Joe Satriani’s “Always” Progression

“Wild Thing,” “Twist and Shout,” and “Louie Louie,” are among hundreds of famous songs that have employed the workhorse chord progression known as the I-IV-V. In this context, each Roman numeral conveys a chord’s relationship with a given key by corresponding with the chord root’s position in the parent scale. For instance, in the key of G major (where the parent scale is G, A, B, C, D, E, F#), G is the I chord because it is rooted on the first note of the scale, G. Hence, because C is rooted on the fourth note of the scale, it functions as the IV chord. And for reasons that should now be obvious, D is the V chord.
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Thanks to friendly open fingerings, the easiest I-IV-V to play on guitar occurs in our key of G major, as shown in Ex. 1. You can strum this G-C-D progression in 4/4 time if you like (four strums to the bar), but, for the purposes of this lesson, try using the triple meter shown in the rhythmic notation below the grids, where slash marks indicate three-strums-per-bar phrasing. Next, try shifting your I-IV-V to the key of B major [Ex. 2]. This puts you in the key of Satriani’s most famous I-IV-V progression, “Always With Me, Always With You,” (off Surfing With the Alien), as shown in Ex. 3. (Tip: The actual Badd11 fingering Satriani uses for this song has no open string and is therefore a bit trickier to fret. When you’re all limbered up, graduate to Satch’s fingering in Ex. 4.)—Jude Gold

“Always With Me, Always With You” almost has a slow calypso vibe. What inspired it?
A couple of things. For one, it’s just a pure love song, really, and as I was writing it, I realized it touched on a lot of personal themes, such as remembrance and longing. These things are difficult to put in words—and certainly clumsy sometimes if you try to express them lyrically—but in an instrumental, you’re allowed a different kind of freedom.

The other thing is that I wasn’t quite sure if I could record a song in which the guitars were doing an arpeggiated thing like this [Ex. 3] for the whole arrangement. To me, using Emaj13 as a IV chord and F#sus4 as a V chord—two completely unresolved chords—was interesting. Also, Badd11 certainly isn’t your average I chord. I had the devil on my right shoulder saying, “You can’t write a song with a I-IV-V progression. Everyone’s done that.” Meanwhile, an angel on my left shoulder was saying, “Yeah, but look what he’s done with the upper partials.” [Laughs.] I thought, “This isn’t your average I-IV-V progression,” so I felt like it was my artistic license to play this song as sweetly as I wanted to.