The most powerful concept in learning to play songs by ear is the “1 4 5 progression”, or the “3 chord song”.

This can also include “1 4 5 6” (or “I IV V vi“) progressions and 4-chord songs.

In short:

So many songs sound the same because they use the same underlying sequence of chords.

Different keys, different arrangements, different styles – but the same progression!

Learn about this progression and playing songs by ear becomes much easier!

If you want to learn more about three chord songs we have an all-in-one specialist guide: “3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick”.

Similar questions answered on this page:

  • Why do rock songs use 4 chords?
  • Why do so many rock songs use the same four chords?
  • What are the four magic chords?
  • What are the most important chords?
  • What are the most popular chord progressions?
  • What’s the most common chord progression in pop music?
  • How can I play pop songs by ear?
  • How do you play songs by ear?

Free Course: Play Chords By Ear!

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Take a short email course which teaches you the "shortcut way" to play chords by ear. It works for any instrument or style of music.

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