The 1564 chord progression is one of the most famous chord progressions, and save for the 145 chord progression, could be THE most famous. There are many “reasons” why these chords work so well, but for now all you really need to know is that it’s a great series that is really conducive to supporting great melody.
In this lesson we’re going to take a look at a few famous songs that make use of these chords. Now there are TONS of songs that have used this chord order and many, many more that take them and just re-order them. That’s one GREAT thing about chord progressions. You can come up with your own, or take a known winner and alter it through rhythm and style to create something absolutely unique! Having said that, I just chose a few examples that have been stuck in my head lately (due to teaching them a lot).
Click to watch this Video on YouTube
The first great, and recent song to make use of the 1564 chord progression is “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. The entire song just keeps the same sequence going with the same rhythm all the way until we come to the transitional bridge of the song. If you’re thinking, man, how can you just keep the exact chord progression going a whole song and not have it get dull…well, you’re not alone.
It can be amazing to realize that this tactic is employed quite a bit in popular music, and has been for quite a long while. Be it songs from Elvis, Tom Petty, Green Day or Bob Marley: The list goes on and on.
Understanding the Theory Behind the 1564 Chord Progression
Before we dig into what’s behind this, you might want to download the PDF chord chart. Just sign up below and I’ll send it right over to you as well as more free lessons to help you learn to play guitar quickly and effectively.
What the 1564 chord progression numbers represent are the scale degrees of the key the song is in. This is referring to the Major Scale, which if you’re not familiar with, that link there will get you up to speed. But basically here’s the deal… A musical key has 7 unique notes in it and then repeats at the 8th note, or octave (which is the same as the 1st note, often called the root note of the key). Now if you’re worried that this might be too hard or it’s not making sense…I’m gonna try and break it down and simplify it for you here.
I know when this stuff is new, it can seem like a totally foreign language! But stay with me To start off, let’s take a look at the key of C Major. It’s not just a great key to start with, but it’s also one of the most popular keys due to it being easy to play on guitar (all but 2 chords are “open chords”) and it just uses the white keys on piano. Moving right along… The key starts on C (our 1) and goes, C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C, or 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Does that make sense? What you need to take away is that a Major key ALWAYS starts on the letter of it’s key name (here a C note) and then goes sequentially through the musical alphabet (only letters A-G).
So you see we started at C and then just hop right along down the musical alphabet, and when we hit that ‘G’ note, we just roll back over to ‘A’ and go until we’re back at our starting note (the root note). If that made sense and you’re still with me, then let’s move along to the idea of picking out a chord sequence. When I pick a chord progression out of the key, I can just use the numbers to identify the chord’s position in the key. This let’s us then be able to take the song and play it in any key we choose by just using the numbers to explain what chords we’re playing and in what order.
So for the key of C Major, the 1564 chord progression would yield, C Maj, G Maj, A min, and F Maj. If we wanted to take the song and play it in the key of G Major? That’s no problem. By using the Major Scale formula, we start on G and get, G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G. Now we just pick out our 1 5 6 4 letters and bingo! Doing this will give us G Maj, D Maj, E min, C Maj (A 1 5 6 4 chord progression). In the video, I’m talking about Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”, which is in the key of B Major. All we need to do is spell out the B Major Scale and then pull out our corresponding numbers.
So we start on B and get, B-C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A#-B. Then we pick out the 1564 of our 8 numbers. Doing so gives us B Maj, F# Maj, G# min, E Maj. That’s it. Play those chords along with the song and you’re going right along with Jason. At this point, maybe your head is spinning and this seems confusing, but let’s not let all the #’s (pronounced sharps) and letters overwhelm us.
Here are the take aways…
1.) Tell me the key name, i.e. B, C, or G Major
2.) Start with that letter as 1 and put down the next 6 letters until you’re back at 1 (for C that’s C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C)
3.) All keys other than C Major will have to have some sharps or flats (b’s) written in to keep the relative distances between the notes the same (i.e. the distance from A to B is one whole step on guitar. For the key of G that distance (6-7) is E to F#).
4.) Know that this stuff melts everyone’s brain at first and just keep going (if you want to become a master at theory…note, you don’t HAVE to. Only do it if you WANT to). No one becomes a master overnight
Understanding keys is a HUGE advantage to you in your learning and we’ve just seen how we could take this 1564 chord progression and move it into any key we want. But let’s look at one more famous example of this chord sequence showing up in a song. And who better to turn to then those masters of melody, The Beatles! One of their songs that shows this chord order in action is “Oh Darling”. Although the progression is just a part of the song, it’s the real hook and meat of each verse section.
This song doesn’t have a true chorus and is just verse sections repeated. The Beatles play this song in the key of A Major, but as you saw above, you could take it and play it in any key. So the beginning of the song, the “Oh darling, if you’re leaving…” etc goes A Maj, E Maj, F# min, D Maj. Then the song will change chord progressions at the “believe me…” parts of the song. But you can see how each verse starts off right with the same 1 5 6 and 4 chords that ‘ole Jason Mraz and thousands of other artists have used. Pretty neat right?
I hope this lesson has been really helpful to you, and if you would, please leave me a comment below and tell me your thoughts or ask any questions. I’m here for ya! Also, be sure to Facebook like this post and tweet it out/+1 it if you enjoyed it. It might seem like a “little” thing, but it goes a LONG way in helping my posts get more attention and allows me to keep more FREE lessons coming!
Thanks for joining me in this lesson and we’ll see you in another lesson soon!