Perfect Chords – The Best Way To Play Ed Sheeran’s Hit Song!

Ed Sheeran’s Perfect chords are easy to play and easier to memorize – let’s dive into this gorgeous ballad!

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • How to play this beautiful Ed Sheeran song
  • How to use suspended chords
  • How to learn the structure of a song effectively
  • Why it’s important to learn songs in sections

The Perfect Chords for the Perfect Song!

There’s no musician in the world who can deny the wonderful, therapeutic benefits of sitting down and playing a beautiful song.

Sure, there’s the thrill of taking a few songs to an open mic and workshopping them for some people, getting some positive vibes and instant feedback.

  • Performing is big fun, and sharing songs with people in a jam session or singalong is a big part of why a lot of us pick up an instrument in the first place.
  • When it comes right down to it, relating directly to the music and getting inside a song is what fills the soul, and that’s something we can do all by ourselves.

There are special songs for times like that, when we just need to be with our music, and one of those songs is Ed Sheeran’s Perfect.


This song has everything you need for some serious self-care on the guitar, and we’ll get to all of it right here for you.

The chords are simple enough for a beginner, and we’ve got some suggestions that will get you through these Perfect chords even if today’s your first day on the guitar.

  • You’ll learn how to do that nice plucky rhythm on the guitar that Sheeran uses in his recording so you can keep the beat while creating your own arrangement.
  • We’ll give you some different ways to play the chords at different levels so that you can choose how to accompany those desperately-in-love lyrics.

First, let’s do a little digging about this song so that you can make a deeper connection!


Perfect Chords: Background

Let’s give a listen to Perfect while we learn a little bit about where this lovely pop tune came from and the artist behind it.

Perfect was the Christmas number one song in the UK in 2017. It was very popular in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand, reaching number one on those charts as well.

  • Sheeran wrote this song as the first track on his album, Divide. It was the fourth single to be released from the album in 2017.
  • Perfect rose up the UK charts right away and has reached the ears of people all over the world, proving that the most personal songs can have the most universal impact.
  • At its core, this is a simple love song – the kind that does its best work with two or fewer people in the room.


You see, Perfect is a true story! Sheeran wrote it about his then-girlfriend Cherry Seaborn. He knew her in school, and just as life imitates art imitating life, they reconnected years later.

There are an astonishing number of gigantic hits that were written from a tiny gem of an idea, and Sheeran got his from listening to some music at 6:00 AM.

He went into the studio to see if he could flesh out a snippet, and by the end of the day, he had Perfect.

  • Whether that information encouraged you to book studio time or throw your guitar out the window, it’s pretty amazing to know that such a wonderful song came out in such a short period of time.
  • Don’t throw your guitar out the window, for the record – perhaps learning the Perfect chords will inspire you to write your own perfect song!


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Perfect Chords: The Key

If you just sat down and tried to play the Perfect chords along with the recording, you’d be rather disappointed to discover that it’s impossible to match the song with any of the reasonably attainable chords you already know and love.

That’s because Sheeran recorded Perfect in the key of Ab major.

  • We all know that Ab major is not a friendly key to the guitar, because we cannot play simple open-chord versions of the main chords in Ab major: Ab, Db, and Eb.
  • Sheeran probably did this because that key suits his vocal range – however, that doesn’t mean that he sat down and wrote the song in the key of Ab.

It’s reasonable to assume that the Perfect chords were originally laid down in the key of G major. In fact, he plays live versions of the song, like this one, in G major.


The key of G major is a lovely friendly key for the guitar, because it’s possible to play most of the chords in open position.

To play the Perfect chords in the key of Ab major, you have to do one of two things: either learn barre chord shapes for all of the chords, or use the key of G major chords and put your capo on the first fret.

Capos are easy to work if you remember the chromatic scale, the names of all the notes on the guitar.

  • You don’t have to know where the notes are on the guitar; you just have to know their order.
  • In the chromatic scale, Ab is one half-step, one fret, up from G.
  • To play in Ab using the easy chords of G, you’ll simply put your capo on the first fret, and you’re ready to go!


Pro-Tip: Capo math is easier than it seems!

You can use the chromatic scale to figure out where to put your capo.

This allows you to play a song in different keys without having to learn any new chord shapes. You’ll know everything you need about using a capo once you’ve gone through this lesson.

Perfect Chords: The Chords

Now that we’ve conquered the obstacle of the key of Ab major, let’s get into playing the Perfect chords in G major. Capos are optional!

For you absolute beginners on the guitar, this song is a quick and easy win!

You can easily play Perfect using some stepping stone chord shapes.

Here is an arrangement of the Perfect chords using two-finger stepping stone shapes.

G (320000)

(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!)

Em (022000)

C (xx2010)

D (xx0210)

The G and Em chords are a good chord-changing exercise, and the C and D chords as shown above are as well.

  • Work on them in pairs, and then begin stringing all those chords together.
  • You will be able to get through the entire song using just these four chord shapes!


If you find yourself ready to advance beyond those stepping stone chords a little, you can incorporate the full open versions of these Perfect chords.

  • The Em chord is the same, and the G and C chords only add one finger.
  • Add a basic D chord and you’ve got enough for the entire song.

G (320003)

Em (022000)

C (x32010)

D (xx0232)

As with the stepping stone chords, the G and Em chords are a relatively simple switch.

You don’t even need to move the finger you have on the A string and can use it as an anchor to help you change chords.

C to D is a tougher chord change, however.

You can make it easier by focusing on your ring finger, which is on the third fret in both chords. Move your ring finger first and build the chord shapes around it, and we promise you’ll improve quickly!


Perfect Chords: A Song In Three Parts

There are three basic progressions of the Perfect chords, and if you learn each of the three separately, it will then be pretty easy to string them together and play the entire song.


What we’re calling the verse is the part where the singing begins: “I found a love for me.”

The chord progression for the verse is one of the most useful things you will ever learn on the guitar. It’s so useful that it has a name! Several names!

Here’s how it goes:

G  Em C  D

Repeat this twice for the verse.


The numerical name for that chord progression is I-vi-IV-V.

The numbers come from the musical alphabet, and it’s a standardized chord numbering system. If G is one, for example, count up to six and you have E. The six is a lower case Roman numeral because it’s a minor chord.

  • The progression is also called the 1950s progression, because countless songs written in the 1950s go exactly like that.
  • We’ll never talk about this progression without giving you the prime example, Rodgers and Hart’s 1934 “Blue Moon.” This version is by the Marcels.
  • It’s also called the doo-wop progression for the same reason.



The next section of this tune begins with the line “‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love.” We’re going to call that the chorus.

It’s sometimes referred to as a pre-chorus, but that just doesn’t feel right.

For one thing, this part of the song seems like the real singalong part. Choruses are usually anthemic, which means the melody is bold, compelling, and easy to remember.

Also, and more importantly, the chord progression for the chorus is the same, or nearly the same, as the progression for the verse above, with one optional modification.

You can squeeze in a Dsus4 at the end of the line by adding your pinky to the D chord. It looks like this:

Dsus4 (xx0233)

The progression then becomes:

G  Em C  |Dsus4 D|


The Bridge

The bridge of Perfect is the part of the song that does not go like the other parts of the song. That’s why we’re calling it a bridge.

This is the part that begins, “Baby, I’m dancing in the dark.” Elsewhere, it may be referred to as a chorus.

  • What’s important is the change in the chord progression.
  • The chord progression for this part of the song involves the same chords but in a different order.

It’s slightly more complicated, but you can manage it:

|Em  C|G D|Em  C|G D|

|Em  C|G D|Em  C|G D|

|G D Em D|C  D|

For that last bit of these Perfect chords, the G-D-Em-D chords get just one beat apiece. That can sound like a tall order, but with a little practice you’ll have it down.


Pro-Tip: Reading tablature for the first time?

It’s pretty intuitive once you get used to it. The horizontal lines are your strings (upside down) and the numbers are frets.

A big stack of numbers means a chord shape! For more on how to navigate tablature, check out this lesson on reading guitar music.


Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It's hard to understand which scales work with which keys.

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Perfect Chords: The Rhythm

Perfect is a great song for understanding how compound meter, or triplet feel, works.

You can easily hear it in the recording.

This song is in a slow four, but compound meter means that each beat is divided into three instead of two. That’s where “triplet feel” comes from.

To emulate the rhythm Sheeran uses in the recording, you’ll pluck multiple strings at once, “claw” style, counting the triplets like this:

One and a Two and a Three and a Four and a

  • Pluck the bolded beats a little more forcefully to emphasize the beat. It’s as simple as that!
  • You can pluck whichever strings sound good to you, but to get an idea, try these, using your thumb on the lowest sounding string.


Perfect Chords: The Structure

Now that we know all the parts to the song, let’s put these Perfect chords in order. There’s no introduction to this song – it’s an a cappella intro that goes right into the verse, so you’ll play the first chord when you get to the word “love.”

Here’s the structure, in summary, so you can get through the whole song.

Verse: G Em C D (x2)

Chorus: G Em C D (x2)

Bridge: |Em C|G D| (x4) then |G D Em D|C  D|



Bridge: |Em C|G D| (x4)

Verse (instrumental): G Em C D (x1)

Bridge: |Em C|G D| (x4)

Ending: |Em D|C D|G D Em D|C D| G

For a full chart with lyrics and the Perfect chords themselves, check this out!

The Perfect Chords For A Perfect Ballad

When you learn a song like Perfect, you’re learning so much more than just a song – you’re learning structure.

We’ve gone through stepping stone chords, how to practice chord changes, different progressions of the same chords, and a rhythm lesson, all thanks to Ed Sheeran.

Take these ideas and make your own lovely ballad for your special person!

Recommended Resources

If you’ve enjoyed this lesson, we have other places for you to go next! Continue on your path with these lessons:

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