What Are The Four Chords – 4 Chords to Play Hundreds of Songs Easily

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What are the four chords? Those people who have seen these cool videos, showing how many songs have the same chord progression, might be wondering how they can learn these four chords and be able to recreate some of the awesome performances that only require this one basic sequence.

We should start by saying that there are loads more than four chords! Beginners might not totally understand what we refer to as “the four chords” or “the four-chord song”. The video below can help things to make more sense.

It’s become quite well-known that these chords are used again and again in music, and there are so many songs that can be played just by learning the chords.

This is effectively a medley of songs, set to the I–V–vi–IV progression. This progression can be played in any key. The recorded version of the Axis of Awesome song uses D–A–Bm–G as the chords. You can play in a different key depending on what would suit your voice.

So, really, the important thing to remember is the pattern. I–V–vi–IV.

D-A-Bm-G is the progression played in the key of D. You can transpose these chords to play in different keys.

What Are The Four Chords – Is This Plagiarism?

All the bands and artists using this chord progression are not going to sue each other, don’t worry. The pattern is more of a formula to create a great chorus or chord progression. If the melodies and lyrics of songs were similar then there might be more of a case for plagiarism.

There are only so many chords out there, and certain progressions tend to work well, so it is inevitable that some bands and artists use the same. This pattern just seems to be a real sweet spot, and one that a lot of artists have used as something of a hit-maker.

List of Songs in I–V–vi–IV Progression

Here are just some of the examples of these songs. Some of them are in different keys, but you could easily transpose them so that all were played with the same four chords.

The Beatles – Let it Be
U2 – With or Without You
Black Eyed Peas – Where is the Love
The Rolling Stones – Beast of Burden
Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill
Lady Gaga – Paparazzi
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge (verse)
Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry
Toto – Africa
Men at Work – Land Down Under
Maroon 5 – She Will be Loved
A-HA – Take on Me

Another thing you might note is the fact that these are all in very different genres and styles, so the chord progression, though catchy, can take on a lot of different characteristics.

The chord progression isn’t overly complex. So, you should be able to play the songs above by the time you get to level 3 of our academy and develop an understanding of major and minor chords. It can be a really great way to practice moving between chords.

Check out a full list of songs that use this chord progression here. There are more out there, but these are just some of the most popular.

What Are The Four Chords? In Summary

Simply put, the four chords are a common progression. A sort of template to allow you to write and play loads of hit songs. There are a lot of commonalities between songs that end up being “hits” and this progression, I–V–vi–IV is incredibly popular. It is useful to know, and it is a great way to learn loads of songs quickly. Plus, who knows, it could even spark your next songwriting project.

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