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The Chords Every Song Uses

Four Chord PDF Download

The Chords Every Song Uses

There are four chords that almost every single song uses. And once I learned them, it forever changed the way I listened to music and inspired me to start writing my own songs. But the crazy part is, I learned them by accident.


When I first started learning how to play the guitar, I was bad. I already knew how to play the piano, but there was something about moving my fingers and pushing the strings down that just didn’t click.


For the first weeks, I would sit  in my parents living room and force myself to play. but I never made any real progress. And after a couple weeks, I gave up.


Months went by and my guitar continued to acquire dust and stare at me from the corner beckoning me to strum it one more time. But still, I let it sit there.


Then one day, I was coming home from school. I poured myself a trusty bowl of cereal, pulled out my laptop, and started browsing youtube.


After scrolling through my usual nigahiga videos, I stumbled across something that would change my music career forever. That something was a video called the Four Chord Song by the Axis of Awesome. 


These 3 british dudes somehow managed to make a medley of over 50 songs only using four chords. It was hilarious. It was awe inspiring. And it was the fuel for my guitar fire.


I raced to pick up my guitar. I blew off the dust that had settled on top of it. And looked up those four chords so I could play them for myself. And sure enough I learned them.


As I was playing I thought to myself, “How could they play so many songs with just four chords?” and the answer led me down a musical rabbit hole that has continued still today.


It turns out that the majority of popular songs use four chords. Yep. If you learn four chords you can play almost any song you want to.


The Chord Progression

This magical chord progression that Axis of Awesome introduced to my life is the I-V-vi-IV progression..


In the key of c major, that’s C, G, Am, F.


Sound familiar?


[Don’t stop believing, Where is the love, Hey Soul Sister, I’m yours]


But this particular chord progression can also be transposed into any key.


In G major it would G, D, Em, C. 


[Can you feel the love tonight, Let it be, Take on me, No Woman No Cry]


Notice how it affects the pitch of my voice and where I need to sing. If you’re looking for more options and keys to play this I-V-vi-IV progression in, I’ve made a free pdf download and guide on my website that shows all of the keys you can play this progression in! Go check it out in the description below.


These four chords unlock unlimited possibilities when it comes to playing guitar and making music.

Switching it up


So that particular progression is extremely popular, but you can cover even more songs if you rearrange the order of the chords.


Looking for a more minor sound? Use the progression vi-IV-I-V or in C major Am, F, C, G

[Grenade, Love the way you lie, Numb]


Or how about something a little different. Another common progression is the IV-I-V-vi, or c major F, C, am, g

Recognize these songs?

[Pompeii, fast car , Let it go ]


You can even just throw together in an random combination you want to, and there’s probably already a popular song out there that’s done it.


Why it works

It’s crazy that it only takes these four chords to make an entire lifetimes worth of popular music, but it works so well, because whether we realize it or not, these four chords are what we’ve been trained to hear, appreciate, and enjoy. 


Yes it sounds good. But would it still sound good if you only listened to arabic music your whole life? You’d probably feel differently about it. And that’s fine.


These four chords are a part of the formula for popular western music, and I’ve just given you the key to the kingdom. 


I hope that after learning these simple chords, you’ll be so inspired to start using them in your music you’ll have to start making it right now. I hope that you’ll dust off that guitar sitting in your attic and start shredding it like a block of cheese. 


 Go and download the free cheat sheet with more information on these four chords in different keys below.


And if you want to dive further down the music theory rabbit hole, I made a great video that details the basics for producers that you can watch right here.

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