Guitar Songs For Beginners - Popular Songs With Three Chords Or Less

in Song

Some of the best songs in the world have been written with just three chords.  In this article I'll give you a quick top 5 featuring recent hits and some must-have classics, and the chords you'll need to play them.

1. Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars
Bruno's career is skyrocketing right now and lots of my own students have been asking to learn this one.  The whole song consists of three chords: F  D5  and Bb.

Here's your chords
F   D5 Bb
---1---------x---------x---
---1---------3---------3---
---2---------2---------3---
---3---------0---------3---
---3---------x---------1---
---1---------x---------x---

Each chord is played for one measure.  It's a piano based song, but if you listen you'll be able to come up with a strum pattern to match the groove.


2. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
This is a classic that always seems to end up in a jam session.  Your three chords here are D  C  and G.

Here's your chords
D   C G
---2---------0---------3---
---3---------1---------0---
---2---------0---------0---
---0---------2---------0---
---x---------3---------2---
---x---------x---------3---

The D and C are played for two beats, the G for four: | D / C /| G / / / |


3. Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival
A great simple classic using these three chords: D  A  G

Here's your chords
D   A G
---2---------0---------3---
---3---------2---------0---
---2---------2---------0---
---0---------2---------0---
---x---------0---------2---
---x---------x---------3---

For the verse part you'll play  | D / A G | D / / / |
For the chorus you'll play |G / / /| D / / / | A / G / | D / / / |

4. She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5
This is from their first album, Songs About Jane and includes these three chords: Am  G and C

Here's your chords
Am G C
---0---------3---------0---
---1---------0---------1---
---2---------0---------0---
---2---------0---------2---
---0---------2---------3---
---x---------3---------x---

The verse alternates the Am and G, one measure each.
The chorus goes C  G  Am  G, also one measure each.

5. Ring Of Fire by Johnny Cash
This is a great song and these same chords with very few changes can be used to play a lot of other songs as well.  Your chords are G  C  D

Here's your chords
D   C G
---2---------0---------3---
---3---------1---------0---
---2---------0---------0---
---0---------2---------0---
---x---------3---------2---
---x---------x---------3---

The verse goes like this | G / / C | G / / / |
And your chorus | D / / / | C / G / |

As with all of these, you'll want to listen to song to work on the strumming rhythms.  Try playing along with the song until you latch onto the groove.

One bonus song (that's actually a zillion songs) is a 12 bar blues.  Thousands of songs have been written with this exact progression.  It's the I  IV  and  V chords in whatever key you choose.  Let's go to the key of E - Your chords will be E  A  B7

Here's your chords
E   A B7
---0---------0---------2---
---0---------2---------0---
---1---------2---------2---
---2---------2---------1---
---2---------0---------2---
---0---------x---------x---

And here's how the progression goes:

| E | / | / | / |
| A | / | E | / |
| B7 | A | E | / |

If you're going around for another chorus you can substitute another B7 in the last measure instead of the E.

A couple of parting notes.  Listen a lot.  To everything you can get your hands on.  And play along.  That is one of the best ways to develop good rhythm chops.  The second this is, don't be afraid of that fourth chord.  Once you've played with these, go hunting after 4 and 5 chord songs.  Places like Ultimate Guitar are good resources to start with.

Enjoy!

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Phil Johnson has 1 articles online

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Guitar Songs For Beginners - Popular Songs With Three Chords Or Less

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Guitar Songs For Beginners - Popular Songs With Three Chords Or Less

This article was published on 2010/11/05