Harmonize The Major Scale – Step 1

Chord Progression Guitar Lesson - S1
In this first step, we lay out the basics of understanding chord progressions which is to always translate a songs chords to Roman Numerals!

Start By Finding A Key Centre

All songs have a key centre, which means that a song is “in the key of”. Every key has seven chords and you can number them from one to seven using Roman Numerals.

In the key of C, we have these chords: CDmEm FGAmBdim. To replace these with Roman numerals you simply number them from 1-7, like this:

C (I) – Dm (II) – Em (III) – F (IV) – G (V) – Am (VI) – Bdim (VII)

Let’s take the song The Drugs Don’t Work by The Verve as an example.

The verse chord progression is CAmEm, followed by FGC

This makes the Roman Numerals: IVIIII and IVVI.

Whenever you learn a song, you should always work out what its Roman Numerals are.

Hear the Roman numerals

As there are only seven chords available, you will soon start to see different combinations pop up in songs, these are called chord progressions.

For example, the IV – V – I progression we had at the end of The Drugs Don’t Work is super common and can be found in hundreds of hits.

By seeing them as numbers you can start hearing them as sounds. Do this and it doesn’t matter what key we are in. ABE, for example, is the same progression as FGC, just in a different key.

As long as we translate a chord letter to a number we can start this journey of understanding music. Eventually, you’ll be able to hear and even predict chord progressions.

What’s important to understand is that every chord, seen as a number, has a certain sound.

We examine this concept further in the guitar courses using actual songs. This is very important, you must experience the sound of a chord progression in the context of songs.

Explain any song

What you’ve seen here is the foundation for understanding music. It is the chord progression that supports the melody, it’s the chord progression that determines the key and hints at any modulations or variations.

All scales, arpeggios, arpeggio substitutions, you name it, it’s always done in the language of the chord progression.

The secret to understanding chord progressions lies in taking notes when playing actual songs.

Only this will make the connection between the Roman numeral and the actual sound clear. Only now can the language of the chord progression be understood.

The biggest hurdle for you to understand how this all works is down to how music theory teachers have so many different names for the same things, more about this next.

Chord Progressions | Related Pages

Chord progression | Step-by-step guitar course

Chord Progression Course

In these guitar lessons, I talk about how to best describe chords when they are put after each other and form chord progressions.

The main thing to discover here is how popular music is a combination of the harmonized major scale and the Blues.

The Drugs Don’t Work | Chords + Lyrics

The Drugs Don't Work Chords

You can learn how to play The Drugs Don’t Work by The Verve using chords, lyrics, TAB, and Spytunes video guitar lessons.

C Csus2 | C G/B | Am Asus2 | Am Asus2 |
All this talk of getting old, it’s getting me down my love…

Five tunes with the I – IV – V | Chords + Lyrics

Spytunes song book A-Z



Spytunes chords, scale, and arpeggio software, Chordacus is a refined version of the so-called CAGED system.

Now available as both a chromatic (original version) and “within a key”, developed with the help of a Spytunes student.

About me

Dan Lundholm wrote this guitar lesson on chord progressions.

This guitar lesson on chord progressions was written by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and how learning guitar with Spytunes has evolved.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.

Follow Spytunes