Obviously one of the most common questions among beginning guitar students revolves around their personal repertoire, and what songs they should learn to play first.
While I’m a big believer in choosing songs you like, I also think it’s important to choose songs with common chord progressions.
As you continue to study music, you’ll find that there are a number of very common progressions that surface again and again throughout the repertoire.
Focusing on learning songs that use these progressions does a few things.
You Can Play More Songs
First and foremost, you’ll be able to play more songs. There are literally dozens of songs that use the same four chords, and many of them even have the same order of those chords.
That means that you could learn one of them, then change your tempo or your strumming style, and automatically be able to play another one.
Since most people (non-musicians, at least) will never be able to tell that you’re just playing a different song using the same four chords, its a great way to quickly expand your repertoire and play for your friends, or even string together your first performance set.
Harder Guitar Songs Become Easier
Another reason I recommend learning some of these chord progressions is there are many more difficult songs that, when you look closely, are really based off of the same progression.
These songs might throw an extra chord or two in the middle of the easier progression change, or they might use part of the progression in one area of the song, and a different part of the progression in a different area of the song, but either way, if you’ve learned to deconstruct your songs based on the chord progressions they use, you’ll be able to identify and more quickly master them when they crop up in the context of harder works.
For example, if you learn the Hotel California chords, a standard beginning guitar piece and one that most new guitarists turn to in their first few months of playing, you’ll be able to use an excerpt of that chord progression to play the Alive tab by Pearl Jam, a notoriously far more difficult set of changes to master.
But, because you’ve already learned a part of them with Hotel California, you’ll have less trouble working through Alive.
You’ll Train your Ear to Hear the Chords
Finally, learning songs based on common chord progressions is one of the best ways to train your ear.
You’ll start to hear the progressions show up in other songs, regardless of whether they come up ina different key or as only part of a longer progression.
You’ll also make it easier to learn the art of soloing and improvisation, when the time comes, because you’ll have ingrained the musical progression into your ear so firmly.