Did you know that ten of thousands of pop, rock, folk, country songs and more use “one four five” chord progressions? That makes it easy to learn to play them by ear – you just need to understand how those progressions work, how to recognise them and how to play them on your instrument.

In this month’s Instrument Packs our Resident Pros for guitar, bass, piano and singing took on the topic of “creative ways to get to know I-IV-V progressions”. As always, each pro found a unique angle and taught fun and effective ways to really apply the core skills members learn with Musical U’s training modules directly on their instrument.


Dylan Welsh, our guitar Pro explained how major, minor and seventh chords can feature in I-IV-V based progressions and provided a set of exercises to get deeply familiar with how that works in each and every key.


  • How the leading tone being present in the V chord creates a strong tension and need to resolve to the tonic note in the I chord
  • How to easily find/play a I, IV, or V chord in any key
  • Ways to practice playing and recognising progressions using the I, IV and V chords
  • MP3 Practice Tracks for playing through I-IV-V progressions in different ways in every key


In the Bass pack Steve Lawson dove deep into the various ways basslines can connect to the chords in a song and showed a practical method you can use to learn to recognise these progressions reliably at the same time as learning to play them.


  • The musical function of these three chords and what to listen for
  • Why it’s not (always) as simple as just listening for the root note movement
  • Five ways basslines are built on progressions like this and how to learn to use and recognise each of them
  • MP3 Practice Tracks for practicing building each of these types of bassline over various progressions using the I, IV and V chords


Our Resident Pro for piano, Sara Campbell, explored some creative ways to improvise accompaniments for three-chord songs and made it easy to find the I, IV and V chords in any key.


  • The​ ​I-IV-V​ ​Progression​ ​Trick:​ An easy way to figure out the I-IV-V progression in any key by using the finger numbers in your RH
  • Tips and tricks for I-IV-V progressions
  • Four different accompaniment patterns of varying difficulties. These can be really useful when you’re learning I-IV-V in an unfamiliar key!
  • MP3 Practice Tracks providing the left-hand part for two different progressions in two different keys, leaving you free to experiment with different right-hand patterns.


This month we were joined by a guest Pro, the wonderful Fini Bearman, a professional jazz singer who also teaches at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the United Kingdom.


  • Why the IV-V-I progression works so well, musically
  • Which notes to listen for, to understand what’s going on
  • Exercises to sing through the progression and internalise the notes
  • Improvising over I-IV-Vs
  • MP3 Practice Tracks for the two sing-through exercises.

It’s not always immediately obvious to singers why they should care about chords but Fini brings it to life in a clear way and shows how you can tune in your ears and your voice to these highly-common chord progressions.

One-four-five progressions are a simple concept but incredibly common in music, and learning to recognise and play them by ear is a fast way to dramatically improve your play-by-ear skills. In this month’s resource packs our Resident Pros built on our core chord progression ear training and made it highly practical to learn this skill on piano, bass, guitar or when singing.

Coming up next month…

Our Instrument Pack topic for next month is “rhythmic accuracy” so our pros will be sharing their top tips, techniques and exercises to tighten up your playing and get a rock-solid sense of the beat.

Interested in getting access to these resources and much more, with an Instrument Pack membership? Just choose that option during checkout when you join Musical U, or upgrade your existing membership to get instant access!

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