Having Fun with Basic Major and Minor Chords: The "Oldies" Progression

Added on Friday 8 Jul 2011

You can play lots of popular songs right away if you know the basic major and minor chords. One cool thing that you can do right now is play oldies — songs from the late ’50s and early ’60s such as “Earth Angel” and “Duke of Earl.” These songs are based on what’s sometimes called the oldies progression.

The oldies progression is a series of four chords; they’re repeated over and over to form the accompaniment for a song. You can play the oldies progression in any key, but the best guitar keys for the oldies progression are C and G. In the key of C, the four chords that make up the progression are C-Am-F-G. And in the key of G, the chords are G-Em-C-D. Try strumming the progression in each key by playing four down-strums per chords.

The fun begins as you sing oldies while accompanying yourself with the oldies progression. As you sing a particular song, you find that one of the keys (C or G) better suits your vocal range, so use that key. Playing oldies can become addicting, but the good news is that, if you can’t stop, you build up your calluses very quickly.

For some songs, you play four one-beat strums per chord; for others, you play eight or two. Below, I have listed some songs you can play with the oldies progression right now. Next to each, I’ll show you how many times you strum each chord. Don’t forget to sing. Have fun!

  •  All I Have to Do Is Dream. Two strums per chord.
  • Blue Moon. Two strums per chord.
  • Breaking Up Is Hard to Do. Two strums per chord.
  • Come Go with Me. Two strums per chord.
  • Duke of Earl. Four strums per chord.
  • Earth Angel. Two strums per chord.
  • Heart and Soul. Two strums per chord.
  • Hey Paula. Two strums per chord.
  • In the Still of the Night. (The one by the Five Satins, not the Cole Porter one.) Four strums per chord.

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