Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

The 1, 4 and 5 chord progression

Hi Folks,

I have some questions for some Theorists out there. I never went to music school only science school.

  1. is it a good idea to memorize the 1, 4, 5 pattern of chords?

EX: G , C. D,
A, D , E then B, E, F
to help me figure out songs and to help in playing with others?

  1. IS there a 1, 3, 5 pattern of Chord progressions and when is that used?

  2. Will that help with finding chords in any key?

Thanks Much

1 Like
  1. yes. I suggest memorizing the relationship between the positions of the chords and where the root notes are. For example, the 4 on mandolin (I think that is what you play?) can be same fret and down one string or up one string and two frets lower. The 5 can be two frets higher than the 4, or one string higher than the 1 etc.

  2. there are 1, 3 (seventh)_ patterns, but they don’t usually jump right to the 5 from the 3. examples: the old Home place, Feeling Blue Tonight Little Darling (Boys from Indiana), etc.

  3. yes Getting used to the relationships of the sound and position of chords helps playing in unfamiliar keys.
    I don’t normally think much about note names except for what the key is.

The 3 is many times played as a minor also, or if a seventh chord as a lead in to the 6.
Example: E, A, D, G in the key of C would be a typical 3625. All the chords could be played as sevenths if going back to C ( 1 ).
Extra credit Note…you may notice this progression is a “cycle of fifths”, If the same chords ( E,A,D,G) are done in the key of G it ends up as the progression to Don’t Let Your Deal go Down, etc,


Thank you for the info!!


You’re welcome!

I’ll second Fiddle’s (second fiddle… LOL!) post. Get familiar with the 1, 4, 5 in as many keys as possible. Also learn the 6, which is most often the minor, and the major 2.

Theory time. I say MAJOR 2 because if you look at the scale of the given key, the 2 is technically a minor. Take G, for example. Your scale is G A B C D E F#. The 1 (G) is G B D. The 2 (A) is A C E. The C in that chord makes it a minor, since the chord of A is A C# E.

I hear you asking “So why do we play a MAJOR 2 so often in songs?” This blew my mind the first time it was explained to me. A major 2 is the 5th of the 5th. So A is the 5th of D, and D is the 5th of G. When the ear hears that A, it begs for resolution to the D and then begs again for the G.

Ray Stevens used this like crazy. Several of his songs were played as 1 - 6 - 2 - 5, or 1 - 5th of the 5th of the 5th - 5th of the 5th - 5th.

It’s not very often you hear a 3rd thrown in, but if you want to hear what it sounds like, check out Battle Hymn of the Republic right at the 16 second mark.

As Fiddle said above, in this song, it’s being used to lead your ear into the 6 (minor.)


Third fiddle! Dave talked about the relative position of chord roots. I think that is where some excellent breakthrough happens. This approach makes you not NEED to memorize what chords go with what key. What is kind of interesting is that as you develop the ability to absorb those relationships and intervals, you will sometimes find yourself (successfully) following someone else in an unfamiliar tune without even knowing at the front of your brain what key you are playing in (or what chords).


Okay, My mind just went cloudy and blank, like I was watching Chris Thile play his mandolin. BTW that happens a lot when I watch that guy play.
I will have to sit down and walk through what you are saying

thanks for the mind stretching!!!


Yes learn the 1, 4, and 5. They show up in different order in different songs so learning a single progression is great, but being able to play them in any order is better! Get this down and you can sit in any jam circle!

The other thing I work on is how they sound. When jamming and I don’t know the song, familiarity with what a 1 to 4 or 1 to 5 change sounds like helps. It also helps to hear the melody lead to changes. That sounds like a lot but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly with some focused practice. I play melodies against a backing track and play with other folks as much as I can




1, 4, 5 is indispensable.

I would say find a circle of fifths diagram on the net, (there’s thousands), and study it endlessly. Also, I would suggest watching as many You Tube videos as necessary. There’s tons of them too.

Eventually, you will have an epiphany, and this will all fall into place.

By the way, barbershop quartets use 1, 3, 5 harmonies a lot with a 6 on top.