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Popular 3-Chord Beginner Guitar Songs

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

The greatest songs aren't necessarily the most complex ones.  In this article I'll give you a five must have songs for your repertoire and the chords you need to play them.

1. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
One of the all-time classic jam session songs.  Your three chords here are D  C  and G.

Here are 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 / / / |

2. Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars is releasing some great simple pop music and this song has been requested by many of my own private students.  The whole song consists of three chords: F  D5  and Bb.

Here are 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 gets one measure.  Even though it's a piano based song, you can listen to the track and strum along with it to find a strum pattern to match the groove.


3. She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5
This is from Maroon 5's first album, "Songs About Jane", and includes these chords: Am  G and C

Here are 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.

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

Here are 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 / / / |


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 zillion other songs as well.  Your chords are G  C  D

Here are 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 / |

Make sure that you listen to the song and try strumming along to find a good pattern that matches the groove.

As a bonus tip, here's a chord progression that works for thousands of songs... The classic 12-bar blues.  It's the I  VI and  V chords in any key you choose.  In the key of E that would E  A  B7.

Here are 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.  That's called a turnaround.

A couple of end notes.  Listen to every kind of music you can get your hands on, and play along with it.  It's a great way to develop good rhythm chops. 

Also, you've actually learned 10 different chords across all the songs I've presented here.  So don't be afraid of trying new songs that have more than 3 chords.  You're equipped now.


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