Introduction: How to Play Rock & Roll Chord Progressions on the Piano

One of the most fun ways to learn how to play chord progressions is by learning the traditional Rock & Roll patterns that we hear a lot if we love to listen to any of our favorite bands.

If you are new to chord progressions in your piano playing, take some time to learn what they are and how to play them by watching the video above. It will give you a good foundation that you can build upon as you progress into this lesson, and this lesson will make a lot more sense! If you're familiar with Chord Progressions then you should be able to move through this lesson just fine.

There are just 4 basic Rock & Roll Chord Progression patterns which make them easy to remember once you've gotten them learned. Plus, you're going to enjoy playing along with some of your favorite tunes!

We will go over each one in this lesson and in the video at the end, I will play examples of each and use a different song that really features the type of chord progression that we're discussion/playing very clearly.

So if you're ready to get your groove on we'll take a look at the first chord progression you will learn for some rock & roll fun.

Step 1: #1: 1 - 4 - 5, Pattern

The funny letters used in all chord progressions are really Roman Numerals...does anyone remember that from grammar school?

This first pattern is called the 1-4-5 Pattern, or properly notated, the I - IV - V Pattern. This pattern is found a lot in early rock music, such as our example song: "La Bamba." This particular chord pattern actually was used in all genres of music dating back to before Rock & Roll really took off in mainstream music.

The I/1 chord starts on the 1st note of the scale. The IV/4 chord starts on the 4th note of the scale...and so on. In the key of C, the I chord would start on C, and the IV chord would start on F.

This piece is in the key of A Major - 3 sharps. Therefore, our chords in this key are:

  • I Chord: A, C#, E
  • IV Chord: D, F#, A
  • V Chord: E, G#, B

I play these chords for you and this piece in the video so you'll be able to hear and see the specific chord changes.

Next, we'll look at a little more difficult chord progression. This one has a flat in it.

Step 2: #2: 1, Flat-7, 4, Pattern

Yes, this one is a bit funky looking...the 2nd symbol is easy though if you break it down.

*The first "b" means a flat and then the Roman Numerals "VII" = 7, so this just means a Flat-7.

So, in this case, we are playing the I/1 chord, the bVII/7th tone flat chord, & the IV/4 chord.

This type of chord progression is found in a couple of songs that most people probably know. One is "Sweet Home Alabama" (Lynard Skynard) and the other one is "Back in Black" (ACDC).

In this particular progression, for that 2nd chord, you simply go to the 7th tone of the scale and flat it. The other two you will play like you did the first pattern: start the chord on the specified note/tone of the scale.

It will really help to hear the samples of these songs and hear these chord progressions in the video portion of this stay tuned!

Now let's learn an even more modern chord progression that you'll find in at least one popular tune in the current mainstream.

Step 3: #3: 1, 5, 6, 4, Pattern

In this pattern, we get to play four progressions instead of 3 and we're kind of jumping around a bit more than before.

This pattern is the I/1, V/5, vi/6, IV/4 pattern and is much more in contemporary music than earlier genres and styles.

There's something else different about this progression besides it having 4 chords instead of just 3...can you find it? The vi/6 chord has small letters instead of capital letters! Here's why:

  • Major Chords are noted with CAPS
  • minor chords are noted with small letters

The sample song we're using for this particular chord progression is "Hey Soul Sister". When you listen to this sample in the video you'll be able to hear that minor progression and how distinct it really does sound. Minor chords are easy to pick out if you know what to listen for.

Our final progression just might make you feel like a wild thing, so hold on!

Step 4: #4: 1, 4, 5, 4, Pattern

This final chord progression is a bit of wild thing in itself as it has one unique feature from all of the others that we have discussed here so far. Notice that like #3, this too has four chords in it, but this one has a repeated chord in it; the IV/4 chord.

There is a similarity between this one and the very first one that we discussed, but you just add in the IV chord again at the end of this one. Once you've learned both of them you'll be able to distinguish between the 2 pretty easily.

As you might have already guessed, (!) our example for this progression is "Wild Thing" and when you listen to it in the video that is just ahead in the next step, you'll hear the different sound that this chord progression has from the others; which is the repetition of the IV chord throughout the piece.

Now that we've gone over the four most popular chord progressions in Rock & Roll music it's time to take this knowledge to our piano keyboard and learn how to play each of them. Let's go practice them together in our final step.

Step 5: Come Practice With Me!

Mastering these four Rock & Roll chord progressions will really get you going in being able to recognize keys and chords in the future and you'll be able to play them a lot quicker on your own without any help from written music.

The best way to use this video is to learn one progression at a time. Go through the text part of this lesson and then go through that same section in the video at your piano. It can even help to listen to the full version of each sample song and then come back to practicing it on your piano.

One thing that you will notice with each of these progressions is that they tend to be repeated throughout a piece most times. If you want to learn to improvise this will help a lot because once you get the main patterns down, you just keep switching back and forth between them and you're all set!

Have fun learning these new chord progressions and try playing with some of your favorite bands the next time you grab your earbuds!