1-4-5-6m Chords

Ever wondered why so many songs contain the chords G C D Em? Well, it is not because of laziness, but because of music theory.

Ultimate Guitar
There are so many songs out there that go G C D Em or D G A Bm and so on. At first, it might just seem like this is because the writers are unimaginative. But a closer look reveals that there is actually good reason behind it. And that's what we're gonna look at today. Let's Start At The Beginning. G, C, D, and Em. These are all chords in the key of G. They are the 1-4-5-6m chords. Now why do I call it that? Because if you look in a G scale, those chords are the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th notes in a G scale. Let's take a look at that: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 O G A B C D E F G Now why is it these chords are used? The 4, 5, and 6m chords all have at least one note in common with the 1 chord. Let's take a look at that: G Chord: G B D C Chord: C E G D Chord: D F# A Em Chord: E G B The reason its the 6m instead of the 6th major, is because the 6m is the relative minor of the 1, which means the scale has the same notes. G scale: G A B C D E F# Em scale: E F# G A B C D Let's Check All That Out In Another Key. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 C D E F G A B C Chord: C E G F Chord: F A c G Chord: G B D Am Chord:A C E C scale: C D E F G A B Am scale: A B C D E F G Pretty cool, huh? And then, if it sounds good, most guitarists will add in 7ths and things of that nature. I hope this helped!

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    a few problems I have with this, first one is small, you say at the begining "At first, it might just seem like this is because the writers are unimaginative. But a closer look reveals that there is actually good reason behind it." but don't really show how it isn't 'unimaginative'. I'm not trying to call you out, but it does seem like that was the point of your lesson, by the way the first paragraph was phrased. the next thing that bothers me is that you aren't using roman numerals, typically that is what is used when refeering to a chord progression, upper case for major lower case for minor, so it would read I IV V vi. (this might just be a pet peeve of mine but I find using roman numerals kind of cleans it up a bit) finally the resoning for the vi being minor is sound, I guess, but really all you have to say is that it is diatonic to the scale, not because its the relative minor. if you don't know the word diatonic, it means that only notes from the scale can be used, or the chord uses no accidentals. so for the key of G major you would have: I G major - G B D ii A minor - A C E iiiB minor - B D F# IV C major - C E G V D major - D F# A vi E minor - E G B vii F# diminished - F# A C note that all the chords only use a combination of three of the fallowing notes G A B C D E F# I'm not trying to make you look dumb but where did you get your information? I mean if all you are looking for is at least one note in common with the root chord then wouldn't the iii be a prefeered note, seeing as it has 2 notes in common? and with that in mind wouldn't it make sense that I iii vi I would be the strongest chord progression?
    aren't you the guy that posted on my last lesson on tapping about a year ago?
    and as far as the whole thing with the chords and the notes in common, if you look there, I said "at least". I appreciate your informing me of my mistakes, but plz, make a greater effort to not make me look stupid, and PM me.
    BFMVmaniac .... I thoroughly enjoyed your explanation. For the novice it is fantastic. Krypticguitar87 .... your detailed explanation was also great. Some of us are not ready to absorb so much detail so soon in the learning process. As a beginner, I learned from both of you.
    I suppose these backseat drivers are going to persist in evaluating something that wasn't written for them, but thanks for making the observation of your point available to me.
    its not to be a "backseat driver" its to hopefully teach people to make sure they fully understand a subject before trying to teach it. the point is to make the writers better teachers, so the 'students' get better information...
    krypticguitar87 What you wrote makes no sense to me and if you had posted what you wrote as a lesson, I would not have gained anything from it. I am sure what you are saying is useful to people who are more advanced but to give credit where credit is due BFMVmaniac has posted a simple and useful lesson which is a good start for someone such as myself. The Axis of Awesome (Australian band) have a 4 chord song where they play 30 odd famous songs using 4 chords... funny and quite enlightening.
    Forgive me here, but I was under the impression I could record and dub over with other instuments creating my own recording. Plz know I appreciate ur teachings as I could always learn more, never ending. Do I have the wrong app for this??
    Were you using the G major scale in this lesson? If so you got it wrong, there is no F in the G major scale, its an F#.