Watch the The I iii IV V Progression online guitar lesson by Vicki Genfan from Rhythm Makeover: Vicki Genfan
This is a I-iii-IV-V progression in the key of G. Our chords are G-Bm-C-D.
The root notes of the last three chords in the C-Em-F-G rock ballad progression form a 3-4-5 ascending diatonic bass line. The use of the iii chord became very popular in the mid 60’s as a replacement for the vi chord which was so commonly used in the doo-wop songs of that time. Songs you might know using this progression - The Beatles’, ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘Crocodile Rock’ by Elton John, or Rod Stewart’s ‘Have I Told You Lately’.
Paul McCartney commenting on the Beatles’ use of the mediant (“IIIm”) chord said, “It was a bit of a formula. We knew if you went from “E” (“I”) to “G#m” (“IIIm”) you could always make a song with those chords, that change pretty much always excited you.” Listen to the chorus of their 1964 hit ‘I Feel Fine‘. A more recent example of this type of bass line is the main verse progression to Rod Stewart’s 1989 ‘Have I Told You Lately‘ shown below.
Our first approach has a feel similar to that in the hit ballad by Extreme, ‘More Than Words’ and uses single note lines to connect each chord. In our second approach we’re using a lot of color tones, interesting jazz voicings higher up on the neck, and a technique I call pick-strumming which has us arpeggiating the chords while at the same time strumming. We’ll also use some open strings to create a fuller, drone like sound.