"Six and one of half a dozen
Black guitars and plastic blues.
Hide behind a wall of nothing
Nothing said and nothing new.
Four chords that made a million.I-V-vi-IV
. There's just something about these four chords that makes for a catchy tune in western pop music, transcending the boundaries of genre, and work in a song with any mood or tempo. This particular ordering of them, the "pop-punk progression" as The Other Wiki
calls it, was spawned as a variant of the Doo Wop Progression
, and has been particularly popular from the 1990s to the present day. Actually Older Than They Think
- this progression is already known in the Baroque music. Pachelbel's Canon
is a variant of this progression, known as Pachelbel's Canon Progression
The Roman numerals above represent a sequence of four chords. If you don't know Roman analysis, check out this video
, or play these chords on a piano: C major, G major, A minor, F major. Repeat if desired. If this progression loops back to I, this effectively produces a Plagal Cadence
. Very often, this progression is used as an ostinato
—a repeated pattern that occurs throughout a song (or a part of it).
In a major key, this progression is I V vi IV. If we play them in a different order, vi IV I V, (A minor, F major, C major, G major)the progression sounds to be in the relative minor key (the key whose home note starts on the sixth note of its relative major key), in which case we notate it as i VI III VII. Occasionally, it's played starting with the subdominant major key: IV I V vi, (or VI III VII i relative to the minor), though this variation is less common than the tonic major and submediant minor versions. This version is sometimes called the "sensitive-female chord progression."
All of these progressions can be and are played with fifth or "power" chords; these are not major or minor chords (they don't possess the "third" which determines whether a chord is major or minor), but people's ears will pick up on the sound they're "expecting" to hear and fill in the blanks mentally so the progression sounds right.
Note, as always, that Tropes Are Tools
: while it has proven to be an irresistible progression, a band who relies on it for too many of their songs runs the risk of being regarded as unimaginative and dull.
It's become a theme of music oriented comedy to make fun of this trope.
See its predecessor from the 30's to mid 60's, the Twelve Bar Blues
Related chord progressions:
Examples of I-V-vi-IV (the tonic major key version):
- Adele - "Someone Like You"
- aha - "Take On Me" (chorus only; verse is ii-V-I-IV)
- Gary Allan "Songs About Rain" (verses)
- The All-American Rejects - "Swing, Swing", "Move Along" (the intro, bridge, and outro), "Dirty Little Secret" (verses)
- Alexandra Burke - "Bad Boys"
- Axis of Awesome shows us a lot of examples (and a few non-examples).
- Alicia Keys - "No One"
- Aqua - "Doctor Jones" (the chorus and alternating lines of the verses)
- Avenged Sevenfold - "Afterlife" (choruses)
- The Beatles - "Let It Be" (first half of the verse; second half is I-V-IV-I)
- Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - the "excellent music"note that plays in the scene where they travel to Rufus' time.
- Billie Myers - "Kiss the Rain"
- Black Eyed Peas - "Where Is The Love?"
- blink-182 - Dammit, Feeling This, Always, Carousel, What's My Age Again? and more. It's called the "pop-punk progression" for a reason.
- Bob Marley - "No Woman No Cry"
- Bruno Mars - "The Lazy Song"
- Bush - "Glycerine", "Comedown" and "Machinehead" (during the second and third choruses)
- Caramell - "Caramelldansen"note
- The Cars - "Tonight She Comes"
- Cher Lloyd - "Swagger Jagger" (In the choruses after the first verse. It's more noticeable in the instrumental version.)
- Cinderella - "Don't Know What You Got ('Til It's Gone)"
- Crayon Shin Chan's Ending Theme
- Cristina Valenzuela - "Remember Me" from Always Remember Me (but only in the verses).
- Crowded House- "Fall At Your Feet"
- Billy Currington "People Are Crazy" (first half of verses)
- Emilie Autumn - "What If"
- Enya - "On My Way Home" (chorus only)
- Five For Fighting - "Superman (It's Not Easy)"
- Florida Georgia Line "Cruise"
- Green Day - "When I Come Around" (but not in the chorus), "X-Kid" (chorus only)
- Halicali - Ai (chorus)
- Hammerhead - "Ev'rybody Gets Laid Tonight"
- Idina Menzel - "Let It Go" from Frozen (chorus)
- Imagine Dragons - "Demons", and the verses of "It's Time"
- Ingrid Michaelson - "Everybody", refrain
- James Blunt - "You're Beautiful"
- Jamie Grace featuring tobymac - "Hold Me"
- Jason Aldean "Big Green Tractor" (verses)
- Jason Mraz - "I'm Yours"
- Jimmy Wayne "Paper Angels" (verses)
- Journey - "Don't Stop Believing" (most people tend to make this the definitive example of this progression when talking about it) and "Any Way You Want It"
- Jun Senoue - "Sea Gate" (from Sonic Heroes)
- Kanye West - "Runaway"
- Kitsune^2 - "Take Off And Land"
- Lady Gaga - "Paparazzi"
- Le Click - "Call Me"
- Liz Phair - "Why Can't I", verse (and has the reordered minor key version in the refrain)
- Maroon 5 - "She Will Be Loved"
- Men At Work - "Down Under"
- Mika - "Happy Ending"
- Miku Hatsune - "PoPiPo"
- Miley Cyrus - "We Can't Stop", "Wrecking Ball" (chorus)
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic - BBBFF (verses)
- NiGHTS Into Dreams - "Dreams Dreams" (verses)
- No Doubt - "Spiderwebs"
- Old Crow Medicine Show, Darius Rucker "Wagon Wheel"
- OLIVIA - "Winter Sleep"
- OneRepublic - "Say (All I Need)"
- Owl City - Vanilla Twilight
- P!nk - "Fucking Perfect"
- The Police - "So Lonely"
- Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Under the Bridge" (verse)
- Relient K - "In Love with the '80s (Pink Tux to the Prom)"; this may have been an homage to the Cars (the background arrangement is very similar to "Tonight She Comes")
- Also "Pressing On" and "Forward Motion".
- Renard - "Intensive Care Unit" and its remixes
- Richard Marx - "Right Here Waiting" (part of the chorus)
- Richard Jacques - The title screen music from Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.
- Rie Tanaka's cover of "Anarchy In The UK" by The Sex Pistols.
- Rise Against - "Give It All" (choruses) and Audience of One (intro and verses)
- Sarina Paris - "Look At Us Baby" (the chorus)
- Sesame Street (yes, Sesame Street) - "The Word Is No"
- Shoji Meguro - "Spirited Girl" (from Persona 4 Arena)
- Smashing Pumpkins "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
- Taylor Swift - "Eyes Open", "I Knew You Were Trouble" (verse)
- Tori Amos - "Crucify" (chorus), "Pretty Good Year"
- Train - "Hey Soul Sister"
- U2 - "With or Without You" and "Miracle Drug"
- Utada Hikaru - Eternally
- Weezer - "Pork and Beans"
- Yuko Goto's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana.
- Lampshaded by Bo Burnham in his parody love song Repeat Stuff, though he uses it himself a fair number of times outside that song.
Examples of i-VI-III-VII [vi-IV-I-V relative to major] (the minor key version):
- Arcade Fire - "Rebellion (Lies)" (in the bridge)
- Area 11 - Vectors (ending, often known as the ending theme to various Yogscast series including the Jaffa Factory and the "next time" music of JaffaQuest)
- Atelier Ayesha - "Maria"
- Aviators - "Friendship"
- Basshunter - "DotA" and "All I Ever Wanted"
- Beyonc้ - "If I Were A Boy"
- Bon Jovi - "It's My Life"
- Breaking Benjamin - "Diary of Jane" (choruses)
- Cascada - "Miracle"
- Coldplay - "The Scientist"
- The Cranberries - "Zombie"
- Crush 40 - "Live and Learn" (verse)
- Daft Punk - "Contact"
- Digital Emotion - "Go Go Yellow Screen"
- DJ Kajjin - "Music is Fantasy" (chorus)
- Dr. Reanimator - "Move Your Dead Bones" (intro, chorus, and instrumental bridge)
- Eagle Eye Cherry - "Save Tonight"
- Evanescence - "Going Under" (chorus)
- Emeli Sand้ - "Read All About It"
- Eminem - "Stronger Than I Was"
- Fall Out Boy - "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark" (chorus)
- Flo Rida - "Whistle"
- Gary Allan "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)"
- Green Day - "Holiday" (alternating with i-VI-III-V), "21 Guns" (the verses, at least)
- The Gregory Brothers - "Double Rainbow (remix)"
- Groove Coverage - "The End", "Little June", and "God is a Girl"
- Iyaz - "Replay"
- James Coffey - "Legends of the Rails"
- Jennifer Lopez - "On the Floor" (intro and chorus)
- Mario Lopez - "The Sound of Nature"
- Joan Osborne - "One of Us"
- John Legend - "All Of Me" verses (chorus: III III i i VI VI VII VII)
- Keith Urban "Long Hot Summer" (verses)
- Kelly Clarkson - "Behind These Hazel Eyes", "Stronger"
- Kenny Chesney "Come Over"
- Kitsune^2 - "Avast Your Ass" (and the many, many remixes)
- Lady Gaga - "Poker Face" (chorus), "Heavy Metal Lover"
- The Lonely Island - "I Just Had Sex" and "Jack Sparrow"
- Linkin Park - "Numb", "Crawling"
- Madonna - "The Power of Goodbye"
- Marija erifović - "Molitva" (winner of the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest)
- Mario Kart Wii: Moo Moo Meadows
- MGMT - "Kids"
- My Little Pony Equestria Girls - "Equestria Girls(Helping Twilight Win The Crown)"(verse)
- Newsboys - "Spirit Thing"
- No Mercy - "Where Do You Go?"
- NY - "Trophy Boy (Todd Edwards Remix)" (chorus only)
- The Offspring seem to love this. They use it in "Gotta Get Away", "Self Esteem", "Have You Ever", "The Kids Aren't Alright", "All I Want", "Dammit, I Changed Again" and "You're Gonna Go Far Kid".
- Of Monsters and Men - "Little Talks" (chorus- during the verses, it's just i VI III)
- O-Zone: "Dragostea Din Tei" (also known as the "Numa Numa Song") during the verses
- Pendulum - "The Island" (chorus)
- Rascal Flatts "What Hurts the Most"
- Real McCoy - "Run Away"
- Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Otherside", "Don't Forget Me", "Snow (Hey Oh)"
- Ricardo Autobahn - "Golden Age of Video"
- Rise Against - "Swing Life Away" (choruses), "Hero of War" (choruses), "Audience of One" (choruses), "This is Letting Go"
- Sarah McLachlan - "Building a Mystery"
- Selena Gomez - "Slow Down"
- Shakira - "She Wolf"
- The Strokes - "Under Cover of Darkness" (choruses)
- Sun Stroke Project ft. Olia Tira "Run Away" uses a variation, using the chord of Bb minor where the fitting chord of C# major should be.
- Tim Minchin - "Canvas Bags"
- Timbaland ft. OneRepublic - "Apologize"
- Toto - "Africa"
- Utada Hikaru - "Beautiful World" (chorus)
- Your Favorite Martian - "Zombie Love Song"
Examples of IV-I-V-vi [VI-III-VII-i relative to minor] (subdominant major key version)
- The Band Perry "If I Die Young"
- blink-182 - "What's My Age Again" (verses)
- Day Above Ground - "Asian Girlz"
- Green Day - "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (choruses)
- Jay Sean - "Down"
- Levert - "Casanova"
- Linkin Park- "Final Masquerade"
- Martina McBride "Happy Girl" (verses)
- Muse - "Citizen Erased" (chorus; actually IV - I - V/vi (III) - vi, or bVI-bIII-V-i)
- My Little Pony Equestria Girls - "Equestria Girls(Helping Twilight Win The Crown)"(chorus) and "A Friend for Life"
- Nickelback - "If Everyone Cared"
- O-Zone - "Dragostea din Tei", during the chorus
- Paramore - "Misery Business" (chorus)
- Passion Pit - "Take A Walk" (during the chorus)
- Rihanna - "Umbrella" (chorus)
- Rise Against - "Architect" (chorus)
- Taylor Swift "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"
Other chord progressions containing the four chords
- Humoresque Progression
- Doo Wop Progression
- John Mayer - "Waiting on the World to Change" (alternates with I-vi-IV-I)
- Marvin Gaye - "Sexual Healing"
- Tonic - "You Wanted More"
- We The Kings - "Check Yes Juliet"
- Linkin Park - "Runaway"
- Aviators - "Ghosts in the Code"