3 Cool Ways To Play Kansas’ Dust In The Wind Tab and Chords

Kansas’ Dust In The Wind chords are easy to play & can teach us the foundation we need for fingerstyle guitar – Let’s learn it in 3 levels!

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In this free lesson, you will learn:

  • 3 ways to play these famous Dust In The Wind tab and chords
  • The essentials of fingerstyle guitar
  • How to assign each finger to a different string
  • What slash chords are & how they work

Dust In The Wind Chords Are Easy To Play!

If you’re old enough to remember playing Guitar Hero 2 on your favourite console, you probably remember rocking out to “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas.

If you’re not old enough, then you probably don’t even know what Guitar Hero is, and that statement above means nothing to you. Regardless, keep reading!

  • Kansas has had countless other hits over the years, none of which have been soon forgotten by the guitar world.
  • ‘Dust In The Wind’ was one of their biggest, and it contained one of the prettiest and most memorable chord-based guitar performances the world had seen.

Kansas’ Dust In The Wind Chords are far from difficult to play, but it’s all in how we approach playing them that matters most.


Before we dive into the fine details of how to play these Dust In The Wind chords like a pro, let’s do some time-travelling to find out a bit more about this mysterious band and the song in question.

Ready? Good, let’s dive in!

Kansas & Their Impact

Kansas was established in 1973 and aptly named themselves after where they hailed from – Topeka, Kansas. That makes sense, right?

This band got so big that they even have their own entry in ‘Kansapedia’ – The comprehensive guide to everything you ever needed to know about Kansas. You can find the entry here.

The band had three platinum-selling albums in the ‘70s – “Leftoverture,” “Point Of Know Return”, and “Monolith.”


“Point Of Know Return” was released in 1977 and featured “Dust In The Wind,” which was written by chief songwriter Kerry Livgren.

Kansas helped pioneer the Progressive Rock music genre, accompanied by bands such as King Crimson and Yes.

  • This genre would rise slowly throughout the decades, garnering itself a niche following of hungry listeners eager to hear something different and interesting in their music.
  • Progressive Rock did not hold back as a genre of Rock music bent on exploring all of the musical potentials of Rock music at length.
  • Kansas embraced their musicality with every album, and the simple musicality of these Dust In The Wind Chords is proof that Kansas can make the most basic chords sound extremely beautiful.

One of the highlights of this song is the fingerstyle guitar performance – Let’s discuss it below!


Learn The Essentials Of Fingerpicking With This Song

If there is one song you should look to in order to learn the basics of fingerstyle guitar playing, this is it.

These Dust In The Wind chords are simple enough for beginner guitarists to pick up but performed in a way that can challenge our fingers if we allow it to.

Are you up for the challenge?

Fingerpicking is about precision and ensuring that each finger takes care of only one (or two) strings.

Focus on keeping a good spread in your picking hand when learning how to fingerpick this tune, and you’ll be nailing it in no time!


Pro Tip: When learning any song, it’s important to understand how the chords move before diving into the learning and playing process.

  • Those chords move in a very close fashion, so it’s especially important to pay attention to exactly what you’re playing.
  • Try not to jump ahead of yourself, and play each chord slowly to start out with.
  • The most important thing we can do for ourselves when learning is to give ourselves the gift of time and patience.


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How to Play Dust In The Wind Chords

In this lesson, we’re going to show you three different ways of approaching this song.

The easy way, the semi-difficult way, and the way that Kansas plays it.

Presenting the song in this way helps us work in levels rather than approaching it all at once.

If you’re a beginner guitarist, take a look at the first method for playing these Dust In The Wind chords to help you understand how the chords work together.

We’ve put together some easier versions of the chords further down to help get you started.


If you’re already familiar with chords on the guitar, skip down to the intermediate section where we break them down in full, then proceed to learn the fingerstyle pattern at the bottom.

  • We’ve laid the lesson out this way so that it’s easier for you to navigate.
  • Now let’s get to playing these Dust In The Wind chords!


Beginner Dust In The Wind Chords

For now, we’re going to ignore the fancy fingers of Kerry Livgren and focus solely on the chords he is playing.

The whole song works in three sections, and they all conveniently centre around the first position on the guitar!

This makes it super-easy for us to learn how to navigate these Dust In The Wind chords.


When we begin playing the intro, it might be hard to tell exactly what is being played because of all of the upper-range movement on the guitar.

  • The fact is, this section is only two chords!
  • We’ve mapped out the Dust In The Wind chords with just the bass section to make them easier to navigate.

Check them out below:

C MAJOR (X 3 2 0 X X)

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

A MINOR (X 0 2 2 X X)

Start out by just strumming each of these chords once and holding them for two steady counts of 8. This will help you get a feel for the timing, as this song moves quickly despite being a ballad.


This section picks up the pace from two to four chords. We also get to see some chord movement here in the introduction of a slash chord.

Slash chords are any chord that has had its root note moved to a different note.

In verse’s Dust In The Wind chords, we run into a G/B chord.

  • This is simply a G major chord with its root on the 2nd fret of the A string (B).
  • Check out the chords below, and watch how the bass note moves down across the A string.

C MAJOR (X 3 2 0 X X)

G MAJOR/B (X 2 0 0 X X)

A MINOR (X 0 2 2 X X)

D MINOR (X X 0 2 3 X)

G MAJOR (3 2 0 0 X X)

Our progression in the verse looks like this:

C Major


A Minor x2

G Major

D Minor

A Minor x2

Each instance of a chord above should be held for one bar (4 beats) before switching to the next chord.

Notice how we lean extra hard on each instance of A minor? We begin on C major and let our root note descend through each chord until we reach A, where we land for twice as long.

In the second half of the verse, we move from G major to D minor and then down again to A minor.

Practice this pattern and listen for the movement!



The final section that we will see with this song revolves around three chords that we have already learned and is the easiest to follow. This section follows the “All we are is dust in the wind” lyric.

Check out the progression below:
D Minor

G Major

A Minor x2

D Minor

G Major

A Minor x2

Pro Tip: Practice holding each of these chords for their full count to get some good practice in where chord changes are concerned. This will help you a lot in the sections to come.

D MINOR (X X 0 2 3 X)

G MAJOR (3 2 0 0 X X)

A MINOR (X 0 2 2 X X)

The Strumming Pattern

Strumming through these Dust In The Wind chords is easy!

  • Aim to hit your bass string first in every chord with your pick in hand.
  • This will give the chord an added boost of bass that helps to define it better, no matter what variation you’re playing.

Follow this picking pattern for each chord:

Down – Down – Up *- Down – Up – Down

(‘*’ Indicates a strum to be held for longer. Pay attention to the track to hear the length of the strum)

Pro Tip: This pattern can essentially be used throughout the whole song, so master it through practice, and you’ll nail these Dust In The Wind chords soon enough!


Intermediate Dust In The Wind Chords

Now that we’ve gotten a feel for how this song sounds, we’re going to break down the chords in full so that  you can see all of the movement for yourself.

We’re still ignoring the fingerpicking pattern for this section, but we’ll get there shortly.

After playing this version of these Dust In The Wind chords, you will notice that the majority of the movement on each chord happens within the chord shape itself.

  • All the guitarists do in this song is move each chord’s “voice” around, primarily on the B string.
  • This creates the illusion of more chord movement when the guitarist is just embellishing each chord as he plays through it.

Check out the full chord shapes below:

C MAJOR (X 3 2 0 1 0)

G MAJOR/B (X 2 0 0 3 3)

A MINOR (X 0 2 2 1 0)

D MINOR (X X 0 2 3 1)

G MAJOR (3 2 0 0 3 3)

We’ve laid the chord progressions out for you below once again, so you don’t have to scroll back up to see them.


C Major

A Minor



C Major


A Minor x2

G Major

D Minor

A Minor x2



D Minor

G Major

A Minor x2

D Minor

G Major

A Minor x2

Pro Tip: As much as you will hear the movement of the song in the higher register of the guitar (the B string specifically), it’s important to listen to the bass section of the guitar as well.

  • As we have discussed, the Dust In The Wind chords descend quite frequently on the A string, and this serves as a great signifier of where the song will go next.
  • The important thing here is that we keep our ears open!


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Dust In The Wind Chords – Fingerstyle Patterns

Now, on to the fun part!

The fingerstyle picking pattern for these Dust In The Wind chords is what makes it so memorable and worth learning.

  • This pattern follows what we can refer to as an ‘Outside-Inside’ pattern.
  • What this means is that we begin playing the outside portion of the chord first and work our way inward from there.


Pro Tip: Give each finger a responsibility! If you’re new to fingerstyle guitar, it might take you a bit to adapt the pinky finger in your picking hand.

  • With that in mind, you can use your thumb, index, middle and ring fingers to play this song without much issue.
  • Throw the pinky finger in the mix if you’re feeling adventurous!

The order of fingers and strings should look something like this:
Thumb: E & A strings

Index: D string

Middle: G string

Ring: B & E strings

Pinky: High E string (optional)

The picking pattern looks like this, using the example of C major below:








Take care to lead with both your thumb and ring fingers on the correct strings, and be mindful of when the chord progression shifts to G major.

When it does, move your thumb down to the low E string to cover the proper root note.

Pro Tip: You only need to do this on G major, not G major/B

  • To keep things consistent and round off the lesson, we’ve included the exact chord changes below for the sections with a lot of movement on the B string, so you know exactly what you’re playing!
  • Check out the Dust In The Wind chords below and practice them all individually first before implementing them into the progression.

Remember, practice makes perfect.


Cmaj7 (X 3 2 0 0 0)

Cadd9 (X 3 2 0 3 3)





C | Cmaj7 | Cadd9 | C | Asus2 | Asus4 | Am | Asus2

Cadd9 | C | Cmaj7 | Cadd9 | Am | Asus2 | Asus4 | Am

Pro Tip: Check out this detailed chord chart with lyrics to accompany your Dust In The Wind chords here!

Other Songs That Will Help You Improve At Fingerstyle Guitar

We get it. This song is awesome and a lot of fun to play.

By now, you’ve probably mastered the ins and outs of these Dust In The Wind chords, and you want more.

Over the years, many other musicians have made great use of the fingerstyle guitar approach on both electric and acoustic guitar.

We couldn’t let you go without giving you our favourite tunes to research, so check out our top five fingerstyle guitar favourites below!

Where Do I Go From Here?

Want to keep improving on these Dust In The Wind Chords? We recommend:

  • Practice to the track and stay as in sync as you can
  • Listen to the song repeatedly to get a better feel for how Kansas plays it
  • Tap your foot while playing to hold a good rhythm
  • Jam this song with a friend on acoustic guitar.
  • Watch this interview with Tommy Emmanuel about his fingerstyle guitar approach.

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