"Everybody should have and play a uke, it’s so simple to carry with you and it is one instrument you can’t play and not laugh" ~ George Harrison

Brady Bunch

All in the Family

Chord families, with the exception of the E Family who don't get along well with the uke but do fine with the guitar, are great to invite over for dinner or game night; they all get along and play well with other members of their family. Knowing the members of common chord families and common chord progressions makes it easier to pick up new songs you come across.

A chord family is made up of six main family members with the I Chord heading up the family. It almost always gets the first and last word in any song, setting the mood at both ends. When someone says a song is in the "key of C", what they mean is they invited the C Chord Family over to watch the Superbowl, play Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble, jam on a song and the C chord dominated the conversation.

I               ii               iii               IV               V               vi   

From the I Chord, the first two chords in any chord family are the moody minor chords ii and iii (always shown in lowercase Roman numerals). In the C Family they are Dm and Em: goth, emo, Eeyore chords. They crop up from time to time in most songs in that family, but the I, IV, and V chords are by far the ones most people invite over. If the I chord is the mother, the IV chord the dad, the V chord of any family is crazy Uncle Ivan, the 7 chord; most people say hi and then move on to the other family members. It's a jazzy, transition chord building tension in the song, asking you to move along. In the C Family, Uncle Ivan is the G7 chord, a must know chord on the uke. The vi chord is always a moody minor rounding out the chord family.

I- Major (Root chord- dominates the song)
ii- minor (in between chord / transitions)
iii- minor (gets along well with I Chord)
IV- Major (in between chord / transitions)
V-7 or Major (tense transition chord)
vi- minor (gets along well with I Chord)

The standard chords of most music from hip hop to rock, pop to the blues, country to jazz, funk to punk are the I, IV, and V chords of a chord family with the others thrown into the mix as needed to spice up the conversation.  Learn the 3 most common chord progressions below to quickly master most songs you'll come across.


I – IV – V (C – F – G7 or G) is the most common chord progression in music.

La Bamba, Twist & Shout, Wild Thing, Still Haven't Found What I was Looking For (U2), 
A Boy Named Sue, Folsom Prison Blues, I've Been Everywhere, 500 Miles (The Proclaimers), Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones), The Lumberjack Song (Monty Python)...

I – V – vi – IV (C – G7 – Am – F) "Pop-Punk" Chord Progression

Someone Like You (Adele), Let It Be, No Woman No Cry, When I Come Around (Green Day), You're Beautiful (Blunt), Don't Stop Believin', Paparazzi (Lady Gaga), She Will Be Loved (Maroon 5)...

IviIVV (C – Am – F – G or G – Em – C – D) "Doo Wop" Chord Progression

Stand By Me, You Really Got a Hold on Me, What a Wonderful World, Heard it Through the Grapevine, Bye Bye Love, Runaround Sue, Stacy's Mom, Under the Boardwalk, Baby (Bieber), Can You Feel the Love Tonight?, Crocodile Rock,  (Elton John), Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun, YMCA, Pretty Woman, Octopus's Garden...

Extra Credit: Check out a song on chord families set to the Brady Bunch on Heartwood Guitar

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