Country Chord Progressions

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Country chord progressions are not really all that different from the basic chord progressions you would find in Rock, and most popular music..

From Hank Williams Sr. to The Zac Brown Band country music has changed its sound but the basic country chord progressions stay the same and are not all that different from basic "pop" progressions.

For the well rounded keyboard player you will be using the same common chord progressions found in other styles of music.

Only the stylistic country piano "fills" and "licks" will turn a common pop progression into one that has a country feel.

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For the most part a great many country songs will use the basic I-IV-V progression with those chords being in some order depending on the song.

There are literaly thousands of county songs many of them famous that used only those three chords.

In the key of G the chords would be G, C and D major. G major is a popular key for country as it suits guitars and banjos and fiddels as well.

I am currently playing for a friend that is a country songwriter and a good many of his songs are in the Key of G.

As well as the I-IV and V chord you will also see both the ii (minor) and the vi (minor) chord used in country chord progressions. In the Key of G those would be A minor and E minor.

You will not find many (if any) chord extensions in country chord progressions. That means not many 7ths except maybe the V chord which would be D7 in the key of G. No 9th's, 11th's or 13th's.

Occasionally you will find a II7 chord. In G that would be A7 going to the V chord D7.

One of the most Famous names at least in early country music was Hank Williams Sr. He more or less brought country music into the fore front from about 1949 to 1953

Many of Hanks biggest hits used very simple 3 and 4 chord progressions.

Here are the changes for "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (see, the titles are important too ). It's in 3/4 (waltz) time:


|E / / |E / / |E / / |E / / |
|E / / |E / / |E / / |E / / |
|A / / |A / / |E / / |E / / |
|E / / |B7 / / |E / / |E / / |

And here's "Hey Good Lookin'", in jaunty 4/4 swing feel:

|C / / / |C / / / |C / / / |C / / / |
|F / / / |G / / / |C / / / |C / / / |

|C / / / |C / / / |C / / / |C / / / |
|F / / / |G / / / |C / / / |C / / / |

|F / / / |C / / / |F / / / |C / / / |
|F / / / |C / / / |D7 / / / |G7 / / / |

|C / / / |C / / / |C / / / |C / / / |
|F / / / |G / / / |C / / / |C / / / |

The D chord in the bridge (middle section) is an example of the "major II" I mentioned, it functions as a "secondary dominant" or the V7 of the V chord in the key of C.


Otherwise these are all I-IV-V (major chord) sequences, in keys of E and C respectively. (Hank did use minor chords, but he tended to base whole songs around them, rather than insert them in major key songs.)

Another country music legend that has spanned the decades is "Willie Nelson".

Willie had many country hits that crossed over on to the pop charts such as "On the Road Again" and "Always on My Mind" both of which were huge hits.

While "On the Road Again" used only the I - IV and V chords, the song "Always on My mind" was a bit more complex.

Notice that Willie uses the ii, iii, and vi minor chords as well as II7 and several slash chords that create a descending bass line in the bridge which is similar to the verse in Billy Joel's "Piano Man" demonstrated in the video on the slash chords.

Same chord progression, totally different genre of music!!

Best Home Study for "Ear Players"

After checking out dozens of home study courses that teach you to play by ear and focus on chord progressions I am convinced that the folks at Hear and Play have the best, most well rounded program available for just about all styles of music from Gospel to Jazz. Read my review or visit Hear and Play for more information.

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