This is the last of a 4 part series on 4 basic chord progressions that will get you far in playing some of your favorite songs, and you’ll begin to recognize the I IV V, the ii V, the I Vi IV V, and this one, the Vi V IV.
The Vi VI IV – one very versatile chord progression
This chord progression use the Vi (6th) chord which is minor, down a whole step to the V (5th) chord which is major and then down another whole step to the IV chord, also major. If you’re learning a song that does that, you have a Vi V IV!
This is really a natural minor progression. Let’s take a look at aVi V IV in C:
IV V VI
C D E F G A B C
A Minor to G Major to F Major.
Examples of songs using this chord progression:
Stairway to Heaven (the end, “as we wind on down the road…”)
Harden My Heart
Livin’ on a Prayer
Edge of 17
…and many more.
Minor Keys Revisited
The simplest Minor key type is the Natural Minor. There are no differences between it (the Vi – A here) and the relative Major (the I – C in this case). The notes and chords are the same. But the chord progression centers on A minor which gives is a more complex “moody” sound.
Keep in mind this can easily hop to the I major (C). Majors and Minors frequently go back and forth in a song. It can start in A Minor but the chorus could be in C Major.
What is fun with this chord progression is that there are cool ways to improvise over it. The Minor Pentatonic scale off the Vi (that is, A minor Pentatonic) is a natural for this and works very well.
Additionally, I use the Major scales, which in this case is C Major scales (or A Natural Minor scales, as they are the same thing). The reason why this works so well is while the A Minor pentatonic fits well, it lacks the root note of the IV chord, in this case F.
A Minor Penatonic
A C D E G
This is the chord progression in the final rockin’ part of Stairway to Heaven where Jimmy Pages comes out blasting with a descending run down A Minor Pentatonic but he “sticks” the final note of his phrase on the note F – which happens to be when the F chord is playing. His solo is largely based off the A minor pentatonic but was well aware that the F note could be used nicely to his advantage.
That’s the end of this series. There is much more to explore with chord progressions and the various ways to improvise (or write melodies) for them.
Drop me a line with your questions or new topics you’d like to see explore.
Keep Shreddin’ through the holidays!