10 April 2013


When you are about to play a traditional jazz tune, it helps (especially for improvising) if you know the chord sequence with which the tune starts. If you begin well, the rest of the tune seems to look after itself. Not only that, if you know the chord progression of the first few bars, the chances are you will be able to use it again later in the tune - espcially in tunes with an a - a - b - a structure. Each one of the 'a' sections is likely to begin with the same chord progression.

Just as chess players have certain well-known ways of making their opening moves ('opening gambits'), so traditional jazz musicians come to recognise that there are groups of tunes that all begin with the same chord progression.

And just as a chess player may surprise everybody by making unusual opening moves so (just as rarely) a tune will begin with a chord progression that seems hardly to appear anywhere else.

I have written on this subject before - but the topic became so complicated and unwieldy that I decided to try again - this time with some simplification. So here goes. These are the most useful seventeen patterns.

PATTERN 1: The Four-Leaf Progression
 I  |   II7  |  V7  |   1    - usually two bars of each  ]

Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll 
Ain't We Got Fun
All By Myself in the Moonlight
Big Butter and Egg Man
Big Chief Battleaxe (Main Theme)
Button Up Your Overcoat 
By the Light of the Silvery Moon
Darktown Strutters Ball 
Destination Moon
Dodo Blues (Nothing can be right...)
Don’t Sweetheart Me 
Down In Honky Tonk Town [with four bars on each of the chords] 
Down In Jungle Town 
Eccentric [first theme]
Exactly Like You 
Four or Five Times [chorus]
Grandpa's Spells [main theme]
I Can't Escape 
I Double Dare You
If You Were The Only Girl In The World 
I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones 
I Love You So Much It Hurts Me
I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy
I’m Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover 
I'm Nobody's Baby
Jersey Bounce
Kiss Me Sweet
Lulu's Back in Town [follows the pattern in half-bars] 
Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me 
My Cutie's Due at Two to Two
Oh, You Beautiful Doll 
On Treasure Island 
Ory's Creole Trombone [main theme]
Peg o' My Heart 
Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet [the verse, not the refrain]
Red Hot Mamma
Somebody Else Is Taking My Place 
Toot Toot Tootsie
Ugly Child
Underneath the Arches
Walking y Baby Back Home
You Made Me Love You

PATTERN 2 : The Sweet Sue Progression

[   V7  -  1  - often repeated    ]


April Showers 
Auf Wiedersehen 
Black Bottom Stomp [final strain] 
Dallas Rag
Do What Ory Say 
For Me and My Gal (The Bells are Ringing)
Heebie Jeebies
His Eye Is On The Sparrow 
I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate 
Maple Leaf Rag (2nd, 3rd & 4th themes)
Memphis Blues (Verse)
Miss Annabelle Lee 
My Life Will Be Sweeter Some Day
Papa De-Da-Da (chorus)
Pretty Baby 
Sailing Down the Chesapeake Bay
Say Si Si 
Says My Heart
Smokey Mokes (main improvising theme)
So Do I 
South [second strain] 
Sweet Sue 
Tom Cat Blues
Up Jumped the Devil
Wabash Blues
Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye
Willy The Weeper [second strain] 
Winin’ Boy Blues
You Were Meant For Me

PATTERN 3 : The JaDa Progression

[   I  -  VI7  -  and then usually  II7  -  V7  ]


It Had To Be You
Barefoot Days
Ja Da
Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid
Japanese Sandman
Coney Island Washboard
Deep Purple
Give It Up
The Gypsy
Don't Get Around Much Any More
Don't Go Away Nobody
Goodbye, Don't Cry
Honeysuckle and the Bee,
I'm Alone Because I Love You
I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
I'm So Blue [The Erika Lewis composition]
I'm Sorry I Made You Cry
If I Had My Way Dear
I Never Knew What a Good Girl Could Do
That's a Plenty [main theme]
If You Don't, I Know Who Will
My Very Good Friend the Milkman
Nobody's Sweetheart Now
Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland
Paper Doll
Somebody Else is Taking My Place
When You Wish Upon a Star

PATTERN 4 : The Apple Tree Progression

[  I   -   IV   -  I   ]


After the Ball is Over 
Amazing Grace 
Blame It On The Blues [main theme] 
Bugle Boy March [main theme] 
Delia's Gone 
Easter Parade
Gettysburg March 
Higher Ground
Hush! Hush! Somebody's Calling My Name
I Love You Because
I'm Sitting On Top Of The World 
In The Sweet By and By 
In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
I Want a Girl Just Like The Girl
I Wish'T I Was in Peoria
Lady Be Good 
Marching Through Georgia 
My Gal Sal 
My Old Kentucky Home 
Poor Old Joe
Precious Lord, Lead Me On
Red Sails In The Sunset 
Salutation March [main theme] 
Sometimes My Burden Is Too Hard To Bear 
The Rose Room 
Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie 
Walking With the King
Way Down Upon The Swanee River (aka The Old Folks At Home)
Walking the Dog
The Waltz You Saved for Me
What A Friend We Have In Jesus 
When You And I Were Young, Maggie

PATTERN 5 : The Salty Dog Progression

[  VI7  -  II7   -   V7   -  1   ]


A Good Man Is Hard To Find 
Alabamy Bound
All I Want is a Spoonful
Any Time 
At The Jazz Band Ball [main strain] 
Balling The Jack 
Friends and Neighbours
Good Time Flat Blues (also known as Farewell to Storyville) [chorus]
Jazz Me Blues [main strain] 
Lonesome Drag
Rose of the Rio Grande
Salty Dog
Seems Like Old Times
Shine On Harvest Moon
Since My Best Girl Turned Me Down
Sweet Georgia Brown
Tailgate Ramble
Take a Ferryboat Down to New Orleans
There’ll Be Some Changes Made
Up A Lazy River
You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby
You've Got The Right Key But The Wrong Keyhole

PATTERN 6 : The Magnolia Progression

  I   |  I7  |  IV  |   IVm   


After My Laughter Came Tears 
Mississippi River Blues
Brown Skin Mamma 
Carolina Moon
Cherry Red 
'Deed I Do 
Does Jesus Care?
Girl of My Dreams 
If I Had You 
I'll See You in the Spring
I May Be Wrong But I Think You're Wonderful
I'm Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now
I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket 
In the Upper Garden
I Want a Little Girl to Call My Own
I Would Do Most Anything for You
Lonesome Road 
Louisiana Fairytale
Magnolia's Wedding Day 
My Mother's Eyes 
Old Rocking Chair 
Red Sails in the Sunset
Rock Me
Rolling Round the World
Show Me The Way To Go Home
Stevedore Stomp [final strain]
When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano
You Were Only Passing Time With Me

PATTERN 7 : The Georgia Progression

   I   |  III7  |  VI7  |  II7   


All of Me 
Barefoot Boy 
Basin Street Blues[main theme] 
Black Bottom Stomp [introduction]
Clarinet Marmalade [main theme] 
Daddy's Little Girl
Darkness On The Delta 
Do Your Duty
Give It Up 
Has Anybody Seen My Girl? 
Hey Look Me Over
If You Were The Only Girl In The World 
I'm Alone Because I Love You 
It’s Only A Shanty 
I've Heard That Song Before 
Lover Come Back To Me 
Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone 
Taint Nobody's Business If I Do
That Da-Da Strain [second theme]
Whenever You're Lonesome 
We’ll Meet Again 
Who’s Sorry Now
You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

PATTERN 8 : The Dragon Progression

 I   |     IIIm  |


Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Home in Pasadena [chorus] 
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter 
In Apple Blossom Time 
Puff, the Magic Dragon 
Happy Days and Lonely Nights
The White Cliffs of Dover 
When You’re Smiling 
You Always Hurt The One You Love
You Belong To Me

PATTERN 9 : The Red Roses Progression

[   I   -  VII   -  ]


Blue Turning Grey Over You
The Curse of an Aching Heart

Home (When Shadows Fall)

Mister Sandman
Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl [in half-bars]
Red Roses For A Blue Lady
Is It True What They Say About Dixie?
Some Day You’ll Be Sorry
Sweet Emmalina
'Taint No Sin to Take Off Your Skin
When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful
Sweet Substitute

You Do Something to Me
You Won't Find Another Fool Like Me

PATTERN 10 : The Saints 16-bar Progression

 I   |  I   |   I   |   I

 I   |   I   |   V7  |  V7

  I  |  I7  |  IV  |   IVm

 I   |  V7  |  I  |  I


Livin' High (Chorus)
When then Saints Go Marching In 
I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You
Red River Valley
Reefer Man
Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms
The Sloop John B
Will You Sleep in My Arms Tonight, Lady?
We Shall Walk Through The Gates Of The City
Who Threw the Whisky in the Well? (Chorus)

PATTERN 11 : The Hot Nuts 16-bar Progression

   I   |    VI7   |   II7/V7  |   I

   I   |   VI7    |   II7        |   V7

   I...|   I7...    |  IV...      |  IVm...

   I   |   VI7    |  II7/V7   |  I  
(sometimes a 2-bar tag is added)


If It Don't Fit, Don't Force It
Droppin' Shucks
Everybody's Talking About Sammy
Forget Me Not Blues
Hot Nuts, Get 'Em from the Peanut Man
How Come You Do Me Like You Do Do Do?
Maybe Not At All
Meat on the Table (one theme)
My Sweet Lovin' Man
Must Get Mine in Front
Prove It On Me Blues
Walk Right In
Watchin' The Clock
Don't Go Away, Nobody

PATTERN 12 : The Bill Bailey 32-bar Progression

 I  |  I  |  I  |  I  |  I  |  I  |  V7 |  V7

V7 |   V7 |  V7 |  V7  |  V7 |  V7 |  1 |   I

 I  |  I |  I  |  I  |  I  |  I  |  I7  |  IV

 IV |  IVm |   I  |  VI  |  II7  |  V7  |   I  |   I 

                       (slight variations possible)


Amapola (for the first 24 bars) 

At The Mardi Gras
Baby Face 
Beer Barrel Polka[main theme] 
Bourbon Street Parade
Don't Give Up the Ship
Ciri Ciri Bin 
Golden Leaf Strut 
Hiawatha Rag (final strain) 
Hotter Than That
Knee Drops 
Merci Beaucoup
Milenburg Joys (main theme)
My Little Girl
Over The Waves 
Pretty Audrey
Saint Bernard Waltz
Salute To Ohio State
Second Line
Spanish Eyes (almost all)
Swinging the Swing
Tiger Rag (final strain)
Tulane Swing
Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?

PATTERN 13 : The 12-Bar Blues Progression

  I  |  I  |  I  |  I7 |   IV |  IV |  I |  I  | V7 |  V7 |   I  |  I 

     (variations encouraged: there are very few 12-bar blues that do not add some subtlety or sophistication to this basic pattern; and note that many tunes with the word 'blues' in their title are not in fact 12-bar structures)


Dozens of 12-bar blues

..........and note (interesting) that
The Girls Go Crazy
The Bucket's Got a Hole in It
use just the final eight bars of the 12-bar Blues Pattern.

PATTERN 14 : The Sunshine Progression

 IV  |  IVm   |   I    |  VI7

 II7  |   V7    |   I    |  I  

(You need to know this progression for the ENDS of many tunes)

Examples of tunes ending with the Sunshine Progression

All of Me
April Showers
At the Jazzband Ball (second theme)
Baby Face
Beer Barrel Polka [main theme]
Beneath Hawaiian Skies
Bill Bailey
Blame it on the Blues [final theme]
Bourbon Street Parade
Bugle Boy March [main strain]
Call Out March
China Town
Ciri Ciri Bin
Frogimore Rag [main strain]
From Monday On
Golden Leaf Strut
Hiawatha Rag [main theme]
I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover
If I Had a Talking Picture
If Someone Would Only Love Me
It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie
It’s Only a Shanty
June Night
Knee Drops
Merci Beaucoup
Milenberg Joys
Mobile Stomp
My Little Girl
Over the Waves
Riverboat Shuffle
Running Wild
Salutation March
Second Line
Slow Boat to China
Somebody Else is taking My Place
Spanish Eyes
Struttin' With Some Barbeque
Tell me Your Dreams
Tiger Rag
Tulane Swing

Examples of tunes that BEGIN with the opening bars of the Sunshine Progression

After You’ve Gone
Glad Rag Doll
I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me
Strut Miss Lizzie
That’s My Home

PATTERN 15 : The Blueberry Hill Progression

  IV   |    IV   |   I   |    I   |   V7   |   V7  |  I   |  I

(you can think of it as the final eight bars taken from the 12-bar blues pattern)


Blueberry Hill (1st, 2nd and final 8s)
Down By The Riverside (chorus)
Ice Cream (middle eight)
It is No Secret (the chorus)
Make Me a Pallet on the Floor
Marie (I. Berlin 1928)
New Orleans Hula
Redwing (the chorus)
The Girls Go Crazy
Uptown Bumps (chorus).
When It's Sleepy Time Down South

PATTERN 16 : The Rum'n'Coke Progression
  I (sometimes for two or more bars)  | V7  |   I
Algiers Strut
All Alone by the Telephone
All I Do is Dream of You
Am I Blue?
Among My Souvenirs
At the Codfish Ball
Beer Barrel Polka (main theme)
Beneath Hawaiian Skies
Black Bottom
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
Blue Room
Call Out March
Careless Love
Ce Mossieu Qui Parle
Cradle Song
Creole Jazz
Creole Song
Dill Pickles (final theme)
Doctor Jazz
Don't Bring Lulu
Don't Give Up the Ship
Down By The Riverside
Eh La Bas
Everywhere You Go
Faraway Blues
Give Me Your Telephone Number
Goodnight Irene
Have You Ever Been Lonely?
Heart of My Heart
How Do They Do It That Way?
Ice Cream
Ice Man
I Don't See Me in Your Eyes Any More
If I Had a Talking Picture of You
If You can't Be Good, Be Careful
I'll Be Your Sweetheart
I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles
In the Sweet By and By
Isle of Capri
I Want to Be Happy
I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now
Jamaica March
Just a Closer Walk With Thee
Lady of Spain
Last Night on the Back Porch
Let the Rest of the World Go By
Lili Marlene
Lily of the Valley
Linger Awhile
Livin' High
Love Songs of the Nile
Magic is the Moonlight
Mama Inez
Marchand de Poissons
Me and Jane in a Plane
Miner's Dream of Home
Move the Body Over
Muskrat Ramble (first theme)
My Darling
My Little Girl
The Old Spinning Wheel
On a  Coconut Island
Oriental Man
Over the Waves
Red River Valley
Rum and Coca Cola
Sallee Dame
The Sheik of Araby
She's Crying for Me
Should I Reveal
Sing On
Sleepy Time Girl
Spanish Eyes
Sweet Fields
Sweethearts on Parade
Take These Chains from My Heart
That Certain Party
Then I'll Be Happy
There'll Be a Hot Time in Old Town Tonight
There's Yes Yes in Your Eyes
Till We Meet Again
Too Busy
Treasures Untold
We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City
We Sure Do Need Him Now
When It's Springtime in the Rockies
When the Red Red Robin
When the Saints
Why Don't You Go Down to New Orleans?
You Rascal You

PATTERN 17 : The Picardy Progression
  IIm   |   V   |    I

It is useful for musicians to become familiar with The Picardy Chord Progression because it occurs frequently in our music.

However, it is rarely used at the beginning of tunes. Example of songs that begin with this progression are:

Forty and Tight
I Get a Kick Out of You
Prisoner of Love
Roses of Picardy
You Brought a New Kind of Love