A, D, G, B, e) in a high degree coincide with the key of E, there are plenty of opportunities to find chord shapes in open positions.

E – A – B – E

E – D – G – A – D

E – A – C – D

E – G#m – C#m – A

E – E/G# – B/A – A

The key of E is often used in rock and metal situations; therefore, you could try some of these progressions with power chords.

Non-diatonic chords included

In this key, C major and G major goes into this category.

E – D – G – A – D

E – A – C – D

E – A – G – B – A – E

Chord progressions in the key of F

The key of F is less favored by guitarists since I (F) is often played as a barre chord and the same thing applies for ii (Gm) and IV (Bb). Therefore, it is not one of the central keys from a guitar perspective, but there are some chord progressions worth knowing nevertheless.

F – Bb – C – F

F – Gm – Bb – C

F – Dm – Gm – Bb

Non-diatonic chords included

The A chord doesn't belong to the F major key, but can be played in some situations. Also, Fm can work as a non-diatonic chord in this key.

F – A – Dm – Bb

F – Dm – A – Bb – C – F

F – Fm – E – Am

F – A7 – Dm

Chord progressions in the key of G

G major is perhaps the most viable of all keys for a guitarist. Especially when playing open chords is this a very convenient key. Lots of famous songs composed in this key exists, some of them are “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Wonderful Tonight”. Key of G is also very well suitable for country and bluegrass.

G – C – D – G

G – D – C – G

G – D – Am7 – G – D – C (”Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by B. Dylan)

G – C – G – D7 (”Brown Eyed Girl” by van Morrison)

G – Bm – C – G

G – B7 – C – D

Non-diatonic chords included

In this key, C major is a non-diatonic chord that still can be used.

G – D#/F – Em – C

Chord progressions in the key of A

The last major key to look on is A. It is definitely a useful key and common in music compositions with the guitar involved. One drawback is that the iii (C#m) can’t be played in any easy way as an open chord (except with voicings). C# minor can in some occasions be substituted with C# major.

A – D – E – A

A – D – E – D – A  (“Wild Thing” by The Troggs)

A – C – G – E

A – A/C# – D – E 

Non-diatonic chords included

In this key, G major and C#7 goes into this category.

A – C – G – E

A – C#7 – F#m – D (“You Got It” by Roy Orbison)

Chord progressions in the key of Am

We will finally include two minor keys in this journey. We choose A and E minor because they are probably the most used minor keys when it comes to the guitar.

A minor is relative to C major and it means that the same chords (plus for example D) can be used for this key.

Am – G – C – F

Am – F – C – G (“The Passenger” by Iggy Pop)

Am – Am/E – F – G

Am – Am11/G – F – C – G – Am  

Non-diatonic chords included

In this key, D major is a non-diatonic chord that still can be used.

Am – D – G – Em

Chord progressions in the key of Em

As for its relative key, G major, E minor is used in many famous songs. Three examples are “Heart of Gold”, “The River” and “Come as You Are”.

Em – C – D – G (“Heart of Gold” by N. Young)

Em7 – G – Dsus4 – Asus4 (“Wonderwall” by Oasis)

Em – G – D – C (“The River” by B. Springsteen and “Come as You Are” by Nirvana)

Non-diatonic chords included

Here, B7 is a non-diatonic chord that can work well in some situations.

Em – Am – B7 – Em


There are of course much more chords and keys to learn and if you want to go more into depth a recommendation is the book The Guitar Player's Songwriting Bible.

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