During my recent month in Italy sans guitar, I took on a couple spreadsheet projects to keep my ears in shape and compile some useful musical data. My first project was a spreadsheet of Songs for Interval Recognition. My next was inspired by a street musician in Florence playing U2's "With or Without You". From a distance, I could hear the chord progression long before I recognized the song. During that time, I heard about 10 other songs simultaneously in my head over the same chords.

Linking Songs

It so happens that "With or Without You" and the several other songs I was hearing all use the "Axis of Awesome" progression: I V vi IV.

I've always been into thinking of other tunes with same progression when I'm writing or listening to four-chord-style pop music. Especially when I'm writing, I like to know what else is out there so I can consciously avoid it or take inspiration from it. Few things suck more than completing an original song before discovering that you subconsciously borrowed from existing music. (See the Coldplay-Satriani debacle.)

Compiling Data

So I started wondering, how many of these signature progressions are out there? In addition to the Axis of Awesome progression above, I hear a lot of I-vi-IV-V (the doo-wop progression), i-bVII-bVI-V (the Andalusian cadence), and I-bVII-IV-I. Just as with songs for recognizing intervals, the more real examples I can relate to each other, the easier it will be to hear them (and slight variations) again and again.

I began entering songs and chords into a spreadsheet with a column for each of the four chords. (This allows for two- and three-chord progressions as well.) I started with a handful of my old favorite songs from all the Albums in My Blood. I added everything I wrote, co-wrote, or covered in a performance. Of course I had to add everything from the Axis of Awesome video. I also used Heartwood Guitar's Songs Rob Knows and Rolling Stone's Top 500 Songs of All Time for more ideas. (Many of these songs still sit idly in my spreadsheet as I've yet to investigate all their chords.)

I limited the progressions I included to 4-part repeating progressions. This excludes 8-part progressions like Pachelbel's Canon or "Hotel California". And I exclude progressions that don't at least almost repeat.

Here's the live spreadsheet.

If you have your own Google account, you can hit "File -> Make a copy..." and you'll have access to the entire thing to customize, improve, deface, etc. If not, you can hit "File -> Download as" and have your own offline version.

You'll notice several different worksheet tabs along the bottom: "Progressions" is where I enter all the raw data. I can sort it by any column. There are a few hidden columns doing extra work like allowing the chords to be sorted properly (not by alphabetical roman numeral). "Sorted" is a copy of the "Progressions" worksheet, automatically sorted by progression. "Popular" shows the most popular progressions with their tallies. "ProfileSorted" sorts all progressions by the chords included in each, independent of chord order. (The different progressions I-vi-IV-V and I-V-vi-IV have the same profile of I-IV-V-vi.) "ProfilePopular" shows the most popular chord profiles with their tallies. Poke around for a while, and leave a comment below if you have trouble making sense of it all.

The Spreadsheet

Here's a sample of the spreadsheet as it currently stands, sorted by progression.

Progression Song Section Recording Artist
I bVII Are You Gonna Be My Girl verse Jet
I bVII Balk verse Speechwriters LLC
I ii Keep it Together verse Guster
I ii Sunday Bloody Sunday prechorus U2
I ii IV Mayonaise intro Smashing Pumpkins
I bIII IV Purple Haze verse Jimi Hendrix
I IV bIII Ramble On (chorus) Led Zeppelin
I IV Beverly Hills verse Weezer
I IV Drive My Car verse The Beatles
I IV For What it's Worth verse Buffalo Springfield
I IV Highway To Hell chorus AC/DC
I IV Imagine verse John Lennon
I IV Like a Rolling Stone intro Bob Dylan
I IV Mulholland verse Blue Judy
I IV My Girl verse The Temptations
I IV Nobody's Baby verse Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
I IV Peaceful Easy Feeling verse The Eagles
I IV Ramble On verse Led Zeppelin
I IV Rebellion (Lies) chorus1 Arcade Fire
I IV Revolution verse The Beatles
I IV Satisfaction verse Rolling Stones
I IV The Joker chorus Steve Miller Band
I IV Window Screen chorus Blue Judy
I IV Window Screen chorus Blue Judy
I IV V I Got a Feelin' verse Billy Currington
I IV V River of Dreams verse Billy Joel
I IV bVII Crazy Little Thing Called Love verse Queen
I IV bVII Lola verse The Kinks
I IV bVII The Other Side verse Aerosmith
I V Over the Hills and Far Away intro Led Zeppelin
I bVI bVII All I Wanna Do chorus Sheryl Crow
I vi For the Boys verse Blue Judy
I vi Hey There Delilah verse Plain White T’s
I bVII IV Everyone Remember Your Name chorus Blue Judy
I bVII IV For the Boys bridge Blue Judy
I bVII IV Hey Hey What Can I Do chorus Led Zeppelin
I bVII IV It's a Long Way to the Top chorus AC/DC
I bVII Total Eclipse of the Heart verse2 Bonnie Tyler
I bVII Whole Lotta Love chorus Led Zeppelin
I ii iii IV For the Boys chorus Blue Judy
I ii iii IV Like a Rolling Stone verse Bob Dylan
I ii IV V I Got a Feelin' chorus Billy Currington
I ii IV V Young Americans chorus David Bowie
I ii vi IV Firework all Katy Perry
I ii vi IV Starlight verse Muse
I bIII IV I Are You Gonna Be My Girl chorus Jet
I III IV iv Creep all Radiohead
I III vi IV Don't Forget bridge Blue Judy
I III vi V Santeria verse Sublime
I iii ii V Such Great Heights (verse) The Postal Service
I iii IV V Crocodile Rock verse Elton John
I iii vi V And I'm Here verse Blue Judy
I IV I V Baby I Love You (verse) Aretha Franklin
I IV I V Brown Eyed Girl verse Van Morrison
I IV I vi Rebellion (Lies) verse Arcade Fire
I IV II V I Believe in a Thing Called Love chorus The Darkness
I IV ii A Long December chorus Counting Crows
I IV ii IV A Long December postchorus Counting Crows
I IV ii V Run-Around all Blues Traveler
I IV bIII bVI Smells Like Teen Spirit verse Nirvana
I IV V I Summertime Blues verse Eddie Cochran
I IV V IV Beverly Hills chorus Weezer
I IV V IV Louie Louie verse The Kingsmen
I IV V IV The Joker verse Steve Miller Band
I IV V IV Undone (The Sweater Song) all Weezer
I IV V IV Walking on Sunshine verse Katrina and the Waves
I IV V IV Wild Thing chorus The Troggs
I IV V IV You Shook Me All Night Long chorus AC/DC
I IV V Fool in the Rain breakdown Led Zeppelin
I IV V La Bamba verse Ritchie Valens
I IV V Like a Rolling Stone chorus Bob Dylan
I IV V vi Hey Ya (all) Outkast
I IV V bVII Up on Cripple Creek (chorus) The Band
I IV vi V The Lion Sleeps Tonight The Tokens
I IV bVII Real Thing chorus Blue Judy
I V I IV Satisfaction prechorus Rolling Stones
I V ii Go On chorus Blue Judy
I V ii IV All Star verse Smash Mouth
I V IV I Mulholland chorus Blue Judy
I V IV iii Such Great Heights (chorus) The Postal Service
I V IV Already Gone all The Eagles
I V IV V Wonderful Tonight verse Eric Clapton
I V I Yellow Submarine chorus The Beatles
I V vi IV Africa chorus Toto
I V vi IV Can You Feel the Love Tonight chorus Elton John
I V vi IV Don't Forget verse Blue Judy
I V vi IV Don't Stop Believin verse Journey
I V vi IV Forever Young chorus Alphaville
I V vi IV Happy Ending chorus Mika
I V vi IV I'm Yours all Jason Mraz
I V vi IV Land Down Under chorus Men at Work
I V vi IV Let it Be verse The Beatles
I V vi IV Life by the Drop verse Stevie Ray Vaughan
I V vi IV No Woman No Cry all Bob Marley
I V vi IV Poker Face chorus Lady Gaga
I V vi IV Save Tonight chorus Eagle Eye Cherry
I V vi IV Self Esteem verse The Offspring
I V vi IV Sex and Candy chorus Marcy Playground
I V vi IV She Will Be Loved chorus Maroon 5
I V vi IV Take on Me all A Ha
I V vi IV The Story all Brandi Carlile
I V vi IV Under the Bridge verse Red Hot Chili Peppers
I V vi IV Waltzing Matilda all Banjo Patterson
I V vi IV When I Come Around all Green Day
I V vi IV Wherever You Will Go chorus The Calling
I V vi IV With or Without You all U2
I V vi IV You're Beautiful verse James Blunt
I V vi IV Young and Empty verse Blue Judy
I V bVII IV Are You Gonna Go My Way bridge Lenny Kravitz
I V bVII IV Celebration Day chorus Led Zeppelin
I V bVII IV Hey Hey What Can I Do verse Led Zeppelin
I V bVII IV Middle of Nowhere chorus Hot Hot Heat
I v bVII I Times Like These (verse) Foo Fighters
I v bVII IV Middle of Nowhere verse Hot Hot Heat
I bVI bIII V Crazy (verse) Gnarls Barkley
I VI vi I Heart of Glass verse Blondie
I vi iii IV Where Is My Mind chorus Pixies
I vi iii V Amsterdam Guster
I vi IV I (If You're Wondering if I Want You to) I Want You To (verse) Weezer
I vi IV I Wake Up verse Arcade Fire
I vi IV Mayonaise verse Smashing Pumpkins
I vi IV V Crocodile Rock chorus Elton John
I vi IV V D'yer Mak'er verse Led Zeppelin
I vi IV V Earth Angel verse The Penguins
I vi IV V I Will Always Love You chorus Whitney Houston
I vi IV V Last Kiss all (Pearl Jam)
I vi IV V My Girl verse The Temptations
I vi IV V Total Eclipse of the Heart chorus Bonnie Tyler
I vi IV V Unchained Melody (verse) Al Green
I vi IV V Wonderful World Sam Cooke
I vi V IV Amsterdam postchorus Guster
I bVII bIII IV Dances with a Thunder all Blue Judy
I bVII IV I Born This Way chorus Lady Gaga
I bVII IV I Fortunate Son verse Creedence Clearwater Revival
I bVII IV I Hey Jude nah nah The Beatles
I bVII IV I Lit Up (verse) Buckcherry
I bVII IV I Sweet Child O Mine verse Guns N Roses
I bVII IV I Thank You verse Led Zeppelin
I bVII IV bIII Lit Up bridge Buckcherry
I bVII IV Sweet Home Alabama all Lynyrd Skynyrd
I bVII IV Times Like These (intro) Foo Fighters
I bVII IV V Champagne Supernova chorus Oasis
I bVII IV bVI For What it's Worth chorus Buffalo Springfield
I bVII IV bVI Mulholland bridge Blue Judy
i bVII Sultans of Swing intro Dire Straits
i bIII I Turn My Camera On verse Spoon
i bIII Little Lion Man verse Mumford and Sons
i bIII Soul Meets Body verse Death Cab for Cutie
i bIII iv Hurt verse Nine Inch Nails
i bIII bVII Crazy Train intro Ozzy Osbourne
i bIII bVII Honest Mistake prechorus Bravery
i IV Reptilia verse The Strokes
i v Grenade verse Bruno Mars
i bVI IV The Other Side chorus Aerosmith
i bVI iv Satellite intro Guster
i bVI Drive My Car chorus The Beatles
i bVI bVII Hey There Delilah prechorus Plain White T’s
i bVII Come As You Are verse Nirvana
i bVII Total Eclipse of the Heart verse1 Bonnie Tyler
i bIII IV bVI Babe I'm Gonna Leave You all Led Zeppelin
i bIII iv i Keep It Together verse2 Guster
i bIII iv V Deadwood verse Dirty Pretty Things
i bIII v bVII Silent Charades chorus Blue Judy
i bIII bVI iv Keep It Together verse Guster
i bIII bVI iv Satellite chorus2 Guster
i bIII bVI V Crazy chorus Gnarls Barkley
i bIII bVI V Dance Dance chorus Fall Out Boy
i bIII bVI V Seven Nation Army verse The White Stripes
i bIII bVI Satellite chorus1 Guster
i bIII bVI Sunday Bloody Sunday verse U2
i bIII bVII i I Bet That You Look Good on the Dance Floor chorus Arctic Monkeys
i bIII bVII iv Breathe In chorus Blue Judy
i bIII bVII iv Honest Mistake verse Bravery
i bIII bVII Soul Meets Body chorus1 Death Cab for Cutie
i iv bVI V Back to Black verse Amy Winehouse
i V bVI bVII Go On chorus2 Blue Judy
i V bVII IV Steady As She Goes verse The Raconteurs
i V bVII V Crooked Teeth verse Death Cab for Cutie
i v bVI bIII And I'm Here chorus Blue Judy
i v bVI bIII Seventeen Years chorus Ratatat
i bVI bIII bVI Blankest Year verse Nada Surf
i bVI bIII bVII Building a Mystery chorus Sarah McLachlan
i bVI bIII bVII Bullet with Butterfly Wings chorus Smashing Pumpkins
i bVI bIII bVII Grenade chorus Bruno Mars
i bVI bIII bVII Honest Mistake chorus Bravery
i bVI bIII bVII Rebellion (Lies) chorus2 Arcade Fire
i bVI iv V Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt verse We Are Scientists
i bVI V Sultans of Swing (verse) Dire Straits
i bVI bVII i Eye of the Tiger verse Survivor
i bVI bVII Soul Meets Body chorus2 Death Cab for Cutie
i bVI bVII Sultans of Swing Dire Straits
i bVII bIII bVI Dance Dance bridge Fall Out Boy
i bVII iv Ice Cream chorus Sarah McLachlan
i bVII iv Satellite verse1 Guster
i bVII bVI V Hit the Road Jack all Ray Charles
i bVII bVI Jenny Was a Friend of Mine verse The Killers
i bVII bVI Mulholland solo Blue Judy
i bVII bVI Satellite verse2 Guster
i bVII bVI Stairway to Heaven solo Led Zeppelin
i bVII bVI bVII All Along The Watchtower Jimi Hendrix
i bVII bVI bVII Dance Dance verse Fall Out Boy
i bVII bVI bVII Don't Fear the Reaper Blue Oyster Cult
ii V I vi If I Could Fly chorus Joe Satriani
bIII IV I Can't Find My Way Home postchorus Blind Faith
bIII bVI i Stairway to Heaven verse Led Zeppelin
bIII bVII I Sunday Bloody Sunday postchorus U2
bIII bVII i Another Brick in the Wall chorus Pink Floyd
bIII bVII i Simple Man all Lynyrd Skynyrd
IV I ii III Hotel California chorus The Eagles
IV iii ii I Like a Rolling Stone prechorus Bob Dylan
IV I Baby I Love You (bridge) Aretha Franklin
IV I Earth Angel bridge The Penguins
IV I Heart Of Glass chorus Blondie
IV V I Cheeseburger in Paradise chorus Jimmy Buffett
IV V I Margaritaville chorus Jimmy Buffett
IV V I II The Wanton Song solo Led Zeppelin
IV V I III Imagine chorus John Lennon
IV V I vi Brown Eyed Girl chorus Van Morrison
IV V I vi Hey There Delilah bridge Plain White T’s
IV V I vi Viva La Vida all Coldplay
IV V I vi Wonderful Tonight chorus Eric Clapton
IV vi I Exploding Boy verse The Cure
iv bIII bVII Blankest Year chorus Nada Surf
V I ii V Yellow Submarine verse The Beatles
V IV I Voodoo Chile chorus Jimi Hendrix
v iv bIII i I Bet That You Look Good on the Dance Floor verse Arctic Monkeys
bVI i bVI bIII Seventeen Years verse Ratatat
bVI bIII bVII IV Lit Up chorus Buckcherry
bVI IV I The Hand That Feeds (chorus) Nine Inch Nails
bVI bVII I Crazy Little Thing Called Love outro Queen
bVI bVII I Steady As She Goes postchorus The Raconteurs
bVI bVII i V Jenny Was a Friend of Mine verse The Killers
vi I V IV Keep It Together (bridge) Guster
vi II V I Crooked Teeth verse Death Cab for Cutie
vi II V I Rocky Racoon all The Beatles
vi ii IV I Fa Fa verse Guster
vi ii V I Island in the Sun chorus Weezer
vi III IV I Say it Ain't So verse Weezer
vi IV I All the Things You Know verse Blue Judy
vi IV I Balk chorus Speechwriters LLC
vi IV I Disarm verse Smashing Pumpkins
vi IV I Little Lion Man chorus Mumford and Sons
bVII ii I Times Like These (chorus) Foo Fighters
bVII IV I After All prechorus Blue Judy
bVII IV I It's a Long Way to the Top solo AC/DC


Check the live spreadsheet, and you'll see I have hundreds more songs ready for my prying ears. Some will have progressions that fit the mold, some won't. What are some of your favorites that you don't see here? Leave a comment below, and thanks for checking it out!