Most Popular Rock Music Chord Progressions


The most popular rock music chord progressions are not only found in rock and roll, but also in the blues, country, and pop. This is due to a large amount of crossover between the genres. However, it does not mean they’re all the same. Rock chord progressions often add tension, color, and other elements with a number of tricks, such as extensions, diminished chords, suspensions, and more.

Most Common Rock Music Chord Progressions

The most common rock music chord progressions generally follow fairly straightforward patterns, which makes tracks more listenable and evocative. Like R&B, quite a percentage of rock compositions consist of simple sequences, putting the emphasis on the vocals, licks, and solos. In order to understand modern rock, it’s important to know how it came to be. Here are some of the most popular rock music chord progressions found in classic and contemporary rock:

The ubiquitous I, vi, IV, V is a longtime favorite and dates back to the birth of the genre. The one, six, four, five pattern is present in many memorable songs. It is a staple of many tracks because it taps into the root of the genre. In the key of C Major, this chord progression is C Major, A minor, F Major, and G Major.

Very similar to the first sequence, the I, IV, V, I repeats the one and it comes from traditional and country songs. But, artists brought it into rock and it’s been a popular choice ever since. One of its best aspects is that it’s timeless, though it remains quite common today. In the key of C Major, this progression includes C Major, F Major, G Major, and C Major.

Another pattern that comes from classical music is the I, V, vi, iii, IV, I, IV, V or the one, five, six, three, four, one, four, five. It delivers a unique flow and emotional element with its transition from major to minor and back to major. This progression, in the key of C Major, follows this sequence: C Major, G Major, A minor, E minor, F Major, C Major, F Major, and G Major.

The ii, I, V chord progression offers the element of contemplative sadness. So, it works for sad songs, bittersweet melodies, and ballads, but can work in different applications, as well. It delivers its best mood when accompanied by slower tempos. In the key of C Major, this chord pattern is D minor, C Major, and G Major.

A bit of an oddity for rock tracks, the I, V, vi, IV because it fits other genres a little better. However, it’s also present in rock because if it isn’t the single most common chord progression, it’s most definitely near the top. With its many feels, it can work nicely in rock songs, and in the key of C Major, this pattern is C Major, G Major, A minor, and F Major.

The classic twelve-bar blues progression is also found in rock, following the I, I, I, I, IV, IV, I, I, V, V, IV, I, (I) sequence. This pattern is not only present in blues, but also jazz, and is used in rock, but in a different manner, with variations in style, technique, and rhythm. In the key of C Major, the twelve-bar blues chords are C, C, C, C, F, F, C, C, G, G, F, C, (C).

For the quintessential minor key ominous sound, the ii, IV, V chord progression is the go-to choice. It’s found in a number of heavy classic rock songs. Not only does it deliver or foreboding, sinister vibe, but it’s also most powerful at slower tempos, where it really makes an impression. Played in the key of C Major, this sequence is D minor, F Major, and G Major.

A swooning chord progression, the vi, IV, I, V relays sensitivity, though it’s present in some of the boldest and angriest songs. But, it is also found in a number of other kinds of tracks, too. This works well with a medium tempo, although it can fit into faster and slower speeds. In the key of C Major, this pattern is A minor, F Major, C Major, and G Major.

For a more fun, upbeat song, the I, IV, V, IV chord progression is present in many pop tracks, but it is also the backbone of some of the biggest classic rock songs. The one, four, five, four chord progression is ideal for lively, playful compositions. In the key of C Major, this sequence is C Major, F Major, G Major, F Major.