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Three Chord Progressions
Learning Guitar Songs

These three chord progressions for guitar will be the basics for hundreds if not thousands of songs.

Most are diatonic. In other words they come from one scale and not two or more scales as songs can and many times do.

Dead Flowers by the Rolling Stones is a good example. This song is in the key of D. Starting with D to A to G and back to D.

A lot of country songs use this I-V-IV progression.

Three Chord Music Styles.

The list of 3 chord hit songs is endless. There are tons of Rock and Blues songs that are 3 chords and a lot of Country songs and lets not forget Folk music where Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) got his start.

Folk music was very popular in the 60's where a lot of the songs touched on political and social issues. The Byrds was another group that evolved from a Folk music background.

Here is a list of the 3 major chords for each major scale. These will make up all of the 3 chord diatonic progressions.

Major Chords List

Key
I
IV
V
C
C
F
G
F
F
B♭
C
B♭
B♭
E♭
F
E♭
E♭
A♭
B♭
A♭
A♭
D♭
E♭
D♭
D♭
G♭
A♭
G♭
G♭
C♭
D♭
F♯
F♯
B
C♯
B
B
E
F♯
E
E
A
B
A
A
D
E
D
D
G
A
G
G
C
D

In the list above the G♭ scale is equal to the F♯ scale. A G♭ chord is the same as an F♯ chord just written different for the key.

I-IV-V Chord Progressions

Here are some three chord progressions and some songs they are used in.

These are used in the same order as above I-IV-V.

Twist and Shout - Example

This song written by Bert Russell and Phil Medley was first made popular by the Isley Brothers and then The Beatles. The Beatles version is the one I like the best.

Here is the basic progression and chords.

Key
I
IV
V

C
C guitar chord first position
F guitar chord first position
G guitar chord first position

Twist and Shout - mp3
(Opens New Window)
19458874 look inside Twist And Shout-Sheet Music/Tab
By The Beatles and The Isley Brothers. For guitar. Oldies; Pop; Rock. Guitar TAB. Guitar TAB. 6 pages. Published by Hal Leonard - Digital Sheet Music (HX.140167).

The single notes are G A B C. The chords are C F and G. The G chord I used is the F form moved up to the 3rd fret.

La Bamba - Example

This song uses the C F and G chords like above and the single notes are chord tones or C scale notes.

This song is a folk song made popular by Ritchie Valens in the late 50's.

This song is sung completely in Spanish. It's listed in Rolling Stone magazine at number 345 out of 500 for all time greatest songs of all time.

Here links to an mp3 download and sheet music downloads of this song.


La Bamba mp3
(Opens New Window)
19393835 look inside La Bamba-Sheet Music/Tab
By Los Lobos and Ritchie Valens. For guitar. Latin; Pop; Rock. Guitar TAB. Guitar TAB. 7 pages. Published by Hal Leonard - Digital Sheet Music (HX.2812).

My Best Friends Girl
Three Chord Progressions

This song was written by Ric Ocasek of The Cars.

The guitar in this song has a really great tone. It's crisp, that's the only word I can think of to describe it at the moment.

My Best friends girl mp3 and sheet music links.


My Best Friends Girl - mp3
(Opens New Window)
19773949 look inside My Best Friend's Girl-Sheet Music/Tab
By The Cars. Pop; Rock. Guitar TAB. 10 pages. Published by Hal Leonard - Digital Sheet Music (HX.229505).
Key
I
IV
V

F
F guitar chord first position
B flat guitar chord first position
C guitar chord first position

I-V-IV
Three Chord Progressions

This progression just plays the V chord before the IV. This is a common progression in Country and Folk music.

One example of this progression is the Rolling Stones song Dead Flowers.

The song uses the D, A and G in that order. The other changes in the song use the same chords just different timing.

Here's a link to this Stones song mp3. They didn't do too many with a taste of country music like this one

The very first chord is the Dsus2 chord. Lift your finger off the 1st string of the D chord. It only lasts two beats in the very beginning of the song.

Dead Flowers


Dead Flowers - mp3
(Opens New Window)
19896480 look inside Dead Flowers-Sheet Music/Tab
Composed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. For Authentic Guitar TAB. Rock. Tablature. 8 pages. Published by Alfred Music - Digital Sheet Music (AX.00-PS-0013956).
Key
I
V
IV

D
D guitar chord first position
A guitar chord first position
G guitar chord first position

Dead Flowers - Example

Another song that uses this progression is Bob Dylans song "Knocking on Heavens Door"

Here's a link to this song. This song has been done by a lot of different people


Knockin' on Heavens Door - mp3
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19577656 look inside Knockin' On Heaven's Door-Sheet Music/Tab
By Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. For piano, voice and guitar (chords only). Folk; Pop; Rock. Piano/Vocal/Guitar. 3 pages. Published by Hal Leonard - Digital Sheet Music (HX.181758).

Here's the Chords

Key
I
V
IV
ii

G
G guitar chord first position
D guitar chord first position
C guitar chord first position
G guitar chord first position

More Three Chord Progressions

Knocking on Heavens Door - Example

This C chord in this song changes every other time to an Am7 which is a C with an added A note. You just lift your 3rd finger off the C. It's close enough to call it a 3 chord progression, there is only one note difference.

Once again these are only two samples. There are many other variations of three chord progressions for guitar.

V-IV-I Three Chord Progressions

This progression is used in a lynrd Skynyrd song "Sweet Home Alabama"

The chords D C and G in that order are picked more than strummed.

Here's links to mp3 and sheet music for this all time country rock song


Sweet Home Alabama - mp3
(Opens New Window)
s
19419820 look inside Sweet Home Alabama
By Lynyrd Skynyrd. For easy guitar. Easy Guitar with TAB. Country; Pop; Rock. Standard notation with tablature. 6 pages. Published by Hal Leonard - Digital Sheet Music (HX.31230).

Here are the chord forms used.

Key
V
IV
I

G
D guitar chord fifth position
C guitar chord third position
G guitar chord third position

The notes in between are played on the 5th and 6th strings on the 5th and 7th frets.

Someone else can play the actual chords along with this or do some lead work like the song.

I hope you found this page useful.

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