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Chords For Five Common Keys

The chart below shows the major and minor chords that belong in each of these five keys. The I, IV, and V chords are all major, and the II, III, and VI chords are minor. The VII chord is diminished, or sometimes minor. The far left column is the root note of the key – for instance the top row is in the key of C major. 

Three-chord tunes are common, since a melody may then dwell on any note of the scale. Often the chords may be selected to fit a pre-conceived melody, but just as often it is the progression itself that gives rise to the melody. The three-chord I - IV - V progression can be placed into a four-bar phrase in several ways that have been put to endless use in popular music. The twelve bar blues and its many variants use an elongated, three-line form of the I - IV - V progression that has also generated countless hit records, including the most significant output of rock and rollers such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Another common way of extending the I - IV - V sequence is by adding the chord of the sixth scale degree, giving the sequence I - vi - IV - V or I - vi - ii - V, sometimes called the 50s progression.

 I

 ii

 iii

 IV

 V

 vi

 vii

 VIII

 Major  Minor  Minor  Major Major    Minor Dim.   Major
 C D E  F  G  A  B  C
 G  A  B  C  D  E  F#  G
 D  E  F#  G  A  B  C#  D
 A  B  C#  D  E  F#  G#  A
 E  F#  G#  A  B  C#  D#  E

If you know what key a song is in, look at the chart, find the key in the first column, and then use the chords in the corresponding row in the song.