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 as well as your ability to sing and play at the same time?
  • 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-Chords

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 of 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 favorite 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 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.
  • From your E minor chord, you just jump each of your fingers out one string. 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.

Horse-With-No-Name-Chords

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Why The Crazy Chord Name?

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

What chord names do is help you to understand the notes that are 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.

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

Horse-With-No-Name-Chords

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

  • This is a major chord; we know because there’s no “m” anywhere in it. The D major chord is the first, third, and fifth notes of the D major scale: 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. Everybody’s in there.

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

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.

easy-horse-with-no-name-chords

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.

To get the galloping rhythm, you have to strum in swing rhythm.

That means that 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 that 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.

Horse-With-No-Name-Chords

Ordinarily, when you’re learning a sort of complex strumming pattern, you may want to go slowly so that you can 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.
  • To begin, you might just sing the rhythm to yourself in time with the guitar in the recording to internalize what it’s supposed to sound like.

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

how-to-play-horse-with-no-name

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 follow that rhythm pretty closely.

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.
  • Being able to perform 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.

guitar-chords-for-horse-with-no-name

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

  • Brace yourself for the lyrics! Our favorites include “The heat was hot,” and also, “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 on your G string second fret.

The only two notes you need to sing 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 so you can 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.

beginner-horse-with-no-name-chords

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!

The one note you need is at the high E string, 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 guitarists 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!

america-horse-with-no-name

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

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 what to do 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 song like this:

horse-with-no-name-america

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 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 tab, the strings are upside down!

National-Guitar-Academy

Horse With No Name Chords – Different Interpretations

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

  • This is because 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 have been discussing: The E minor and the “Horse” chord.
  • The 12-string is getting a little fancier, adding some different color to the chords at different times.

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

Em7 (022030),

Emadd9 (022002),

Emadd9

Em9 (022032)

Em9

 

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 G B D tuning for some reason. 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),

Em

D6/9 (020202)

D6/9

 

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

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

free-horse-with-no-name-chords

Practicing 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!

Recommended Resources

Here’s some more National Guitar Academy lessons you may enjoy:

 

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