I've seen this chord progression pop up verbatim in a few songs I've been learning recently. It's (in a major key) I - bIII - IV - bVI then back to the tonic.

My question is: is there a name for this progression? Maybe it's my bias for hearing it more often than usual in the past week but wanted to check. I understand it's related to borrowing chords from the parallel minor key (nothing new there) but is this sequence common enough to be given a name?

B-52s - Love Shack -

Spencer Davis Group - Gimme Some Lovin' -

The Monkeys - Stepping Stone -

Katy Perry - I Kissed a Girl (i - bIII - IV - bVI - V) -

The Animals - House of the Rising Sun (starts with a minor i chord and part of a longer progression) -

And to a lesser degree:

Bon Jovi - Keep the Faith (I – bIII – IV – V – bVII) -

Scorpions - Rock You Like a Hurricane (i - bIII - IV - bVI - bVII) -

Nickelback - Rock Star (I - bIII - IV - bVI - bVII) -


1 Answer 1


Chord progressions don’t typically get names. There are a few exceptions like “blues” and “rhythm changes” (songs based on Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”) but even those can be played in a variety of different ways so even by saying “Let’s play a blues” there’s not a universal progression that you will get from different players.

Sometimes musicians use numbers as shorthand for naming progressions like 1-4-5 or 1-6-2-5 or 1-6-4-5 to communicate among themselves but I wouldn’t go as far as to say those are names. Another thing players will do to communicate ideas is use a well known song as a reference to a chord progression like “It’s like the verse of Purple Haze”.

As for this particular progression, there are differences in timing and sometimes even passing chords are added within the different versions so a single name for it wouldn’t really work. However if I was in say, a rehearsal and I wanted to convey this idea I would use your label, 1-b3-4-b6 1 bar each (or whatever the timing might be) or the song quote method, “The chorus of Love Shack”.

  • What about the "'50s progression" name for 1-6-4-5?
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 27, 2020 at 12:19
  • @Dekkadeci That could have be included in my first paragraph. I thought about it, there are also several other names for that progression such as “Lollipop Changes” and “Doo Wop Changes”. I decided not to include it in my answer since I already had 2 examples of other progressions with names. Oct 27, 2020 at 16:12
  • Surely "Those magic changes" is a pretty famous one!
    – Fattie
    Oct 27, 2020 at 17:35

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