Proud Mary Chords – How to Play This CCR Classic

Learn the chords to “Proud Mary” by CCR in this easy-to-play and comprehensive guide.

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • How to play “Proud Mary” by CCR
  • A smart approach to barre chords
  • How to smooth out your chord transitions
  • How to strum eighth notes like a pro
  • Tips for better guitar practice

Let’s Learn CCR’s Proud Mary Chords Together

Creedence Clearwater Revival is one of those bands that writes hit after hit after incredible hit.

John Fogerty and company have done an incredible job of creating a discography of music that absolutely sticks in your head and inspires you to learn new chords and rhythms.

CCR have done their fair share of inspiring other artists as well, including the likes of Ike and Tina Turner.

In this lesson, we’re going to look at CCR’s classic Proud Mary chords to figure out exactly what’s going on inside this amazing tune.

We’re also going to look at the history of this song and what it’s done for other musicians since its release. Let’s start there, shall we?

proud-mary-chords

A Brief History Of CCR & “Proud Mary”

John Fogerty has said that he wrote this song in only two days after being discharged from the National Guard.

This song was a bit of a mish-mash for CCR, as it was arranged from parts of a few songs that Fogerty has written.

One song concerned a lady named Mary who worked as a washer, while other parts of the song concerned Fogerty’s departure from the National Guard.

The Proud Mary chords did a lot of good for CCR when the song came out in January of 1969, as it peaked at #2 on the Billboard US Hot 100 by March of the same year.

proud-mary-chords

The critical acclaim didn’t stop at the Billboard for Fogerty and CCR, however.

Two years after its release following a spur of massive inspiration brought on by the Proud Mary chords and song, Tina Turner would release her own, spirited version of the song.

Although Turner’s version would differ in pretty well every way from the CCR version, it brought further acknowledgement to the original version and skyrocketed Turner’s fame in the process.

Talk about a win-win situation.

Even though this song would go on to be covered by many other artists, CCR’s original and Tina Turner’s renditions remain the most influential of the bunch.

So, what about these Proud Mary chords then? Let’s take a closer look.

proud-mary-chords

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Have A Look At The Proud Mary Chords Before We Dive In

Here’s the funny thing about this song:

It’s both easy and a bit difficult to play at the same time.

How is that possible? Simple: One section of the song is challenging, the other isn’t as much.

Before we dive into this concept further, let’s take a look at the chords we’ll be using:

C Major // A Major // G Major // F Major // F6 // D Major // Bm

These Proud Mary chords might look like a handful at first, but you’ll be dealing with some more than others.

C MAJOR

guitar-proud-mary

(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 MAJOR

proud-mary-guitar-chords

G MAJOR

proud-mary-lesson-on-guitar

This song features an instrumental intro section with a large burst of chords, followed by a verse with only three chords.

It’s an interesting dynamic that allows the band and vocalist to express themselves in a huge way over the course of the song.

The instrumental section pops up repeatedly to give the song a very gospel-blues vibe, while the simple chord progression in the verse allows Fogerty to sing to his maximum potential over the D, A and Bm Proud Mary chords.

Pro Tip: In the sections ahead, you’re going to want to commit to some slow chord practice in order to nail these transitions as quickly as they pop up.

F MAJOR

Proud-mary-tutorial-on-guitar

F6

free-guitar-lesson

D MAJOR

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B MINOR

Proud Mary Chords I: How To Approach Barre Chords

As you’ve probably noticed by now, there are a few barre chords to consider in this tune.

These are no big deal to worry about, provided we have a solid system for approaching them.

Thankfully, there’s an easy method for training our fret hand for barre chords, and it involves starting small before attacking all six strings with your index finger.

Here’s how it works:

Take the F chord as your main example from the Proud Mary chords, and split it in half.

Start by playing only the three highest strings (G, B, E).

Once you’re comfortable using your index finger on two strings, move it down to barre the G string as well even with the middle finger in front of it.

F MAJOR (Stepping Stone)

We can continue this method down each new string set until our index finger is comfortable on all six strings.

Note: This isn’t a process that we can improve upon quickly. Barre chords take time as we have to teach our index finger to deal with an increased amount of pressure and stability.

With that being said, it’s important to take your time when learning barre chords in order to allow your hand to develop some strength and muscle memory.

Pro Tip: This technique for learning barre chords applies to all barre chord shapes. Start small and work your way up.

Next, let’s take a look at the progressions we’ll be learning for these Proud Mary chords.

F MAJOR (Full)

Proud Mary Chords II: Chord Progressions

The intro progression of this song is the most difficult part to nail down, so you’re fairly out of the woods once you’ve wrapped your hands around it.

Here’s what we’re working with for the intro progression:

C major // A major

C major // A major

C major // A major // G major

F major // F major // F6 // F major // D major

D major // D major

You might think that that looks like a fair amount of work, and you wouldn’t be wrong – but there’s an easy way to navigate this section of Proud Mary chords.

Read on to find out how.

proud-mary-chords

We’re going to want to count our way through this first section in order to find out where every one of the chords lands throughout the progression.

We’ve purposefully laid out the Proud Mary chords from this section out on five distinct lines so you can count “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 -” over each of them.

C major // A major

1  –  2   –   3  –  4  –

C major // A major

1  –  2   –   3  –  4  –

C major // A major // G major

1  –  2   –   3        –       4      –

F major // F major // F6 // F major //

1      –      2       –       3   –   4     –

D major // D major —

1  –  2   –   3  –  4  –

See how the counting is laid out? Count over the Proud Mary chords in the intro and you’ll be able to see perfectly just how they line up.

proud-mary-chords

The rest of the song is fairly straightforward once you’ve nailed down the B minor chord.

For the entirety of the verse section, we’ll be rocking on D major.

We switch to A major at “big wheel keep on turnin’” and move to B minor for “proud mary keep on burnin,’” then finally back to D major for “rollin’ on the river.”

Simple as that!

The only other big section that we need to worry about is the solo section, which follows the exact same format as the verse.

proud-mary-chords-lesson

Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble nailing the transitions between these Proud Mary chords, practice them in sets of two.

This will help you learn the ins and outs of each chord with more focus, and will make it easier for you to find the best way to transition in and out of both of them!

Next, let’s talk about the strumming hand.

proud-mary-chords-tutorial

Proud Mary Chords III: The Strumming Pattern & Groove

Rhythm is everything when it comes to playing guitar, and this song gives us a wonderful groove to play with.

The best part of these Proud Mary chords is that you can keep a relaxed strumming hand throughout the whole song.

Listen closely to the guitarist and you’ll hear that he isn’t tightening up in his hand at all – he’s keeping his strumming open and laid back in order to comfortably groove with the drums.

The strumming pattern in this song works best if you count in eight notes (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &).

The real question is: How do we strum in eighth notes?

The answer is a lot simpler than you might think!

proud-mary-guitar

If you’re brand-new to strumming, the Proud Mary chords are a great bet to practice eighth notes with.

Strumming eighth notes in its basic form looks like this:

1   &   2   &   3   &   4   &

D  U   D   U  D   U  D   U

Although we can mix it up with different rhythms and so on, this is the best and most straightforward approach to eighth note strumming and it works perfectly over these Proud Mary chords.

Pro Tip: The big point to focus on in any song is the drummer, as they’re the one who dictates the flow and vibe of the song.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what the guitarist is doing rhythmically, have a listen to the drummer.

You’ll be surprised at how much you learn from listening to the groove by itself.

proud-mary-guitar-lesson

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.

Proud Mary Chords IV: Tips For Quicker Chord Changes

As we mentioned previously, practicing chords in twos can significantly help your ability to transition between them.

There are a few more strategies that are also highly effective at helping us tighten up our chord changes.

The first thing we should always do is check to see if our pair of chords share any notes or positioning with one another. This can provide us an easy avenue to transition between chords.

The best example of this in the Proud Mary chords is D major and A major, as we’ll discover below.

D MAJOR

A MAJOR

These two Proud Mary chords share the note A on the G string at the second fret.

If you’re starting on D and moving to A, you can simply move your index finger down to the D string on the same fret and pull the middle and ring fingers down to stack on the G and B strings, creating an A major chord.

Alternatively, you can bring your index finger down to barre the D, G and B strings at the second fret.

Pro Tip: This strategy works for any pair of chords that either share notes, or are in a similar position on the fretboard.

When we look for similarities between chords, it gives us a clearer perspective on the notes of the fretboard.

How many chords can you see on the fretboard below?

easy-proud-mary-chords

Proud Mary Chords V: Putting The Song Together

Now that we’ve covered the two major chord progressions in this song, it’s time to put the pieces together.

By the way – if you’ve made it this far, we just want to say that you’re doing great.

This song has its share of challenges like any other, so good on you for pushing through them!

Our last step here is to look at the structure of the song so we know what we’re playing when and for how long.

In the section below, we’re going to lay out each section in order.

If you need a refresher on the chord shapes, we’ve got them all laid out for you in the sections below!

C MAJOR

A MAJOR

G MAJOR

Take a look at “Proud Mary” by CCR, section by section below:

Intro/Instrumental

Verse 1

Verse 2

Instrumental

Solo Section

“Rollin, rollin” (strum D major)

Instrumental

Verse 3

“Rollin, rollin” (strum D major to fade out)

As you can see, once you understand how the Proud Mary chords work in their respective progressions it’s quite easy to play along to this awesome tune.

John Fogerty and CCR’s list of stellar rock tunes doesn’t just end with the Proud Mary chords and song – their discography stretches for miles.

Make sure to check out our other CCR favourites:

F MAJOR

F6 

D MAJOR

B MINOR

How To Improve On Your Practicing

Learning new songs requires time and dedication, and creating a practice regimen that works for you is important.

Here are three quick final tips for better guitar practice with these Proud Mary chords and any other song you want to learn:

  • Use a metronome for tighter rhythm – practicing to a metronome means you’ll always be on beat with whoever you’re jamming with. You can find one for free right here.
  • Listen to the song itself to hear and mimic how it’s being played. The original recording will always teach you what you need to know.
  • Look up videos of other people playing the songs you’re trying to learn online. This way, you can get a visual on the chords being played.

Recommended Resources

If you enjoyed this lesson on how to play CCR’s Proud Mary chords, you’ll love the other guitar lessons we’ve got for you below:

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