Imagine Guitar Chords – How To Play John Lennon’s Most Iconic Song

Let’s learn how to play one of music’s most timeless pieces – these Imagine guitar chords are easy to play & easy to learn!

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In this free lesson, you will learn:

  • How to play “Imagine” by John Lennon
  • How to break songs down into easier sections
  • How to play an E7 chord
  • An easier version of the F chord

Music With A Purpose: The Imagine Guitar Chords

Today we’re going to take an in-depth look at the most iconic song of all time.

Well, this website says it’s the second most iconic song of all time, but the world seems to be more in need of positive imagination than teenage angst at the moment.

Imagine has continued to shape our aspirations for humanity in the ensuing 50 years since it was written.

The guitar chords are as widely known as they can be, so you can take your guitar just about anywhere on the planet, start playing and singing this song, and you are virtually guaranteed to have company.

wish-you-were-here-chords

The Imagine chords and song are also great musical compositions on their own.

  • This song contains a simple melody and mellow chord progression that supports its powerful lyrical message, and sometimes that’s all you need!
  • John Lennon said, “Put your political message across with a little bit of honey,” and he did just that.

imagine-guitar-chords

Background & Lyrics

As it is with everything a Beatle or ex-Beatle has ever done, “Imagine” bears a little talking about because of the transformative nature of the song not only for the world but also for the writer.

John Lennon wrote “Imagine” to music in a single sitting in May 1971.

  • His lyrical inspiration came from Yoko Ono’s poem “Cloud Piece,” which contains the line “Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put them in.”
  • Lennon initially didn’t give Ono a songwriting credit, only later acknowledging that her poem inspired him to such an extent that she had deserved credit as co-songwriter.
  • He further admitted that if such inspiration had come from a man, he would have given the man a co-writing credit right away. Imagine no gender gap!
  • In 2017, Ono received songwriting credit for “Imagine.” Without Ono, we would just have the guitar chords and maybe no song at all!

imagine-guitar-chords

The issue over songwriting credit is not the only interesting aspect of the lyrics to Imagine.

They really pack a punch!

  • John Lennon went after organised religion in the song, prompting the World Church to ask him to change the lyrics from “no religion” to “one religion.” Lennon declared that to be a huge act of point-missing.
  • He also went after capitalism with the lyric “imagine no possessions”, prompting Elvis Costello to point out in “The Other Side of Summer” that a millionaire sang those lyrics.

John Lennon did change the lyrics after the song was released, performing it with a less natural tone by saying “I wonder if we can” instead of “I wonder if you can.”

In a quite progressive move for that point in history, Lennon also changed “brotherhood of man” to “brotherhood/sisterhood of man.”

imagine-guitar-chords

Although this song was written on the piano, it is a lovely and relatively simple song to play on the guitar.

  • It doesn’t always happen that a piano song translates this easily onto the guitar. Still, this song’s guitar chords do a great job of being easily transferable from one instrument to another.
  • There are three sections of Imagine chords to learn: the verse, the refrain, and the bridge.

The Verse

Here are the chords you’ll need for the verse:

C (x32010)

(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!)

Cmaj7 (x32000)

F (xx3211)

Fmaj7 (xx3210)

If the F chord is a bit too hairy at the moment, you can substitute it in the Fmaj7 chord, and it will sound just as wonderful.

The verse alternates between the C and F chords in every measure, so the simplest version of this song’s guitar chords would be four beats of C or Cmaj7 followed by four beats of F or Fmaj7.

If you’d like to emulate the beautifully sparse piano part for the verse in your Imagine chords, you can play the C for three beats, followed by one beat of C maj7, followed by three beats of F (or Fmaj7), followed by that iconic little lick in the last beat of the F measure:

imagine-guitar-chords

Remember: In guitar tablature, the strings are upside down! The action in that little lick is on the G string and then the B string.

If you would like some further explanation or support getting comfortable with the guitar tab, check out these two handy lessons:

That concludes the entirety of the song’s guitar chords for the verse.

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The Refrain

The refrain of Imagine could also be called the chorus, but it’s really a bit short to be a full-blown chorus. It’s the part that goes, “Imagine all the people.”

This part of the song does a great job of bringing the melody up before diving into the chorus section, so keep reading!

Here are the chords you’ll need for the refrain:

F (XX3211)

Am/E (xx2210)

Dm (xx0231)

C (x32010)

G/B (x2003x)

Am (x02210)

G (320003)

Why so many chords for such a small section of the song? Why do some of them look weird?

Well, the chords with slashes in them – Am/E and G/B – serve an important function.

The notes after the slash represent the bass notes or the lowest notes in the chord as you’ll play them here.

If you look at the sequence of root notes (the note the chord is named after) and bass notes, you’ll see that it travels backwards through the musical alphabet: F, E, D, C, B, A, G.

  • This is on purpose! A melody of bass notes is underneath the chord progression, sometimes called a bass run.
  • Bass runs happen all the time in songs like “I Walk The Line”.

You will play each of the guitar chords for two beats. The sequence is as shown: F, C/E, Dm, C, G/B, Am, G. Simple as that!

imagine-guitar-chords

Pro-Tip: If you want to show off your new musical skills with the bass run, you can accentuate it in the song’s refrain by plucking the string the bass note is on for the first beat and strumming the chord for the second beat of each chord.

You’ll be able to hear the descending bass run clearly, and it will give you some more room for articulation in the song itself!

guitar-fingerpicking-patterns

The Bridge

The last section of guitar chords you need is the bridge. This part goes, “You may say I’m a dreamer.”

Again, this may seem like a small section. However, there are a few chords you’ll have to bear in mind, including the F chord.

Here are the chords you’ll need for this section of the song.

F (xx3211)

G (320003)

C (x32010)

E7 (020100)

Again, if you don’t like that F chord yet for your guitar chords, you can just as easily substitute in the Fmaj7 chord!

It’s significantly easier to play, doesn’t require a barre chord, and sounds luscious!

Pro Tip: The F chord doesn’t have to be intimidating! Start small and work one string pair at a time to sound out the chord’s shape, and then move to begin playing the whole thing. Remember, there’s no need to rush!

If you would like some more information on that pesky F chord, you can check out these valuable lessons, and you will not feel so alone! Nobody likes that chord at first. Let these lessons help it to become your friend:

Imagine-Guitar-Chords

Whichever iteration of the F chord you choose to use in this section of the Imagine song’s guitar chords, you’ll play the chords in sequence three times, two beats each, and on the fourth time, you play a full measure of C instead of moving on to the E7.

  • That stop on C breaks the cycle!
  • If you keep playing the E7, you get stuck in the bridge loop long after running out of lyrics to sing.
  • The C chord also either tees up the next verse (if there is the next verse) or ends the song.
  • That’s it for all the guitar chords you’ll need in this song.
  • Practice them in pieces, and the whole tune will get easier to play.

Oh, but we aren’t finished yet. Far from it!

chords-for-imagine

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.

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Imagine Chords: Tying It All Together

By practising each portion of the guitar chords separately, the entire song will become easier much more quickly than if you try to slog through the whole thing every time.

One thing that many guitarists underestimate is the power of simply slowing down.

  • Take the time to take in what you’re playing and process it, and your brain and hands will both thank you later when they’re able to conquer the fretboard with a minimal issue!
  • The chords in the verse tend to be quite easy, once you get used to them, and the chord changes are not very complicated.

Imagine-Guitar-Chords

The chords in the bridge are also pretty basic (except for that F), but the changes come more quickly than in verse. That’s why it may take a bit more work.

  • It’s a chord cycle – so in order to practice, all you really need to do is cycle through them a lot.
  • The refrain is where the biggest challenge is.

As with all songs we practice on the guitar, knowing where the hardest part lies means knowing where we will to spend more time.

easy-imagine-chords-guitar

The rhythm on the piano is pretty simple, and there is no reason to make it more complicated on the guitar.

  • You can simply strum on the beat using quarter notes, and the song will glide along just fine.
  • This also does a great job of making it easy to sing, too!
  • Quarter notes help keep the sound nice and open, rather than crowding with too much rhythm. Remember to take it slow!

Between the refrain and the next verse, you can fill in with a little bass run that goes like this:

easy-john-Lennon-guitar-songs

Try it, and you’ll hear how that line of notes on the bottom leads your ear from the G chord back to the C chord that begins the next verse.

  • Remember how important voice leading can be!
  • Every chord will typically suggest a movement somewhere else, and it’s important to bear in mind where that is. Keep your ears open!

If you’d like to make your guitar arrangement a little bit more decorative, here’s a nice guitar chords arrangement of the song that includes some more movement. Don’t be afraid to try and find different versions of the same chords in different positions!

Imagine-Guitar-Chords

Learn Other Guitar Chords Arrangements

Here is a version of “Imagine” by Chris Kläfford from “America’s Got Talent” that knocked everybody’s socks off.

He uses the same guitar chords you are and a capo to put the song in a key that showcases his wonderful and expressive vocal range.

If you would like to come up with something that personally suits your wonderful expressive vocal range, you can do the same! Check out our guide to playing with a capo.

Here’s Lady Gaga with her version of “Imagine” that goes from grand to intimate and then back to grand again

Imagine-Guitar-Chords

Here’s a unique version featuring many musicians around the world playing “Imagine.”

Finally, one of the greatest singers of all time, and someone whose voice made the world a better place, Chris Cornell, with his version of “Imagine.”

Notice the different meter he uses? The song is usually done with four beats a measure, and Cornell decided to do it in 6/8.

Everyone from Stevie Wonder to Bebe Rexha and Imagine Dragons have covered Imagine. Every version of it has something in common: the desire to be in a community with everyone present while the song is sung.

  • Each of these amazing musicians is playing the same guitar chords for that song as you!
  • That is the most fantastic part of this song’s legacy.

john-lennon-imagine

For More On The Timeless Guitar Chords of Imagine Song

Once you have the basic arrangement of the song’s guitar chords down, you can see from all the versions above that there is a lot of room to personalise it.

  • The best way to do that is to play it over and over again.
  • This song means something to everyone who sings it, and with repetition and experimentation, you will find a version of Imagine that is uniquely yours.

Don’t be afraid to arrange your own guitar chords!

Lennon believed that he could change the world with the power of his music, and he did. Why not you?

Recommended Resources

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