Three Chord Songs – 10 Essential Songs You Must Know

Want to learn the best three chord songs out there? Then this is the place to be! Grab your guitar and get ready to learn 10 of the best three chord songs around.

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In this free lesson you will learn:

  • 10 easy three chord songs that will make you sound amazing.
  • 7 essential chords which will turbo-charge your guitar playing.
  • 3 top secret tips that will turn you into a better guitarist today.

So you want to learn three chord songs…

One of the best parts about learning the guitar is learning songs. 9 times out of 10 when people pick up the guitar they want to learn great songs.

  • However when most guitarists try to learn their favourite songs they often get stunted by how many chords there are to learn.
  • This almost always stops them from learning and leads to frustration, anger and sometimes leads students to stop playing altogether, this is the last thing we want!

So, to put a stop to this madness, we’ve created a lesson full of three chord songs. These songs are easy to play, fun and will make you a better guitarist.

Let’s dive into learning the best three chord songs around.

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Three Chord Songs – I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas

‘I gotta feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas is one of the easiest three chord songs that you can play on guitar.

  • Not only is it super easy to play, it’s also hugely popular amongst audiences all around the world.
  • The song itself was nominated for song of the year at the Grammys and also won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

Here are a few reasons why it’s perfect for beginners to learn:

  • It only uses three chords throughout the whole song.
  • Each chord is held for the same amount of beats.
  • It’s great for getting to grips with chord changes.

You can listen to the song here:

What are the chords?

The chords for this song are G, C and Em. Here are the chordboxes:

three-chord-songs

Don’t understand this image? Go here: How To Read Guitar Chordboxes

How do I play this song?

Each chord is held for 8 beats. The sequence of chords goes like this:

  • G x8.
  • C x8.
  • Em x8.
  • C x8.

There are a number of different ways to strum this song, if you’re experienced with chords you might like to strum each chord 8 times.

However, if you’re a complete beginner take a listen to this audio clip to hear Jack break down this song:

The chords are too hard! Is there an easier way to play these chords?

Yes! You can substitute each of these chords for ‘stepping-stone’ chords.

  • ‘Stepping-Stone’ chords are easier versions of standard open chords.
  • The stepping-stone versions of G, C and Em are G6, Cmaj7 and Em7.

Here are those chords:

three-chord-songs

For more stepping-stone chords, check out this lesson: 14 Easy Guitar Chords For Beginners

Learn the 12 EASIEST beginner chords with our famous FREE guide

  Stop struggling. Start making music.

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Where should we send it?

Three Chord Songs – Can’t Stop The Feeling – Justin Timberlake

One of the best three chord songs you can learn is ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ by Justin Timberlake.

This song is great to learn because:

  • It uses the chords C, Am and F.
  • These chords are used frequently in the verses and choruses of the songs. This means that we can play over 90% of the song with these three chords.

Here’s the song:

How do I play this three chord song?

The chords in this song are: C. Am and F.

Here’s what those chords look like:

three-chord-songs

The chords go like this:

  • C x4.
  • Am x4.
  • F x4.
  • Am x4.

The hardest chord by far in this song is the F chord. If you struggle with barre chords take a look at this video from Mike:

Are there easier ways to play these chords?

As always, you can replace all of the chords above with easier stepping-stone versions.

Here are those chords:

three-chord-songs

Three Chord Songs – Twist And Shout – The Beatles

The Beatles are easily one of the biggest bands the world has produced and were pioneers in creating three chord songs.

  • Ironically, The Beatles didn’t write ‘Twist And Shout’ that was down to writers Bert Berns and Phil Medley.
  • However, there is an argument to say that it was The Beatles who made the song so popular.

Here’s the song:

How Do I Play This Song?

This song uses the following chords:

  • D.
  • G.
  • A.

three-chord-songs

To play this song, do the following;

  • D x 2.
  • G x 2.
  • A x 4.

This song has a few twists and turns and has some tricky elements to the strumming. In this audio clip Jack explains how to play this song in more detail:

Is there an easier way to play this song?

Yes, for this song you can use the following stepping-stone chords:

  • Dsus2.
  • G6.
  • Asus2.

Here are the chord boxes for those songs:

three-chord-songs

Three Chord Songs – Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd is a country classic. A simple chord progression and some cool country licks makes this one of the best three chord songs around.

Interested in country guitar? Then check out this cool lesson: Country Guitar Lessons: 4 Essential Lessons

Interestingly, this song was written in response to Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’ and ‘Alabama’ hence why Young is referenced in the lyrics:

‘Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her

Well, I heard ol’ Neil put her down

Well, I hope Neil Young will remember

A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow‘

You can listen to the song here:

Here are the chords for this song:

three-chord-songs

Notice how the Cadd9 chord and the G chord share a similar shape. When changing between these chords, all you have to do is:

  • Plant your 3rd and 4th fingers on the 3rd fret of the B and E string (2nd and 1st string).
  • Then move your 1st and 2nd finger from the A and D string (5th and 4th string) to the E and A string (6th and 5th string).

To play this song, make sure that you play the chords in this order:

  • D x2.
  • Cadd9 x2.
  • G x4.

To hear this in context, here’s a clip of Jack playing these chords:

Is there an easier way to play this song?

Yep, instead of D, Cadd9 and G, you can use the following chords:

  • Dsus2.
  • Cmaj7.
  • G6.

Here are those chords:

three-chord-songs

Three Chord Songs – Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

‘Brown Eyed Girl’ by Van Morrison was easily one of the biggest three chord songs of the 60s.

However, despite it being so popular Van Morrison reportedly received no royalties for this song due to a contract which was signed without legal advice.

Listen to the song here:

This is another fantastic song for any beginner to learn, here’s why:

  • The structure is simple and only uses G, C and D chords.
  • It’s a great song to learn if you want to keep audiences on there feet.
  • It sounds fantastic!

Here are the chords for this song:

easy-three-chord-songs

To play this song do the following:

  • G x4.
  • C x4.
  • G x4.
  • D x4.

To hear this in context, here’s a clip of Jack playing these chords:

This progression happens in both the verses and choruses of the song.

If you’re struggling with these chords you can also use the stepping-stone versions, these chords are:

  • G6.
  • Cmaj7.
  • Dsus2.

easy-guitar-songs

Bonus Chord – The Em Chord

When it comes to three chord songs, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ is one of the most popular ones out there.

However, there is a secret ‘4th’ chord. This chord is Em and it appears in the bridge section. Here’s the Em chord:

easy-chord-songs

Here’s how the bridge goes:

  • C x4.
  • D x4.
  • G x4.
  • Em x4.
  • C x 4.
  • D x4.
  • G x4.
  • D x16.

Here’s how that sounds:

Three Chord Songs – Three Little Birds – Bob Marley

Bob Marley is known for writing bright, positive songs which lift your mood.

Although his three chord songs are simple, they’re perfect for beginners who want to play music as quickly as possible!

The chords for this song are:

  • A.
  • D.
  • E.

Here’s what those chords look like:

songs-with-3-chords

To play this song, here’s what each section looks like:

songs-with-3-chords

Here’s the song for context:

Of course, if you find each of these chords difficult, you can also use stepping-stone versions.

Those chords are:

  • Asus2.
  • Dsus2.
  • E7.

Here’s what those chords look like:

songs-with-3-chords

Three Chord Songs – La Bamba – Ritchie Valens

‘La Bamba’ originates from mexican folk music however it was made famous by the great Ritchie Valens.

Of all the three chord songs it’s certainly one of the catchiest which makes it a perfect addition to any guitarists repertoire! Here are the chords for this song:

songs-with-3-chords

As this is one of the easiest three chord songs in this list, you’ll be pleased to know that the chords are exactly the same all the way through.

Here’s how to play each of those chords together:

  • Play C twice.
  • Play F twice.
  • Play G four times.

The strumming pattern for this song is very similar to the one from ‘Twist and Shout’, so if you want to add a little variety to your strumming you can play the exact same pattern from ‘Twist and Shout’ and it’ll work beautifully.

Listen to the song here:

These chords are tough, any easier ones?

These chords can be tricky for some beginners, so if you’re struggling with these chords you can use these ones instead:

  • Cmaj7.
  • Fmaj7.
  • G6.

easy-3-chords-songs

Three Chord Songs – Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol

When it comes to three chord songs, ‘Chasing Cars’ by Snow Patrol is simply one of the best.

Gaining fame as one of the most played songs on british radio, it’s simplicity and catchy melody are what make this song one of the greatest three chord songs around.

Here are the chords:

easy-3-chords-songs

To play this song, all you have to do is this:

  • Play the A chord 16 times.
  • Play the E chord 16 times.
  • Play the D chord 16 times.
  • Play the A chord 16 times.

When changing between these chords make sure that you ‘lead’ with your first finger.

Your first finger is the strongest finger, so the more you can use it, the easier the chord changes will be!

Alternatively, you can also use these stepping-stone versions:

3-chorded-songs

Here’s the track:

Although there are some fantastic songs here, there are more loads songs out there to learn.

If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out this epic list from Rolling Stone magazine:

500 Greatest Songs of All Time

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.

Where should we send it?

Three Chord Songs – Happier – Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is one of the world’s best selling artists. Sheeran has sold over 150 million records and most of his singles have been three chord songs!

Surely, that’s proof that you don’t need to know loads of chords to be a hit singer-songwriter.

‘Happier’ was the 5th and final single off his ‘Divide’ album and is perfect for beginners because:

  • The structure is really simple.
  • It only uses Am, F and C.
  • It’s the perfect song to chill out too if you’re having a bad day!

You can watch Ed Sheeran play this song live here:

Here are the chords:

easy-guitar-songs-with-3-chords

To play this song, play the chords in this order:

  • Am x2.
  • F x2.
  • C x2.

As always, this song has some tricky moments in, especially that pesky F chord.

If you want to make this song easier, you can swap out any of the chords with the stepping-stone versions.

Those chords are Am7, Fmaj7 and Cmaj7 and you can see those chords here:

3-guitar-chords

Three Chord Songs – Sunday Morning – Maroon 5

Over the past 20 years Maroon 5 have released hit after hit.

  • From the album ‘Songs About Jane’ to ‘V’, Maroon 5 have developed a unique sound which combines guitars and electronic synth sounds.
  • One of their best three chord songs is ‘Sunday Morning’. It’s perfect to play if you want to kick back and relax with your acoustic guitar.

The chords are:

  • Dm.
  • G.
  • C.

Here’s what those chords look like:

3-guitar-chords

To play this song do the following:

  • Play Dm.
  • Then G.
  • Then C.

As this song is fairly chilled the best way to play this song is to play the chord once and hold it for four beats. That means that each chord would go like this:

1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4 |

Dm      | G          | C         | C          |

Notice how we hold the C chord for twice as long. If you find these chords tricky, you can try these alternative stepping-stone chords:

To play these chords along with the song, all you have to do is play the same strumming pattern from before. To play along with the song, play these easier chords in this order:

  • Dsus2.
  • G6.
  • Cmaj7.

If you want to download all of the chords we’ve discussed in today’s lesson, download the PDF here:

Three Chord Songs

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How do I perfect these three chord songs?

Learning songs is hard, there’s no hiding that.

However, to help you out, here are 5 essential tips that will make your guitar life easier.

Tip #1 – Learn Each Chord First

Even though it may sound obvious, learning each chord first before you play along with the song is the best way to learn music.

If you have a solid foundation of the chords, learning the song will become much easier.

Tip #2 – When Changing Chords Lead With Your First Finger

Changing between chords is hard, it can be really tough to remember where your fingers need to go.

However, the best way to change chords is to lead with your first finger. Your first finger is the strongest out of all your fingers and works as an ‘anchor’ for the rest of the chords to hang on to.

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Tip #3 – Squeeze Your Hand Between Each Chord Change

When practicing chords, squeeze your hand after each chord change. This engages your muscle memory and allows you to remember the change at a faster pace.

However, when you do this, make sure that each chord is correct. If you don’t do this, you’ll be teaching your hands to remember the chord incorrectly!

INSERT GENERIC GUITAR IMAGE HERE

Tip #4 – Learn The Song In Sections

Often, it can be overwhelming to learn the whole song in one go. However, a great way to learn a song is to break it into smaller chunks.

You may want to learn a song in this order:

  • Intro chords.
  • Intro chord changes.
  • Intro strumming pattern.
  • Verse chords.
  • Verse chord changes.
  • Verse strumming pattern.
  • Chorus chords.
  • Chorus chord changes.
  • Chorus strumming pattern.
  • Bridge chords.
  • Bridge chord changes.
  • Bridge strumming pattern.
  • Play the whole song!

Notice how we’ve built up each section gradually, by doing this you’re giving yourself little victories. This allows you to divide the song up into more manageable chunks.

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Tip #5 – Practice To A Track

When learning songs, it’s so important that you play to the track. Playing to the track is not only fun but also gives you an indicator of how well you’re doing.

For example, you may find your strumming is fine but your chord changes aren’t. Therefore, it makes sense to go away and practice your chords a little more before attempting again.

What next?

If you’ve enjoyed this lesson, you may like some of these other lessons:

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