LESSON PLAN: 1, 4, 1, 5 (I IV I V) Progression with A, D, and E


Students will be able to use the A, D, and E chords to play a 1, 4, 1, 5 (I IV I V) chord progression enabling them to play and recognize this in dozens of songs.


Handouts for the A, D, and E chords,Fig A handout for chords in the key of A, song charts and lyrics for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “Free Falling” by Tom Petty, and “American Pie” by Don McLean


  1. Practice being ableFig B to play and switch between the A, D, and E chords. Students who are new to doing this may want to strum only on the first beat of each chord and spend the other counts getting the hand into the next position, while more experienced students can maintain a strum pattern while switching chords.
  2. Play the 1st A, D, and E progression to the songs “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “Brown Eyed Girl”. Since the chord progressions are the same, whatFig C makes them different is the melody and use of rhythm.
  3. Play the 2nd A, D, and E progression to the songs “Free Falling” and “American Pie”. This time the progression moves twice as fast spending only 2 counts on each chord. Here again, the chords are the same making the only difference being the melody and rhythm.


Discuss chord progressions as numbers related to the key you are in. This chord progression is typically called a “1 4 1 5” (I IV I V) progression by musicians because A is the 1st chord in the key, D is the 4th, and E is the 5th. Ask students to use the musical alphabet and name these three chords in different keys. “What chords would make a ‘1 4 1 5’ ( I IV I V) progression in the key of G? How about in the key of D?”
Fig C

National Core Arts Standards (Music)

Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.
Example: General Music MU:Pr4.2.5 a. Demonstrate understanding of the structure and the elements of music (such as rhythm, pitch, form, and harmony) in music selected for performance. (applies 1-5) Example: General Music MU:Pr4.2.2 b. When analyzing selected music, read and perform rhythmic and melodic patterns using iconic or standard notation. (applies 1-4) Anchor Standard 6: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. General Music MU:Pr6.1.2 a.Perform music for a specific purpose with expression and technical accuracy. (applies K-7) Common Core Correlation: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.2.C Link ideas within and across categories of information using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., in contrast, especially).