I vi IV V: Piano Tutorial

I vi IV VWould you like to explore the famous I vi IV V chord progression?

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In today’s piano lesson you’re going to discover how to play the influential I vi IV V chord progression.

You’ll also be learning how to build this chord progression in any key and also how to start identifying it in your own tunes.

You’ll find it’s used in hundred of hit songs. So you’ll definitely want to know as much about it as possible. Let’s get started learning!

(I vi IV V): Video Tutorial

Getting started is easy! Take just a few minutes and watch this video tutorial.

Important Note: Continue to scroll down to find several more important tips to help you master this chord progression and learn how to use it in your own music.

Because this is one of the most famous chord progressions in all of music, it is an incredibly useful progression to know.

3 Terrific Tips To Master This Progression

I am constantly sharing with my students the importance of learning common chord progressions. It is a great way to fast track your piano learning process! Seeing patterns is critical. Also it’s fun…

So you may be asking yourself at this point where’s the best place to start your chord progression practice.

Here’s what you’re going to want to do.

Tip #1: How To Figure Out Your Chord Progressions

To get good at understanding chord progressions you’ll want to familiarize yourself with notes in a key. How do you that?

If you have to start from an absolutely clean slate, start with knowing your major scale in a key. Let’s begin with the key of C.

The C major scale written out is: (C D E F G A B C).

Once you’ve figured out your key and the notes in the scale you can easily match up notes with scale degrees.

And once we have these, we’ll use these notes to build our chords.

Tip #2: How To Use Scale Theory

I vi IV VThe next step to understand is that every chord is built off an individual scale note. Those scale notes have #’s.

So, how do you figure out the #’s? You do this by simply counting…

For instance, your C major scale is (C D E F G A B C). Count up starting from the root of the scale until you resolve back to the root.

Written out clearly it looks like this: (C D E F G A B C) – (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1).

(By the way, if you want to learn more about scales check out this piano major scales lesson.)

Very easy stuff. Let’s keep learning!

Tip #3: How You’re Going To Build These Chords

Now that you’ve locked in your key, notes in the scale, and your scale degrees you can start to think about building your chords.

So, build your chords off each note in the scale. This is actually very easy to do. Just make sure that every note in the chord is a note inside your scale.  

Ex. 1 – The I vi IV V in the key of C major.

(C D E F G A B C) – (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1)

(I chord) – (C E G)

(vi chord) – (A C E)

(IV chord) – (F A C)

(V chord) – (G B D)

Ex. 2 – Let’s take a look at this chord progression in the key of F major.

(F G A Bb C D E F) – (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1)

(I chord) – (F A C)

(vi chord) – (D F A)

(IV chord) – (Bb D F)

(V chord) – (C E G)

Ex. 3 – Take one more look at this chord progression in the key of A major.

(A B C# D E F# G# A) – (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1)

(I chord) – (A C# E)

(vi chord) – (F# A C#)

(IV chord) – (D F# A)

(V chord) – (E G# B)

I vi IV VAgain, we’re just building chords that naturally fall into a scale.

Try Out These Advanced Tips

Now that you’ve nailed your basics let’s start to explore some more advanced tips.

Advanced Tip #1: Memorize Your Chords Based Off The I, vi, IV, V.

This is important! By now you’ve certainly noticed that the I IV and V chords are major and the vi chord is minor.

The more comfortable you are playing these chords the easier it will be to memorize how they look on the keys.

Get used to those standard major and minor chord shapes. You’ll be using them all the time as you continue to learn and play piano!

Advanced Tip #2: Practice Playing This Pattern In Multiple Keys.

If you can play this chord progression in all the keys and scales you’re building your piano ninja skills! If you can’t, start practicing…

Practicing this chord progression and others like it in multiple keys will help you start recognizing this pattern visually on the keyboard.

Also, it will make it easier for you to start recognizing songs you play that feature this progression.

Advanced Tip #3: How Your Ears Will Help You Learn.

After practicing this chord progression in as many keys as possible your ears will start to recognize the sound of this chord progression.

I vi IV VI’ve played hundreds of gigs where the music wasn’t written out. I was expected to use my ears and hear the chord changes.

That’s why it’s important for you to also get used to the sound and feel of this chord progression.

Take this a step further and try and recognize some popular tunes that feature the I vi IV V chord progression.

In the video I give you 3 examples of artists that have used this chord progression in different keys.

  1. Led Zeppelin’s – D’yer Mak’er
  2. Bobby Darin – Beyond the Sea
  3. Ben E. King – Stand by Me

Here are 7 more reference tracks for you to develop your ear for I vi IV V chord progression.

Avril Lavigne – Complicated – features this type of pattern in the verse.

David Bowie – Let’s Dance – the chorus features this chord progression

Elton John – Crocodile Rock

The Police – Every Breath You Take

Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around

Madonna – True Blue

Elvis Costello – Oliver’s Army

Off the top of your head, do you know any tunes that feature the 1 6 45 chord progression? An excellent ear training exercise is to practice listening to tunes you know and try and pick out this harmonic pattern.

Advanced Tip #4: How To Make Better Use Of Your Practice Time!

I vi IV VYou should always be working to maximize your practice time…

By this I mean really breaking down how you use your time at the piano.

Are you spending regular time reviewing the things you recently learned? If not, you need to so. Repetition is the mother of all learning.  

Most people end up having issues remembering music once they get back to the piano because they haven’t been practicing properly…

The key to learning retention is found in spaced repetition.

If you’re looking for some important tips on how to refocus your practice sessions to get the best use of your time check out this quick lesson on piano practice.

What’s Next In Line For Your Learning

My passion is to help you grow and become the best piano player you can be!

Learning the I vi IV V chord progression is just the “tip of the iceberg” of all that this site has to offer you.

If you enjoyed today’s lesson I know you’ll really like exploring this R&B Piano Chords Tutorial. Inside this lesson you’ll discover some fun chord decoration techniques.

Also, make sure you take a look into this Let It Be piano lesson and this Take On Me tutorial.

Or, jump right into learning another amazing chord progression that you’ll see used in countless tunes from all over the world.

We’ve got some amazing new piano tutorials we’ll be releasing this month. Be sure that you check back to the site regularly to get access.

We are consistent about posting new and useful tutorials for you to learn and grow from.

To fast track your learning even more grab a spot in our free piano lessons email list. It’s the best way to get our latest and greatest lessons send right to your inbox!

For now, please enjoy your practice. If you have any questions or comments about this I vi IV V lesson and the video tutorial above please leave your comments in the comment section below.


  1. Charmian on September 28, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    A great find, Steve. Thanks so much. This is what I need right now, it’s where I’m at and ready to learn.
    Love and Peace.

    • Steve Nixon on September 29, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      Great to hear Charmian. I’m happy to help and thanks for your comment!

    • alejandro conde on January 18, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      so far so good. It is what I needed to understand some concepts.

  2. Jim munzali on September 30, 2016 at 1:32 am

    Please explain to me the concept here compare to the other chord progression like
    ii v i
    i iv v i
    Vi ii v i
    Thank you’re doing a good job.

    • Steve Nixon on October 5, 2016 at 5:21 am

      Thanks for your comment Jim. I have lots of videos on my other site Freejazzlessons.com that feature those chord progressions as well.

  3. Rhonda on January 23, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Do you teach Christian songs on piano? I have been taking lessons and would love tips and such. Now that I am playing more songs than just in lesson books I seem to absorb and understand more than I use to!!! God has given me a voice for Him, I want to play so I can write and perform songs for His glory!

    • Steve Nixon on February 14, 2017 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Rhonda. I teach all kinds of songs. So, yes definitely 🙂

    • John on November 22, 2019 at 11:43 am

      The piano lessons are really great love them alot. I would also like to learn to play worship songs

  4. Debbie Shaw on October 10, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    Thank you so much for explaining this

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