Horse With No Name Chords – The Ultimate Guide

Let’s learn how to play America’s Horse With No Name Chords!

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In this free lesson, you will learn:

  • How to play “Horse With No Name” by America
  • What a D6/9/F# chord is & why it’s so easy to play
  • How to strum along to this song
  • How to work on your own arrangement of this song

Saddle Up & Let’s Learn The Horse With No Name Chords!

Are you a guitar beginner? Have you always wanted to be able to play a song without having to look up the chords?

  • Have you been wondering when you would ever learn to change between chords without having to look at your fretting hand?
  • Have you been looking for a song that would allow you to develop your rhythm skills and your ability to sing and play simultaneously?
  • This is it! Horse With No Name is the song that will help you play the guitar without looking, sing while you strum, and even take a solo!


Horse With No Name is an enduring classic by America, part of the folk-rock explosion of the early 1970s.

It was a hit in the US in 1972, having been written and released first in England. It knocked “Heart of Gold” off the number 1 spot – an interesting fact considering how many people thought it was a Neil Young song.

  • Although this song solidified America’s place in the folk-rock genre, they initially started as a rock band, with their first major gig opening up for my all-time favourite band, Patto, in 1970.
  • Its simple song structure and easy melody make this a permanent part of beginning guitar classes around the world.


Horse With No Name Chords

“Horse With No Name” was inspired, according to songwriter Dewey Bunnell, by a Salvador Dali painting of a desert and an Escher picture with a horse riding out of it.

Which explains something about the lyrics? We’ll get to those later.

  • The Horse With No Name chords are the same all throughout the song, although it’s not always easy to tell that in listening to the song.
  • The reason is that the melody changes between the verse and the chorus, so if you’re not listening very closely to what the guitars are doing, it sounds like the whole song is shifting.

Here are the chords you’ll need.

Em (022000)

(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!)

D6/9/F# (200200)

Would you look at the name of that second chord!

  • That’s an amazingly complicated name, but what happens between the E minor and the D6/9/F# is amazingly simple.
  • You just jump each of your fingers out one string from your E minor chord. One finger goes from the A to the E string, and the other finger goes from the D to the G string.

Once you have that chord change down, you have mastered the entire structure of the Horse With No Name chords!

Switch chords each measure. There are four beats of Em and four beats of D6/9/F#. Some folks refer to this as the Horse chord.


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Why The Crazy Chord Name?

Knowing why chords are named and what they do not always do very much in the way of helping you understand how to play them.

What chord names do is help you understand the notes in the chord. If you are a beginning guitar player, chances are your knowledge of the note names on the guitar is pretty much limited to the open strings.

That’s okay! You can go for a good long while advancing on the guitar before you have to sit down and deal with the names of the notes all the way up the neck.

To understand why one of the main Horse with No Name chords has such a bizarre name, let’s just dip into it a little bit.


Chords are made up of notes that derive from the major scale. D’s major chord derives from the D major scale, shown above.

  • This is a major chord because there’s no “m” anywhere in it. The D major chord is the D major scale’s first, third, and fifth notes: D, F#, A.
  • 6/9 means that you add the sixth note and the ninth note. The sixth is B. The ninth? Well, keep cycling through the scale. The second D is 8, so the ninth is E. So the D6/9 means the notes are D, F#, A, B, and E.
  • The /F# just means that the bottom note of the chord is an F#.
  • The D6/9/F# on your guitar, from low to high note, goes F#, A, D, A, B, E. Everybodys in there.

This is the most important chord for you to memorise in this set of Horse With No Name Chords.


Pro-Tip: The numbers in the chords all relate to the major scale beginning on the note that is the root of the chord.

Learning the names of the major scale notes helps you to quickly identify the notes in the chords you play! Music Theory for Beginners is our lesson to get you started on that road.


How To Strum Along To This Song

The Horse With No Name chords switch every measure or four beats. This song has a distinctive galloping rhythm.

You have to strum in the swing rhythm to get the galloping rhythm.

Instead of a steady down-up marching strum, which you’d count 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +, you strum down-up with a swing, where the down strum is longer than the up strum.

Count 1 a2 a3 a4 a.

  • This is very important because the pattern of hitting and missing the strings you’re going to lay on top of that basic swing rhythm has several consecutive up-strums.
  • Take a minute and strum the Em while you count. If you’re swinging correctly, you’ll begin to hear the pattern emerge.

Here’s our reference video so you can listen to what’s happening.

America – Horse With No Name

  • The strumming pattern goes over two measures. The first measure is pretty standard; the second is where those up strums come in.
  • You’re going to keep the swinging down-up strum happening, so what appear to be consecutive up-strums have a down-strum in between where you’re not hitting the strings.
  • It helps to get the galloping sound if, when you do those phantom down-strums, you hit the strings with some part of your strumming hand to get the sound to stop.

This is what the strumming pattern looks like.


Ordinarily, when you’re learning a sort of complex strumming pattern, you may want to go slowly to be sure to get the whole rhythm coordinated before you take it at tempo.

  • This is not the case here. It does not help to go slowly with syncopated strumming like this because it’s so easy to lose.
  • First, you might just sing the rhythm to yourself in time with the guitar in the recording to internalise what it’s supposed to sound like.

Combining the constant down-up motion with phantom down-strums is tricky for everyone, so be patient with yourself if you don’t get it right away. You know the song. It will come.


Playing The Horse With No Name Chords & Singing!

For all the trickery of this song’s strumming pattern, it’s no surprise that the vocals closely follow that rhythm.

This is a great song to sing and play at the same time.

  • First, the two chords get old pretty quickly if you’re not singing!
  • Second, while you’re learning the guitar, you’re simultaneously learning basic musicianship skills.
  • Performing two rhythms at once is the single most important skill you can have as a guitarist, whether or not you also consider yourself a singer.


Here’s a chart of the Horse With No Name chords and lyrics for you.

  • Brace yourself for the lyrics! Our favourites include “The heat was hot” and “There were plants and birds and rocks and things.”
  • It’s atmospheric folk-rock! The lovely thing about the melody is that the whole verse is two notes.

You can find those two notes on your open B string and your G string second fret.

The only two notes you need to sing are the verse of this song. Seriously.

The chorus is in harmony, so you can pick your starting note – stay with the B if you like! – and sing along with the recording to figure out your vocal line.

Maybe soon, people will join you to sing that harmony!


Horse With No Name Chords – The Solo

Not the least of “this song’s numerous claims to fame is the great “waterfall” solo in the middle of the song.

  • It’s not easy to accomplish, but some intrepid soul at the School of Feedback Guitar YouTube channel has devised an intermediate-level guitar solo tutorial based on the solo in the recording.
  • If you may not yet be an intermediate-level guitarist, do not despair of being able to play a solo over the Horse With No Name chords!
  • Check out the tab for the solo here.


Pro Tip: If you’re not up to the challenge of this solo just yet, you can play a one-note solo over this progression!

You need the one note at the high E string, the 12th fret. You can use others, but this is the best one.

  • There’s no prescribed rhythm or length of time for your one-note guitar solo over the Horse With No Name chords.
  • You can play as quickly or slowly and for as long as your heart desires or until your rhythm guitarist quits the band.
  • You can convert your one-note guitar solo into a one-string guitar solo by experimenting along the high E string and finding the fret locations that make a nice sound.

It does not have to get any more specific than that. If the note sounds good to you, then it is the right note to play!


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Playing The Horse With No Name Chords With Other Guitarists

It’s the kind of problem you’d like to have, being in a group of people happily singing and playing your newly-discovered Horse With No Name chords and wondering how to change things up a bit.

  • Apart from the chord variations discussed above, a great option is always to play the bass part on the guitar.
  • The song’s bass line is, for the most part, a simple two-measure riff.

You can play most or all of the guitar songs like this:


The full bass line is a little busier than that. Because of the constant loping strum of the guitars, the bass is responsible for all of the punctuation in the song.

Fortunately for those of you who are interested, some enterprising bassist decided to put it all down in a tab.

Here is the entire bass part for “Horse With No Name.”

Can’t read the bass tab? Yes, you can! The strings on a bass are E A D G, just like the low four strings on your guitar. Just remember that, as with all tabs, the strings are upside down!


Horse With No Name Chords – Different Interpretations

For all the simplicity of this song, there are scores of different interpretations in chord charts on the Internet.

  • The Horse With No Name chords are played on the recording by two guitars: a six-string and a 12-string.
  • One guitar is doing just what we discussed: The E minor and the “Horse” chord.
  • The 12-string is getting a little fancier, adding different colours to the chords at different times.

If you would like to add some colour to your E minor chord, here are a couple of alternatives:

Em7 (022030),

Emadd9 (022002),


Em9 (022032)



If you are feeling adventurous, you can play the Horse With No Name chords with Gerry Beckley’s original tuning!

Instead of the standard E A D G B E guitar tuning, he decided to use D E D D D tuning. The heat was hot, I guess.

If you try this, you have to slightly reshape your chords.

Here are the revised Horse With No Name chords using the Beckley tuning, which he never repeated in any other song. That means he probably had a whole separate guitar for this one song.

Em (202002),


D6/9 (020202)



Pro-Tip: The vocal harmonies in this song build chords! Find some friends to sing with, pick your notes, and try to harmonise without falling into each other’s part.

Harmonies were a big part of folk-rock, and having friends to sing and play the guitar with is awesome.


Practising This Song

As we’ve seen, learning the Horse With No Name chords may be the easiest part of learning the entire song.

  • The rhythm may be the trickiest part. Use your metronome as a drummer to practice the rhythm.
  • Keep the constant motion going, and you’ll have it down in no time!

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