Welcome to the latest installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your understanding of harmony and the fretboard. In the previous lesson we went over the the I–ii–V–I progression in G major. This time we’ll look at the I–IV–V7–I progression, also in G.
As before, we’ll start off with a little theory, but feel free to skip it and go straight to playing the chords. Let’s start with the G major scale, which is shown in Example 1. To review, you can get the I chord by starting with the first note of the scale, G, and adding B and D (Example 2a). Similarly, start on the fourth note of the scale (C) for the IV chord (Example 2b) and the fifth note (D) for the V7 chord (Example 2c). Remember that since D7 is a seventh chord, you’re adding one extra note, the flatted seventh, in this case C.
The I–IV–V7–I is one of most common progressions in popular music. Example 3 shows it using open chords. Note that I’m starting with a particular open-G fingering that allows me to keep my fourth finger in place on string 1 for the C chord that follows. At the same time, I’m simply moving my third and second fingers over one string set to get to the C chord, making for an efficient transition.
Example 4 shows the progression using closed voicings, with the chords rooted on both strings 6 and 5. Also with barre chords, in Example 5, the roots are all on string 6. Remember that you don’t have to play all six strings—try just the bottom or top four, for example.
Example 6 gives us some compact three-note voicings on the top three strings, which can come in handy when you want a nice clean sound and don’t need to play the bass notes. You might have noticed that while a D7 chord contains four notes, the voicing here includes just three. But it still works, as it contains the chord’s defining notes—the major third (F#) and the flatted seventh (C).
You should now know how to play the I–IV–V7–I using various voicings in the key of G major. One classic song that uses this progression is Patsy Cline’s “A Church, A Courtroom, and Then Goodbye.” Next time we’ll continue our exploration of chord progressions with the I–vi–IV–V7–I in G.