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Axis of Awesome’s 4-Chord Songs

by Bruce Siegel on March 12th, 2012

If you’re a student of my online course, you know that it teaches you, step by step, to accompany your own singing. We began with songs that use only three chords, and in my most recent tutorial, Accompaniment Styles for 50 Great Songs, we added a fourth.

That’s why I was happy to come across this Axis of Awesome video. On it, the talented and very funny Australian group plays dozens of hit songs (see the complete list below) that use the four chords we’ve studied so far, and most of the songs are pretty recent (unlike the ones I often choose).

And here’s the interesting part: not only do the songs all use the same chords, they use them in exactly the same sequence.

To bring this home, go to 08:57 on Accompaniment Styles for 50 Great Songs. At that point, I play the chords for Let it Be: I, V, vi, IV. In the key of C, that’s C, G, A minor, and F.

Now re-play that part of the video, and notice how you can not only sing the verse of Let it Be over that accompaniment, but also the chorus of Can You Feel the Love Tonight, the chorus of Someone Like You, and . . . . well, the entire list of songs you see below.

And that’s exactly what Axis of Awesome does.

So I thought I’d share with you this video and list of songs. If you’ve worked your way through Accompaniment Styles for 50 Great Songs (at least the beginning), and are looking for more music to play using the same chords, this will be of interest to you.

Clearly, If you’re a songwriter, you need to know this progression.

Update: I just found another video called “4 Chords, 65 Songs”, based on exactly the same premise.

On the Axis of Awesome video:
0:52 Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
1:00 James Blunt – You’re Beautiful
1:09 Alphaville – Forever Young
1:17 Jason Mraz – I’m Yours
1:25 Mika – Happy Ending
1:34 Alex Lloyd – Amazing
1:41 The Calling – Wherever You Will Go
1:49 Elton John – Can You Feel The Love Tonight
1:56 Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved
2:04 The Last Goodnight – Pictures Of You
2:12 U2- With Or Without You
2:19 Crowled House – Fall At Your Feet
2:29 Kasey Chambers – Not Pretty Enough
2:38 The Beatles – Let It Be
2:42 Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Under the Bridge
2:48 Daryl Braithwaite – The Horses
2:54 Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry
2:56 Marcy Playgroung – Sex and Candy
2:59 Men At Work – Land Down Under
3:03 Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda
3:05 A Ha – Take On Me
3:06 Green Day – When I Come Around
3:22 Eagle Eye Cherry – Save Tonight
3:23 Toto – Africa
3:30 Beyonce – If I were a Boy
3:32 The Offspring – Self Esteem
3:38 The Offspring – You’re Gonna Go Far Kid
3:47 Pink – You and Your Hand
3:53 Lady Gaga – Poker Face
4:00 Aqua – Barbie Girl
4:04 The Fray – You Found Me
4:09 3Oh!3 – Don’t Trust Me
4:16 MGMT – Kids
4:23 Tim Minchin – Canvas Bags
4:33 Natalie Imbruglia – Torn
4:49 Five For Fighting – Superman
4:53 Axis Of Awesome – Birdplane
5:05 Missy Higgins – Scar

5 Comments
  1. This is so true! This is a very unknown concept to beginner piano players. Most beginners think that people who play have some magic ability to play that they don’t.

    It comes back to chord progressions. If you can learn the most common chord progressions, you will be able to play just about 90% of contemporary songs out there. Most songwriters aren’t that creative when it come to the music in the song. Also, a lot of the uncommon and unique chord progressions sound really weird anyway and wouldn’t be very pleasing to to the ear with a singer.

    Learn the chord progression in the post, then learn the other four or five most common ones. You will see your playing start to really progress!

  2. Bruce Siegel permalink

    Thanks, Eric! Nicely said. Can I hire you as a teaching assistant? :)

  3. Sure Thing :)

  4. Virginia Larson permalink

    Wonder what Beethoven would think of piano music based on nothing more than a few chord progressions.

  5. Bruce Siegel permalink

    Hi Virginia. Beethoven wrote some Country Dances (and probably other short pieces, too) that only use three chords, so he might not be as shocked as you think!

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