Songwriting Exchange: The Art of Limits

The Art of Limits: write a song based on the 4-chord progression I - V - vi - IV.

How to Respond

Write a musical phrase or song using the I-V-vi-IV chord progression, and post your work below using SoundCloud or video to receive feedback from Deidre and Mike. Don’t worry if your song is short, this is just an exercise!



You can write your song in any key, but here are a few examples of this chord progression in different keys:

  • In C: C - G - Am - F
  • In G: G - D - Em - C
  • In D: D - A - Bm - G


  • Can you arpeggiate the chords or should you play block chords?
  • What rhythmic elements can you incorporate to make this chord progression sound different?
  • How can you use a melody from this activity to create a song structure?
  • Are you new to roman numeral chord symbols? Check out this lesson for more information. Visit for more music theory lessons and activities.


  • Use a song from one of your Musical Exchange peers and make a mashup with your own song!


Click here for more Songwriting Exchange activities.

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Comment by Erica Lashley on June 4, 2014 at 8:31pm

@Christina Babcock I don't know if you saw my comment on your youtube video, but I REALLY REALLY like the way you voice the chords so that the open strings add a little flair to this classic chord progression. I wish I could hear your singing better during the verses: I would experiment with the capo and try different keys - I know it's probably hard to find one where the upper octave in the chorus isn't too high or the lower octave of the verse isn't too low. The chorus might be kind of lengthy, but I think the flow of the lyrics in the chorus is really great. Also you have a sweet guitar!

Comment by Janet Noh on June 4, 2014 at 1:56am

Main Chord progression: I v vi IV in Key of C (went off the assignment a little and made V minor, and also added minor F after IV at the end of chorus)


so she’s

made up her mind

she’s put in enough time


trying to find

the reason she’s been wandering

every day


and she’s

not looking back

there’d be no slack

won’t stop now

been there, done that

it’s time to move on

no use holding on

just wrote for the chorus. of course, would appreciate any feedback. thanks for listening! :)

Comment by Megan Doyle on June 3, 2014 at 10:07pm]

Verse 1

You, You make me feel like everything I do

You make me feel like every thing’s 

Possible for me and you 


Moving away moving someday

Moving away moving someday

Thousand miles away from this place now you see

Verse 2

You, you make me see how I made the grade

Turn the nighttime into day

See the rainbow behind the rain


Knocking, knocking, knocking on your door

Seems like nothing’s right not anymore 


Moving away moving someday

Moving away moving someday

Thousand miles away from this place now you see

Comment by Kaloni Baylor on June 3, 2014 at 7:14pm
Comment by Gabby Jackson on June 2, 2014 at 7:14am
Comment by Gabby Jackson on June 2, 2014 at 7:13am
I did my song in c. It's titled distance education. A title from what's in a title exercise!!
Comment by Megan Doyle on June 1, 2014 at 7:15pm

Kelley Ahlstrom I'm glad I heard your song "Soldier"!

I like the chorus but I think it should be a little shorter. Another idea (if you decide to continue working on the song) is to slow down the last chorus and really "milk it". It's so catchy! 

On another note, I think the strumming on the guitar suits the song and really brings out your voice. 

One thing to keep in mind is the chorus. The main idea you are try to advocate is "(whatever you want to advocate goes in here)", so you need to make sure the chorus advocates this. The chorus is suppose to be something broad (which I think yours is), but just make sure that the listener gets the idea you want them to get. 

All the best! 

Comment by Kelley Ahlstrom on June 1, 2014 at 1:33am

@Sarah Boulton 

Thanks! and good advice, I'll consider that!

@Justina Shandler

I love it! So catchy. You could probably add a bridge to this.  I'd love to hear more of this song!

Comment by Sarah Boulton on May 31, 2014 at 7:47pm

@Kelley Ahlstrom, that's a really catchy song, good job! I like the cool rhythm you play on the guitar as well. The only thing I might be able to suggest would be to shorten the chorus a bit by taking out the second "Lay me down tonight" at the end. I thought when I heard it the first time at the end that it would be a good place to leave off. Maybe repeat the line again towards the end of the song as an outro. I'd love to hear it finished! :)

Comment by Kelley Ahlstrom on May 31, 2014 at 7:38pm


Lock the door for now

Scream but not too loud

You promised me the sun

But the truth is what came out

Do you remember

I bruise in blue, white, red

I tried to apologize for words I had not said

So lay me down

Scream out loud


is a soldier now

Hand over heart try to make it all better

But mamma I won't break your heart inside this letter

So Lay me down tonight

Lay me down tonight


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