How To Play The 1-4-5 Chord Progression In All Twelve Major Keys

In today’s lesson, we’ll be focusing on the 1-4-5 chord progression in all twelve major keys on the keyboard.

The 1-4-5 chord progression is one of the most important chord progressions that every beginner must be properly acquainted with, before delving into sophisticated chord progressions.

If you’re a beginner and are interested in learning how to play a variety of gospel songs but you’re overwhelmed with lots of options; search no further.

This lesson will get you started with the basic chord progression every gospel keyboardist must be acquainted with in all twelve keys.

A Review On The 1-4-5 Chord Progression

There are eight degrees in any major or minor key. In the key of C major:

C is the tonic

D is the supertonic

E is the mediant

F is the subdominant

G is the dominant

A is the submediant

B is the subtonic

C is the octave

Every key (be it a major or minor key), has three main components – the tonic, the dominant and the subdominant. In the key of C major:

C:

…is the tonic, G:

…is the dominant, and F:

…is the subdominant.

Here are the three main components in the key of C major (which are F, C, and G):

C:

…is at the center, F:

…is a fifth below, and G:

…is a fifth above.

These three main components are important because the concept of key revolves around them.

Consequently, any musical idea (be it a scale, chord, progression, etc.) that is related to any of the three components:

The tonic

The dominant

The subdominant

…should be considered important.

A Short Note On The Primary Chords In The Key

The chord of any scale degree derives its name from the technical name of that scale-degree. For example, the C major triad:

…established on C (which is the tonic):

…is known as the tonic triad.

The A minor triad:

…established on A (which is the submediant):

…is known as the submediant triad.

Although all scale degree chords are important, the chord of the first degree (aka – “the tonic triad”), chord of the first degree (aka – “the tonic triad”), and chord of the first degree (aka – “the tonic triad”) are classified as primary chords.

Primary chords are the chords of the first, fourth and fifth degrees in a key. For example, the primary chords in the key of C major are the C major triad:

…the F major triad:

…and the G major triad:

Primary chords can be used to accompany any melody/song. For example, the melody of the song twinkle, twinkle little star can be accompanied in the key of C major:

…using the primary chords in the key.

“Check It Out…”

Twin-kle, twin-kle:

…little:

…star:

How I:

…won-der:

…what you:

…are:

The 1-4-5 Chord Progression – Explained

The 1-4-5 chord progression consists of the movement of chords from the first degree, to the fourth degree, then to the first degree.

The numbers 1, 4, and 5 are basically there to give an outline of the movement of the root note of the chords.

In the key of C major:

…the 1-4-5 progression consists of a movement from C:

…which is the first tone of the scale, to F:

…which is the fourth tone of the scale, the to G:

…which is the fifth tone of the scale.

“So, What’s The Goal Of Learning The 1-4-5 Chord Progression…”

The primary chords in the key can be used for harmonization and accompaniment purposes.

The goal of learning the 1-4-5 chord progression is to get you acquainted with primary chords in all twelve major keys.

How To Play The 1-4-5 Chord Progression

In the key of C major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

C:

…is the first tone.

F:

…is the fourth tone.

G:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The C sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (C):

…fourth (F):

…and fifth (G):

…tones of the C major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (C, F, and G). We have the C major triad:

…F major triad:

…and the G major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the C major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the C major triad:

…F major triad:

…and the G major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the C major triad:

…the F major triad:

…and the G major triad:

The 1-4-5 Chord Progression In All Twelve Keys

In this segment, we’ll be learning how to play the 1-4-5 chord progression in all keys. We’ll be using the music clock:

…as a reference, and we’ll be going counterclockwise to F, Bb, Eb, etc.

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of F Major

In the key of F major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

F:

…is the first tone.

Bb:

…is the fourth tone.

C:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The F sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (F):

…fourth (Bb):

…and fifth (C):

…tones of the F major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (F, Bb, and C). We have the F major triad:

…Bb major triad:

…and the C major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the F major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the F major triad:

…Bb major triad:

…and the C major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the F major triad:

…the Bb major triad:

…and the C major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of Bb Major

In the key of Bb major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

Bb:

…is the first tone.

Eb:

…is the fourth tone.

F:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The Bb sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (Bb):

…fourth (Eb):

…and fifth (F):

…tones of the Bb major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (Bb, Eb, and F). We have the Bb major triad:

…Eb major triad:

…and the F major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the Bb major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the Bb major triad:

…Eb major triad:

…and the F major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the Bb major triad:

…the Eb major triad:

…and the F major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of Eb Major

In the key of Eb major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

Eb:

…is the first tone.

Ab:

…is the fourth tone.

Bb:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The Eb sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (Eb):

…fourth (Ab):

…and fifth (Bb):

…tones of the Eb major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (Eb, Ab, and Bb). We have the Eb major triad:

…Ab major triad:

…and the Bb major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the Eb major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the Eb major triad:

…Ab major triad:

…and the Bb major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the Eb major triad:

…the Ab major triad:

…and the Bb major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of Ab Major

In the key of Ab major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

Ab:

…is the first tone.

Db:

…is the fourth tone.

Eb:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The Ab sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (Ab):

…fourth (Db):

…and fifth (Eb):

…tones of the Ab major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (Ab, Db, and Eb). We have the Ab major triad:

…Db major triad:

…and the Eb major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the Ab major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the Ab major triad:

…Db major triad:

…and the Eb major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the Ab major triad:

…the Db major triad:

…and the Eb major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of Db Major

In the key of Db major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

Db:

…is the first tone.

Gb:

…is the fourth tone.

Ab:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The Db sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (Db):

…fourth (Gb):

…and fifth (Ab):

…tones of the Db major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (Db, Gb, and Ab). We have the Db major triad:

…Gb major triad:

…and the Ab major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the Db major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the Db major triad:

…Gb major triad:

…and the Ab major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the Db major triad:

…the Gb major triad:

…and the Ab major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of F# Major

In the key of F# major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

F#:

…is the first tone.

B:

…is the fourth tone.

C#:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The F# sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (F#):

…fourth (B):

…and fifth (Cs):

…tones of the F major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (F#, B, and C#). We have the F# major triad:

…B major triad:

…and the C# major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the F# major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the F# major triad:

…B major triad:

…and the C# major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the F# major triad:

…the B major triad:

…and the C# major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of B Major

In the key of B major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

B:

…is the first tone.

E:

…is the fourth tone.

F#:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The B sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (B):

…fourth (E):

…and fifth (F#):

…tones of the B major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (B, E, and F#). We have the B major triad:

…E major triad:

…and the F# major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the B major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the B major triad:

…E major triad:

…and the F# major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the B major triad:

…the E major triad:

…and the F# major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of E Major

In the key of E major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

E:

…is the first tone.

A:

…is the fourth tone.

B:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The E sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (E):

…fourth (A):

…and fifth (B):

…tones of the E major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (E, A, and B). We have the E major triad:

…A major triad:

…and the B major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the E major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the E major triad:

…A major triad:

…and the B major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the E major triad:

…the A major triad:

…and the B major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of A Major

In the key of Ab major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

A:

…is the first tone.

D:

…is the fourth tone.

E:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The A sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (A):

…fourth (D):

…and fifth (E):

…tones of the A major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (Ab, Db, and Eb). We have the A major triad:

…D major triad:

…and the E major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the A major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the A major triad:

…D major triad:

…and the E major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the A major triad:

…the D major triad:

…and the E major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of D Major

In the key of D major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

D:

…is the first tone.

G:

…is the fourth tone.

A:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The D sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (D):

…fourth (G):

…and fifth (A):

…tones of the D major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (D, G, and A). We have the D major triad:

…G major triad:

…and the A major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the D major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the D major triad:

…G major triad:

…and the A major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the D major triad:

…the G major triad:

…and the A major triad:

1-4-5 Chord Progression In The Key Of G Major

In the key of G major:

…the 1-4-5 chord progression can be played by using the the first, fourth, and fifth tones as a reference.

G:

…is the first tone.

C:

…is the fourth tone.

D:

…is the fifth tone.

“On The Left Hand…”

The G sus4 chord:

…which consist of the first (G):

…fourth (C):

…and fifth (D):

…tones of the G major scale:

…serves as a guide that should help you remember the root progression.

“On The Right Hand…”

On the right hand, we’re playing three major chords that take their roots from the left hand notes (G, C, and D). We have the G major triad:

…C major triad:

…and the D major triad:

To make it smoother, we’ll replace the G major triad (played in root position):

…with its second inversion:

So, we’ll have the G major triad:

…C major triad:

…and the D major triad:

“Both Hands…”

Putting both hands together, we have the G major triad:

…the C major triad:

…and the D major triad:

The Application Of Primary Chords In The Accompaniment Of Hymn Songs

Like I said earlier, the goal of learning the 1-4-5 chord progression is to master primary chords in all twelve keys.

Primary chords can be used to accompany a variety of songs and we’ll be ending this lesson with the application of primary chords.

Attention: All examples are given in the key of C major.

Here are two hymn examples:

Oh! how I love Jesus

Jesus loves me

Hymn #1 “Oh! How I Love Jesus”

Oh:

…how I love Je-sus:

Oh:

…how I love Je:

…sus:

Oh:

…how I love:

…Je-sus, be-:

…cau-ause he:

…first:

…loved:

…me:

Hymn #2 “Jesus Loves Me”

Yes, Jesus:

…loves me:

Yes, Jesus:

…loves me:

Yes, Jesus:

…loves me, the:

…bi-ble:

…tells me:

…so:

Final Words

The knowledge of primary chords in all twelve keys is priceless.

As little as it may seem, it’s just enough to get you started with playing in all twelve keys and a vast majority of musicians who are still struggling with electronic transposition will find this lesson helpful.

See you in the next lesson!

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Chuku Onyemachi

Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. I started teaching musicians in my neighbourhood in April 2005. Today, I'm humbled to work as a music consultant with HearandPlay Music Group for musicians in Africa and beyond.