Folk Music Chord Progressions You Need to Know

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Chord progressions are the backbone of folk music. If you want to be able to play folk music on your guitar, you need to know some of the most common chord progressions. In this blog post, we’ll share some of the most essential folk music chord progressions that you need to know.


Folk music chord progressions are often passed down from generation to generation, with each new generation adding their own unique twist. While some progressions are closely guarded secrets, others have become so well known that they’re practically folk standards. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common and influential Folk chord progressions.

The I-IV-V Progression

The I-IV-V progression is probably the most common chord progression in all of folk music. It’s so ubiquitous that it’s often referred to simply as “the folk progression.”

The I-IV-V progression goes like this: the first chord (I) is followed by the fourth chord (IV) and then the fifth chord (V). That’s it! In the key of C, this would be C-F-G.

This progression is extremely versatile and can be used in a wide variety of songs in any number of genres. It has a simple, singable melody and can be played with just about any instrument.

The I-IV-V progression is also a great starting point for beginners who are just learning how to play chords on the guitar or other instruments. Once you’ve mastered this basic progression, you can start to experiment with different chord voicings and embellishments to create your own unique sound.

The I-V-vi-IV Progression

The I-V-vi-IV progression is probably the most popular chord progression in all of popular music. It’s been used in countless songs over the years, in a variety of genres including rock, pop, folk, and country.

The progression is extremely simple: it’s just four chords, all major chords, that are played in succession. The first chord is the tonic (or “I” chord), the second is the dominant (or “V” chord), the third is the subdominant (or “vi” chord), and the fourth is the dominant of the subdominant (or “IV” chord).

This progression has a very strong sense of forward motion; it drives onward and upward toward the climax at the end. It’s also extremely flexible; it can be played in any key, and with any combination of chords. For example, you could play it with four different major chords (I-V-vi-IV), or with three major chords and one minor chord (I-V-vi-iv).

There are countless songs that use this progression; some of the more famous examples include “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones, “Yesterday” by The Beatles, “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day.

The ii-V-I Progression

The ii-V-I progression is one of the most important chord progressions in all of music. It’s used in countless songs in virtually every genre, and understanding how it works will make you a better musician overall.

In a major key, the ii-V-I progression consists of the chords Dmin7-G7-Cmaj7. In a minor key, it would be Dmin7-G7-(Cmaj7). As you can see, the only difference is that the Cmaj7 chord is replaced with a Cmin7 chord.

This progression is so important because it outlines the major tonic (or “home”) chord (Cmaj7 or Cmin7) with two other chords (Dmin7 and G7). This gives the listener a sense of resolution, as they are pulled back “home” after hearing the G7 chord.

The ii-V-I progression can be used in virtually any style of music, but it’s especially common in jazz and gospel. If you want to learn more about this essential progression, check out our lesson on ii-V-I guitar chords.

The ii-V-i Progression

One of the most important chord progressions in Folk music is the ii-V-i.

This chord progression is made up of three chords, the ii, the V and the i. In the key of C Major, these chords would be Dmin7, G7 and C Major 7.

The ii-V-i chord progression is used in a wide variety of songs in Folk music, and is a progression that every Folk musician should know.

The vi-IV-V-I Progression

The vi-IV-V-I progression is one of the most common progressions in folk music. It’s used in a variety of songs, including “The House of the Rising Sun,” “Scarborough Fair,” and “Down in the Valley.”

The vi-IV-V-I progression is made up of four chords: vi, IV, V, and I. The vi chord is minor, the IV chord is major, the V chord is major, and the I chord is major.

To play this progression in the key of C, you would use the chords C6, F, G, and C.


There are many different types of chord progressions that can be used in folk music, but the three progressions discussed in this article are some of the most commonly used. Each has its own unique sound and feel, so experiment with them to see which one works best for your song. With a little practice, you’ll be able to create beautiful folk music that sounds great on any instrument.

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