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I–V–vi–IV progression

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I–V–vi–IV chord progression in C Play.
vi–IV–I–V chord progression in C Play.

The I–V–vi–IV progression is a common chord progression popular across several genres of music. It uses the I, V, vi, and IV chords of a musical scale. For example, in the key of C major, this progression would be C–G–Am–F.[1] Rotations include:

  • I–V–vi–IV:C–G–Am–F
  • V–vi–IV–I:G–Am–F–C
  • vi–IV–I–V:Am–F–C–G
  • IV–I–V–vi:F–C–G–Am

The '50s progression uses the same chords but in a different order (I–vi–IV–V), no matter the starting point.


A common ordering of the progression, "vi–IV–I–V", was dubbed the "sensitive female chord progression" by Boston Globe columnist Marc Hirsh.[2] In C major this would be Am–F–C–G, modulating the key to A minor.

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  \repeat volta 2 {<c' e' a'>2 <c' f' a'> <c' e' g'> <b d' g'>}
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  \unfoldRepeats {
    \repeat volta 2 {<c' e' a'>2 <c' f' a'> <c' e' g'> <b d' g'>}
  \midi { }

Hirsh first noticed the chord progression in the song "One of Us" by Joan Osborne,[3] and then other songs. He named the progression because he claimed it was used by many performers of the Lilith Fair in the late 1990s.[2] However, examples of the progression appeared in pop hits as early as the 1950s, such as in the Teddy Bears' "To Know Him Is to Love Him", written by Phil Spector.[4]

Dan Bennett claims the progression is also called the "pop-punk progression" because of its frequent use in pop punk.[1]

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  \new Staff \with { \remove "Time_signature_engraver" }
  \repeat volta 2 {
    \clef "bass"
    {<c g>16 <c g> <c g> <c g> <c g> <c g> <b, fis> <b, fis> <g, d> <g, d> <g, d> <g, d> <g, d> <g, d> <gis, dis> <gis, dis> <a, e> <a, e> <a, e> <a, e> <a, e> <a, e> <g, d> <ges, des> <f, c> <f, c> <f, c> <f, c> <f c'> <f c'> <e b> <e b>}
  \layout { }
\score { % "unfold" this score copy so MIDI plays the repeated section twice
  \unfoldRepeats {
    \repeat volta 2 {<c g>16 <c g> <c g> <c g> <c g> <c g> <b, fis> <b, fis> <g, d> <g, d> <g, d> <g, d> <g, d> <g, d> <gis, dis> <gis, dis> <a, e> <a, e> <a, e> <a, e> <a, e> <a, e> <g, d> <ges, des> <f, c> <f, c> <f, c> <f, c> <f c'> <f c'> <e b> <e b>}
  \midi { }

In this ordering, the progression ends with a double plagal cadence in the key of the dominant (in the Mixolydian mode) and could also be respelled ii–bVII–IV–I, opening with a backdoor turnaround.

The chord progression is also used in the form IV–I–V–vi, as in songs such as "Umbrella" by Rihanna[5] and "Down" by Jay Sean.[6] Numerous bro-country songs followed the chord progression, as demonstrated by Greg Todd's mash-up of several bro-country songs in an early 2015 video.[7]

A 2008 medley by the comedy group the Axis of Awesome, called "Four Chords", demonstrated the ubiquity of the progression in popular music, for comic effect; for instance, as the progression is played as an ostinato, sometimes it is used as a vi–IV–I–V (i. e. the "pessimistic" inversion). It does not accurately represent the chord progressions of all the songs it depicts. It was originally written in D major (thus the progression being D major, A major, B minor, G major) and performed live in the key of E major (thus using the chords E major, B major, C♯ minor, and A major). The song was subsequently published on YouTube.[8] As of May 2020, the two most popular versions have been viewed over 100 million times combined.[9][10]

The British progressive rock band Porcupine Tree made a song called "Four Chords That Made A Million" that appears to be a satire[according to whom?] of the broad use of this progression in contemporary commercial music.


I–V–VII–IV in A Play

I–V–VII–IV may be viewed as a variation of I–V–vi–IV, replacing the submediant with the subtonic. It consists of two IV chord progressions, the second a whole step lower (A–E–G–D = I–V in A and I–V in G), giving it a sort of harmonic drive. There are few keys in which one may play the progression with open chords on the guitar, so it is often portrayed with barre chords ("Lay Lady Lay"). The use of the flattened seventh may lend this progression a bluesy feel or sound, and the whole tone descent may be reminiscent of the ninth and tenth chords of the twelve bar blues (V–IV). The progression also makes possible a chromatic descent across a minor third: .


"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Carole King makes prominent use of this progression in its verses. "Lay Lady Lay"[11] uses the similar progression I–iii–VII–ii; the second and fourth chords are replaced by the relative minor while preserving the same descent. This progression is used in other songs including "Turning Japanese" (1980) by the Vapors, "Sample in a Jar" (1994) by Phish (I–iii–VII–IV), "Waterfalls" (1995) by TLC,[12] and "Don't Tell Me" (2000) by Madonna. "Cinnamon Girl" (1969) by Neil Young uses I–v–VII–IV (all in Mixolydian).[13] It opens the verse to "Brown Eyes" by Lady Gaga, is used in the chorus to "Rio" (1982) by Duran Duran and "Sugar Hiccup" (1983) by the Cocteau Twins, and is in the 2nd part of the bridge in "Sweet Jane" (1988) by the Cowboy Junkies.[14] John Maus uses a i-v-VII-iv in c minor for the verse of "Cop Killer". The progression is also used entirely with minor chords[i-v-vii-iv (g#, d#, f#, c#)] in the middle section of Chopin's etude op. 10 no. 12. However, using the same chord type (major or minor) on all four chords causes it to feel more like a sequence of descending fourths than a bona fide chord progression. I–IV–VII–IV is a similar chord progression which is arch formed (I–IV–VII–IV–I), and has been used in the chorus to "And She Was" (1985) by Talking Heads,[15] in "Let's Go Crazy" (1984) by Prince,[16] in "Like a Rock" (1986) by Bob Seger,[17] in "Steady, As She Goes" (2006) by the Raconteurs (minor tonic: i–V–VII–IV).[18]

Songs using the progression[edit]

This is a list of recorded songs containing multiple, repeated uses of the I–V–vi–IV progression.

Song title Artist Year Progression Recorded Key
"10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)"[19] Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin 2012 IV–I–V–vi G major
"18 And Life"[20] Skid Row 1989 vi-IV-I-V C♯ minor
"20 Good Reasons"[21] Thirsty Merc 2007 I–V–vi–IV D♭ major
"Africa"[22] Toto 1982 vi−IV–I–V (chorus) F♯ minor (chorus)
"Aicha"[23] Cheb Khaled 1996 vi–IV–I–V G minor
"Ai Se Eu Te Pego"[24] Michel Teló 2011 I–V–vi–IV B major
"All of Me"[25] John Legend 2013 vi–IV–I–V A♭ major
"All You Wanted"[26] Michelle Branch 2002 vi–IV–I–V A♭ minor (verse)
"All Too Well"[27] Taylor Swift 2012 I–V–vi–IV C Major
"Almost"[28] Bowling for Soup 2005 I–V–vi–IV B major
"Alone"[29] Heart 1987 vi–IV-I–V E♭ minor (chorus)
"Alone"[30] Alan Walker 2016 vi–IV–I–V G minor
"Amaranth"[31] Nightwish 2007 vi–IV–I–V D minor
"A New Day Has Come"[32] Celine Dion 2002 vi–IV–I–V F♯ major
"Any Way You Want It" [33] Journey 1980 I-V-vi-IV G major
"Apologize"[34] Timbaland and OneRepublic 2007 vi–IV–I–V C minor
"As If It's Your Last"[35] Blackpink 2017 IV−I−V−vi (chorus) A♭ major (chorus)
"Audience of One"[36] Rise Against 2009 vi–IV–I–V (chorus) D♭ major
"Awesome God"[37] Rich Mullins 2005 IV–I–V–vi A major
"Bad Blood"[38] Taylor Swift 2014 IV–I–V–vi G major
"Bailando"[39] Enrique Iglesias feat. Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona 2014 vi–IV–I–V E minor
"Beast of Burden"[40] The Rolling Stones 1978 I–V–vi–IV E major
"Bebe"[41] 6ix9ine 2018 vi–IV–I–V A minor
"Breakeven"[42] The Script 2008 IV–I–V–vi (chorus) B♭ major/G minor
"Building a Mystery"[43] Sarah McLachlan 1997 vi-IV-I-V B minor
"Bullet"[44] Hollywood Undead 2011 I–V–vi–IV E major
"Burn"[45] Ellie Goulding 2013 vi–IV–I–V (pre-chorus and chorus) B♭ minor/D♭ major
"California King Bed"[46] Rihanna 2011 I–V–vi–IV G major
"Caramelldansen"[47] Caramell 2001 I–V–vi–IV E♭ major/G♭ major
"Check Yes Juliet (Run Baby Run)"[48] We the Kings 2008 vi−I−IV−V (chorus) D major
"Clean"[49] Taylor Swift 2014 I–V–vi–IV E major
"Come Over"[50] Kenny Chesney 2012 vi–IV–I–V B♭ minor
"Cruise"[51] Florida Georgia Line 2012 I–V–vi–IV B♭ major
"Daddy DJ"[52] Daddy DJ 1999 vi–IV–I–V C minor
"Dammit"[40][53] Blink-182 1997 I–V–vi–IV C major
"Demons" Imagine Dragons 2013 I-V-vi-IV E♭ major
"Despacito"[54] Luis Fonsi 2017 vi–IV–I–V B minor
"Don't Trust Me"[55] 3OH!3 2008 vi–IV–I–V B♭ major
"Don't You Wanna Stay"[56] Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson 2010 vi–IV–I–V G♯ minor
"Dragostea Din Tei"[57] O-Zone 2003 IV–I–V–vi; vi–IV–I–V A minor
"Dream Catch Me"[58] Newton Faulkner 2007 I–V–vi–IV D major
"Drive By"[59] Train 2012 vi–IV–I–V (verse)

IV–I–V–vi (chorus)

C♯ minor
"Face Down"[60] The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus 2006 vi–IV–I–V G minor
"Faded"[61] Alan Walker 2015 vi–IV–I–V E♭ minor
"Feeling This"[40][62] Blink-182 2003 I–V–vi–IV E major
"Flashlight"[63] Jessie J 2015 I–V–vi–IV F major
"For the First Time"[64] The Script 2010 I–V–vi–IV A major
"Forever Young"[65] Alphaville 1984 I–V–vi–IV C major
"Fuckin' Perfect"[66][67] P!nk 2010 I–V–vi–IV G major
"Ghost"[68] Justin Bieber 2021 vi–IV–I–V D major
"Girls Chase Boys"[69] Ingrid Michaelson 2014 I−IV−vi−V A♭ major
"Girls Like You"[70] Maroon 5 2018 I–V–vi–IV C major
"Give Me Everything"[71] Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer 2011 vi–IV–I–V E♭ major
"Glad You Exist"[72] Dan + Shay 2021 I–V–vi–IV B major
"Glycerine"[73] Bush 1995 I–V–vi–IV F major
"Good" [74] Better Than Ezra 1995 I-V-vi-IV G major
"Hair"[75] Lady Gaga 2011 I–V–vi–IV F major
"Hall of Fame"[76] The Script feat. will.i.am 2012 vi–IV–I–V G minor
"Happy Ending"[77] Mika 2007 I–V–vi–IV D♭ major
"Heart Attack"[78] Demi Lovato 2013 IV–I–V–vi; vi–IV–I–V F minor
"Hello"[79] Adele 2015 vi–I–V–IV (verse)
vi–IV–I–V (chorus)
F minor
"Hey Brother"[80] Avicii 2013 vi–IV–I–V G minor
"Hide and Seek"[81] Imogen Heap 2005 I–V–vi–IV A major
"High" Lighthouse Family 1997 I–V–vi–IV B♭ major
"Home"[82] Phillip Phillips 2012 IV–I–V–vi; vi–IV–I–V C major
"How Far We've Come" [83] Matchbox Twenty 2007 I-V-vi-IV (verse)
vi-IV-I-V (chorus)
C major
"Hwaa"[84] (G)I-dle 2021 vi−IV−I−V F♯ minor
"I Don't Want To Be"[85] Gavin DeGraw 2003 IV–I–V–vi (chorus) E♭ major
"If I Were a Boy"[86] Beyoncé 2008 vi–IV–I–V G♭ major
"I Just Had Sex"[87] The Lonely Island feat. Akon 2011 vi–IV–I–V D♯ minor
"I Love You"[88] EXID 2018 IV–I–V–vi (chorus) C major
"I'm Goin' Down[89] Bruce Springsteen 1985 I–V–vi–IV B♭ major
"I'm Not Famous"[90] AJR 2016 V–vi–IV–I F major
"I'm Yours"[91] Jason Mraz 2008 I–V–vi–IV B major
"In My Head"[92] Jason Derulo 2009 vi–IV–I–V C minor
"International Love"[93] Pitbull feat. Chris Brown 2011 vi–IV–I–V C minor
"In This River"[94] Black Label Society 2005 vi–IV–I–V E minor
"I Was Here"[95] Beyoncé 2011 vi–IV–I–V E minor
"Jantung Hatiku"[96] Ita Purnamasari 2023 I–V–vi–IV F♯ major
"Just a Dream"[97] Nelly 2010 vi–IV–I–V E♭ minor
"Just the Way I'm Feeling"[98] Feeder 2003 V-vi-IV-I (chorus) D major
"Kids"[99] OneRepublic 2016 V–vi–IV–I D major
"Lemonade"[100] Alexandra Stan 2011 vi–IV–I–V F♯ minor
"Little Talks"[101] Of Monsters and Men 2011 vi–IV–I–V B♭ minor
"Love"[102] Lana Del Rey 2017 I–V–vi–IV (intro, verse, and chorus) B♭ major
"Love Me"[103] Justin Bieber 2009 vi–IV–I–V C minor
"Love the Way You Lie"[104] Eminem feat. Rihanna 2010 vi–IV–I–V G minor
"Marilyn Monroe"[105] Nicki Minaj 2012 vi–IV–I–V E minor
"My Happy Ending"[106] Avril Lavigne 2004 vi–IV–I–V B minor
"My Name Is Jonas"[107] Weezer 1994 I–V–vi–IV B major
"Nobody's Perfect"[108] Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) 2007 vi–IV–I–V C minor
"No One"[109] Alicia Keys 2007 I–V–vi–IV E major
"No Woman, No Cry"[110] Bob Marley 1973 I–V–vi–IV D♭ major
"Not Afraid"[111] Eminem 2010 vi–IV–I–V C minor
"Nothing"[112] The Script 2010 I–V–vi–IV (chorus) D major
"Numb"[113] Linkin Park 2003 vi–IV–I–V F♯ minor
"One Day"[114] Matisyahu 2008 I–V–vi–IV C major
"One Last Breath"[115] Creed 2002 I–V–vi–IV D major
"One of Us"[3][116] Joan Osborne 1995 vi–IV–I–V F♯ minor
"On the Floor"[117] Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull 2011 vi–IV–I–V E♭ minor
"Only my railgun"[118] fripSide 2009 vi–IV–V–I B major
"Otherside"[119] Red Hot Chili Peppers 2000 vi–IV–I–V A minor
"Out of the Woods"[120] Taylor Swift 2014 I–V–vi–IV A minor
"Peace of Mind"[121] Boston 1976 vi–IV–I–V C♯ minor
"Pieces"[122] Sum 41 2005 vi–IV–I–V D minor
"Poker Face"[123] Lady Gaga 2008 vi–IV–I–V G♯ minor
"Pork and Beans"[124] Weezer 2008 I–V–vi–IV G♭ major
"Prison Bound"[125] Social Distortion 1988 I–V–vi–IV F♯ major
"Read All About It, Pt. III"[126] Emeli Sandé 2012 vi–IV–I–V B minor
"Real World"[127] Matchbox Twenty 1998 I–V–vi–IV (verse) B♭ major
"Replay"[128] Iyaz 2009 vi–IV–I–V F♯ minor
"Rewrite the Stars"[129] Zac Efron and Zendaya 2018 vi–IV–I–V B♭ major
"Rise"[130] McClain Sisters 2012 vi–IV–I–V B minor
"River Flows in You"[131] Yiruma 2001 vi–IV–I–V A major
"Rockstars"[132] Malik Harris 2022 I–V–vi–IV G major
"Roly-Poly"[133] T-ARA 2011 vi–IV–I–V A minor
"Runaway" Kanye West 2010 I–V–vi–IV E major
"San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)"[134] Scott McKenzie 1967 vi–IV–I–V E minor
"Save Tonight"[135] Eagle Eye Cherry 1997 vi–IV–I–V C major
"Say Something"[136] A Great Big World 2013 vi–IV–I–V B minor
"Scar"[137] Missy Higgins 2004 I–V–vi–IV C major
"Since You Been Gone"[138] Russ Ballard 1976 I–V–vi–IV G major
"Singing in My Sleep" [139] Semisonic 1998 I–V–vi–IV E major
"Six Degrees of Separation"[140] The Script 2012 vi–IV–I–V C♯ minor
"Snow (Hey Oh)"[141] Red Hot Chili Peppers 2006 vi–IV–I–V B major/G♯ minor
"Someone like You"[142] Adele 2011 I–V–vi–IV A major
"Someone to You"[143] Banners 2017 I–V–vi–IV D major
"Someone You Loved"[144] Lewis Capaldi 2018 I–V–vi–IV D♭ major
"Soul To Squeeze"[145] Red Hot Chili Peppers 1993 I–V–vi–IV F major
"Sparks Fly"[146] Taylor Swift 2011 vi–IV–I–V D minor
"Stand"[147] Rascal Flatts 2007 vi–IV–I–V A minor
"Stereo Hearts"[148] Gym Class Heroes 2011 vi–IV–I–V F♯ minor
"Stick Season"[149] Noah Kahan 2022 I–V–vi–IV A major
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"[150] Kelly Clarkson 2012 vi–IV–I–V A minor
"Take On Me"[151] a-ha 1984 I–V–vi–IV A major
"Take You Down"[152] Illenium 2018 vi–IV–I–V B major
"Tangled Up in Me"[153] Skye Sweetnam 2004 I–V–vi–IV C major
"The Days"[154] Avicii 2014 IV–I–V–vi (chorus) C major
"The Edge of Glory"[155] Lady Gaga 2011 I–V–vi–IV A major
"The Kids Aren't Alright"[156] The Offspring 1999 vi–IV–I–V B♭ minor
"The Rock Show"[157] Blink-182 2001 vi–IV–I–V (bridge) A major/F♯ minor
"The Spectre"[158] Alan Walker 2017 vi–IV–I–V C♯ minor
"(There's Gotta Be) More to Life"[159] Stacie Orrico 2003 vi–IV–I–V F minor
"To Know Him Is to Love Him"[4] The Teddy Bears 1958 I–V–vi–IV D major
"Try"[160] P!nk 2012 IV–I–V–vi; vi–IV–I–V D major/B minor
"Tuesday's Gone"[161] Lynyrd Skynyrd 1973 I–V–vi–IV A major
"Up"[162] Olly Murs featuring Demi Lovato 2014 IV−I−V−vi (chorus) A major
"Wagon Wheel"[163] Old Crow Medicine Show and Bob Dylan 2004 I–V–vi–IV A major
"Wannabe"[164] Itzy 2020 IV–I–V–vi F♯ minor/A major
"Wannabe"[165] Spice Girls 1996 V−vi−IV−I B major
"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"[166] Taylor Swift 2012 IV–I–V–vi G major
"We Didn't Start the Fire"[167] Billy Joel 1989 I–V–vi–IV G major
"We Found Love"[168] Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris 2011 vi–IV–I–V F♯ major
"What About Now"[169] Lonestar 2000 I–V–vi–IV E major
"Whatever"[170] Ava Max, Kygo 2024 vi–IV–I–V (chorus) Eb major
"Whatever It Takes"[171] Imagine Dragons 2017 IV–I–V–vi (chorus) B♭ minor
"What Would I Change It To"[172] Avicii & AlunaGeorge 2017 I–V–vi–IV B major
"What's My Age Again?"[173] Blink-182 1999 IV–I–V–vi; I–V–vi–IV F♯ major
"When Can I See You Again?"[174] Owl City 2012 I–V–vi–IV D major
"When I Come Around"[175] Green Day 1993 I–V–vi–IV G♭ major
"Wherever You Will Go"[176] The Calling 2001 I–V–vi–IV D major
"Where'd You Go"[177] Fort Minor feat. Holly Brook and Jonah Matranga 2006 I–V–vi–IV E major
"Whistle"[178] Flo Rida 2012 vi–IV–I–V A minor
"Who You Are"[179] Jessie J 2011 vi–IV–I–V F♯ minor
"Willst du"[180] Alligatoah 2013 vi–IV–I–V G♯ minor
"With Me"[181] Sum 41 2007 I–V–vi–IV (intro and verse) E major
"Young Volcanoes"[182] Fall Out Boy 2013 vi–IV–I–V (verse) B minor
"You Found Me"[183] The Fray 2008 vi–IV–I–V (chorus) G♯ minor
"You'll Think Of Me"[184] Keith Urban 2004 I–V–vi–IV; vi–IV–I–V A major/F♯ minor
"You're Not Sorry"[185] Taylor Swift 2008 vi–IV–I–V E♭ minor
"Zombie"[186] The Cranberries 1994 vi–IV–I–V E minor

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ a b Hirsh, Marc. "Striking a Chord", The Boston Globe, December 31, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Rundown 3/4: "Sensitive Female Chord Progression", Here and Now, March 4, 2009, wbur.org.
  4. ^ a b "TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM Chords – The Teddy Bears | E-Chords". e-chords.com. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]