Alice's Restaurant is basically


With most of the chords going to a dominant 7. Is there a name for this type of progression? What is a good strategy for soloing over this type of progression? It looks like its mostly in G maj except for the A. It also seems to always be moving from a 5th to a root except for the C->A. Also, I know there are lots of other songs that use this progression but I can't remember any of them. What other songs use this type of progression?

  • Hey Joe does a similar thing, backwards. – Tim Oct 6 '18 at 6:30
  • I thought the song went, 'You can play anything you want over Alice's Restaurant'. – Areel Xocha Oct 7 '18 at 3:57

I've seen this progression sometimes called "Ragtime Progression."


That particular name also suggests a possible approach to style for improv. i.e. use ragtime elements like syncopated broken chords.


I've heard this called a "circle of fifths progression." There are definitely a lot of songs with this progression. "Heart and Soul" is basically the same progression but with diatonic chord flavors. The bridge of "I Got Rhythm" is another famous example.

Since the A and D chords are major or dominant here, they are called secondary dominants - A is the dominant of D, D is the dominant of G, G is the of the tonic (C). So the song is in C (not G), but for soloing you will be playing in D, G, and C successively.

For practice, you might want to work a bit on the song "Sweet Georgia Brown." The A section has a circle of fifths progression, but the chords last twice as long.

  • When you say "for soloing you will be playing D, G, and C successively" what do you mean exactly? Meaning cycle through playing those pentatonic scales or what? – b3ko Oct 5 '18 at 20:31
  • 1
    Personally, I would stick more to the arpeggios than pentatonics, but pentatonic scales will work. The manner you approach the improvisation will have to do with the genre you are playing in. If you're playing in the original folksy style, then pentatonic scales would probably be appropriate. – Peter Oct 5 '18 at 21:14
  • So, for clarification: would you suggest playing exclusively in D, G, and C? Why not A? – GGMG-he-him Oct 5 '18 at 22:32
  • Since the A chord is acting as the dominant of D, you are in the mixolydian mode. The main difference is the 7th scale degree - you would usually play the note g, instead of g# over the A chord in this circumstance. Similarly, you are playing in the key of G over the D chord (D mixolydian) and in the key of C over the G (G mixolydian). If you are playing exclusively major pentatonic scales, then this won't really matter. – Peter Oct 8 '18 at 13:23

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