1-6-4-5 Chord progression

I was in high school, it was huge. The 1-6-4-5 progression was endemic at the time, but this fusion of doo-wop, a shit ton of backup singers, and R&R bakkadry was almost like a preview of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound which would come a bit later.

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Yay, just barely getting far enough along where I know what you music peeps are talking about, but this progression, I am not sure if I have run across yet, in any of the beginner tech, vids I’ve watched (when I should be focusing more on like how to make A note and move that up and down the neck and know instinctively that shape it is X, and one or two frets down it is X+Y and tbh, my Bass Guitar Career, is getting a slightly slower start than I had envisioned, I blame Hunter Biden.

I just searched the above and got a couple vids on 1-6-4-5 and then a couple on 1-5-6-4…and then plugging in for ‘bass’ a lot of 145 examples citing Gospel as a first source.

So are these all interrelated “shapes” in a standard chord progression?


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Well, I’m unclear about “shapes” but usually it’s a term for finger patterns on a fingerboard, so that’s something different to me but still valuable.

I don’t think there’s any substitute for doing some woodshedding on Basic Harmony or what some call Theory, which I can only summarize here.

Every note in the scale, whatever scale it is, is included in a chord containing or suggesting three or more notes. Most of them are contained in more than one chord. What we call the 4 chord or IV chord or Subdominant is closely related to the I chord or Tonic chord because it contains three of those notes just as the I chord does. Likewise the V chord or Dominant chord contains three of the notes of the tonic scale.

So, you can “harmonize” a song with only 3 chords because you have all the notes in the scale covered in multiple ways. But often you will need more chords just to get the harmony to “sound right.” That larger group of chords will commonly contain:

I chord using the first, third and fifth notes of the tonic scale

II chord, usually using the first, third and fifth notes of the harmonic minor scale built from the II note of that scale but sometimes might instead be the major scale adding a flat seventh

III chord, usually built on the harmonic minor scale of the third note

IV chord, major scale of fourth note

V chord, major scale of fifth note

VI chord, harmonic minor scale of sixth note

VII chord, the diminished chord built on the minor scale of the seventh note

Harmony sounds more complex than it is, because it doesn’t take that long to grasp once you dig into it.

Even so, @Wabbit will probably correct me on something I said wrong above.

So anyway, in the key of C major the full set of chords outlined just above is this:

C major
D minor
E minor
F major
G7 where it’s a flatted 7 in the G major scale
A minor
B diminished

In the stripped down way of harmonizing folk music with only 3 chords:


Sorry if that’s too “stream of consciousness” but in any case it only means to scratch the surface while providing an overview.

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No, that looks great like maybe just the “chart” i didn’t know i needed to know.

My only correction to Spoon’s tonicsplaining chart is that the minor chords are generally given lower-case romans: I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii(dim)-I. Spoon put V7 in the 5th spot which I will allow but it’s a step beyond the standard 3-note chords.

So the 6 in 1-6-4-5 is minor; I-vi-IV-V-I is the loop.

And if your song is in a standard Minor key, just start at that scale’s equivalent of the vi minor (A minor in Spoon’s C tonicsplaining), calling that starting point “one”, and there you go: i-ii(dim)-III-iv-v-VI-VIII-i.

These are the simplest rules. These chords can be adjusted in the major-minor sense to create more interesting progressions, but that rule breakage is for the next lesson.

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Ty again, over my current pay grade, but it is building my vocab. and understanding.

Often it will walk down to the minor 6th as well, such as G, D/F#, Em… this guy I played in a band with for years would always play an F#m instead of the D/F# which he didn’t understand and I would cringe every time.


I was in a bluegrass group once with that same fukin guy.

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Hey if the bass plays a note, the chord must be rooted on that note ay?