3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick

3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick

Learn how the same 3- and 4-chord progressions power thousands of hit songs and how you can play them by ear with the 3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick training module.

After completing this module: you will understand what the I, IV, V and vi chords are, and why their progressions are so important.

Did you know that most of the pop and rock songs you know and love actually follow the same chord progression?

Based on the highly popular ear training eBook, this module explains how the same simple chord progressions are used in a wide variety of ways across modern music, allowing you to play thousands of hit songs by ear just by developing some basic skills.

Discover why so many hit songs sound somehow familiar even when you hear them for the first time!

Peek behind the curtain with the 3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick module and discover exactly how it all works.

Once you know what the chords are, and understand why those chords are used, you’ll have access to thousands of songs, and be able to play them by ear almost instantly.

This module explains the whole process step-by-step:

  • What chords and chord progressions are
  • What the 3 most important chords are for any musician
  • How those three chords power thousands of hit songs (including many you know and love!)
  • The magic fourth chord to add for an extra twist
  • The most popular 4-chord progression

Whatever instrument you play, you’ll find:

  • Easy explanations of the key concepts
  • Real musical examples to listen to
  • Powerful musical concepts that you can put into practise straight away!

Playing songs by ear is a huge topic, but this module focuses on advice that is practical, effective and easy-to-follow to give you a huge musical boost, giving you the tools and understanding to play thousands of the songs you know and love.

Peek Inside


Module Preview


  1. Introduction
  2. What is a chord?
  3. The 3 chords every musician should know
  4. How to learn from thousands of 3-chord songs
  5. Meet vi, the ‘sad twin’ of the chord family
  6. The most important four-chord progression: vi-IV-I-V
  7. Four chords and the truth
  8. Playing 3- and 4-chord songs by ear

Lesson Excerpt: The 3 most important chords

As you from the previous lessons, the three most important chords in music are the “I, IV and V” chords.

I-IV-VIt shouldn’t surprise you then to learn that all those 3-chord songs will most likely use the I, IV and V chords. These chords are also the standard progression for a “twelve-bar blues”, the foundation of blues music.

Those three chords are what represent the ‘tonic’ sound, which is the core harmonic context of a song. All the other chords which can be used in a particular tonality are usually only there to either move from one of the chords to another in a more colorful manner, or add a minor touch to an otherwise major sound.

Most beginners, when trying to figure out how to play a particular song, will pull up tabs or sheet music from the Internet. When faced with 3-chord songs, don’t do this! Instead, use your ears.

Try to figure out what the I chord is. In most of those songs, it will be a simple major triad. You should find there’s a particular major chord which sounds good pretty much throughout the song. You can also try playing the corresponding major scale and seeing if it fits well against the melody.

Those songs are based on simplicity, so you won’t need hours to figure out what chords are being used!

Once you have figured out the key of the song, or the I chord, you’ll then be able to figure out the IV and V chords – just count up the scale to the fourth and fifth notes and use the corresponding major chords.

For example, if your I chord turns out to be F Major, you would count up F-G-A-B♭–C to learn the IV and V chords are B♭ Major and C Major respectively. These are probably the ones being used throughout the song.

Note they won’t necessarily be found in the order “I–IV–V“! This is the next thing you’ll need to use your ears to figure out: what is the progression? Not so hard once you know it’s all based around just three chords…

Practice exercise for 3 chord songs

Here is a little exercise for you to try. The song “Love Me Do” by the Beatles, is a typical 3-chord song. By listening to the audio clip of the song, and the slowed down piano version that follow, can you figure out the I, IV and V chords and then write out the entire chord progression to the song?

Hint: “Love Me Do” starts on a G Major chord.

Love Me Do is a 3-chord song

Member Success

“I felt like I knew a lot of this stuff having played guitar for many years, but the book really drove home how essential the simple “I IV V vi” concepts are. I’ve been guilty of writing sad songs in all minor keys, but now I’m looking forward to simplifying the chord structure of my songs while getting it “right” with the information from the book.”
“I play bass and I know some beginning bass players think all that chord talk only applies to guitar and piano. Make sure you let them know that’s absolutely not the case.”

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