You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords – The Ultimate Guide

Ready to learn the guitar chords to You Are My Sunshine? We’ll teach you how to play this song that was written over 80 years ago in today’s lesson.

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • How to play “You Are My Sunshine” by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell
  • How to play the A, E and D chords
  • How to perfect your chord transitions
  • Pro tips for better practice
  • Why singing & playing guitar is great for your musicality

Let’s Learn The You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords

If you’re in the market for some pseudo-traditional tunes to learn, you’re in the right place.

“You Are My Sunshine” is a classic tune that has been heard in almost every English-speaking family home, and for good reason.

This is an exceptionally well-written song that uses only three chords, and is ideal for learning how to sing and play guitar at the same time.

In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords as well as the strumming pattern and structure of the song itself.

You-are-my-sunshine-guitar-chords

This song offers a lot of teachable moments for beginner guitarists.

On top of only using three chords, the strumming pattern is extremely steady. This means that we can strum along easily and get used to the feeling of singing along to a chord progression.

Although it’s not something that everyone wants to try, we highly recommend that everyone does.

Singing and playing guitar at the same time teaches us a huge amount of coordination that extends far beyond just music (ever tried rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time? It’s kind of like that.)

Before we get into how to play the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords, let’s look quickly at the history of this song.

You-are-my-sunshine-guitar-chords

A Brief History On This Traditional Song

The You Are My Sunshine guitar chords were originally recorded by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell in 1939 – over 80 years ago now!

This song has been recorded so many times by so many different artists that it has virtually lost its roots in country music where it once began.

Seriously though, everyone from Bing Crosby to The Civil Wars has taken a turn at the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords at some point.

This song has also been used as a nursery rhyme for young English-speaking children for years since its first recording.

You-are-my-sunshine-guitar-chords

Here’s the thing about the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords and lyrics: Even though this song has made its way into the catalog of songs that you can sing to your child, the lyrics are actually about a breakup (which we find a little twisted, honestly.)

As we’ll see below, the lyrics are based around a lover singing about how they will never recover from their former lover leaving them for someone else.

Weird, right?

Regardless, with only three chords this song does a great job of teaching us how to coordinate chords and sing over them – and if you stick to just the first chorus when singing it to your little one, you should be fine.

Now, let’s take a look at the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords.

You-are-my-sunshine-guitar-chords

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Which Guitar Chords Are We Using For You Are My Sunshine?

This song uses only three chords, meaning it’s especially easy to navigate even for the most beginner of guitarists.

Our favourite part of the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords is that you don’t need any knowledge of barre chords. Check out the three chords in this tune below:

A Major

D Major

E Major

We recommend you take some time at the beginning of this lesson to familiarize yourself with these chords, so take a look at the A major and D major chords below:

A MAJOR

(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!)

D MAJOR

The A major chord is best played by stacking your index, middle and ring fingers on top of each other at the second fret of the D, G and B strings.

Make a point to leave the A and high E strings open to ring out.

Strum from the A string and leave the low E string out.

The D major chord requires you to strum from the open D string and place your index at the second fret of the G string. Add your ring finger at the third fret of the B string, and your middle finger at the second fret of the high E string.

With two of the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords out of the way, let’s take a look at E major below:

E MAJOR

The E major chord is a bit different amongst the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords because it requires all six strings to play it properly in the open position.

Start by strumming from the open E string, and add your middle finger to the second fret of the A string. From there, add your ring finger to the second fret of the D string and your index finger to the first fret of the G string.

Leave the B and high E strings open and strum all six strings!

Pro Tip: Take some time to practice transitioning from one chord to the next before you look at the chord progression. This will make it easier for you to play along.

You-are-my-sunshine-guitar-lesson

You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords I: The Progressions

The best part about this song is that it’s so simple to play.

We’ve already learned the three chords of the song, so let’s learn the order to put them in.

There’s really only one chord pattern to learn here, and it looks like this:

A Major // D Major // A Major // D Major // A Major // E Major // A Major

Watch out, however – not all of these chords use the same amount of beats.

Let’s break down the beat pattern for the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords below.

A MAJOR

D MAJOR

 

E MAJOR

This is where this song gets momentarily tricky – we have to count the beats for each chord in order to make sure that we’re playing them for the correct duration of time.

Let’s take a look at the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords again, this time with their beat count listed beneath them:

A Major // D Major // A Major // D Major // A Major // E Major // A Major

8 beats  // 4 beats // 4 Beats // 4 Beats // 4 Beats  // 2 Beats // 2 Beats

Pro Tip: It’s important to count out loud as we learn to play the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords, in order to hear how the chords fit against one another.

Don’t be afraid to shout those beats out loud, and count a very straight “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – “ throughout.

You-are-my-sunshine-guitar-tutorial

You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords II: The Strumming Pattern

The strumming pattern in this song is not too much to worry about, but it does help set us up for many other similar tunes in the future.

Let’s take a close look at how to strum the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords. For every count of four beats, we’ll perform a pattern that looks like this:

1     2     3     4

D    D U D    D U

Not so difficult, right?

The key is to time the upstrokes between the numbered beats in order to keep the momentum of the chords moving.

You-are-my-sunshine-on-guitar

Although this is the most optimal way to strum through the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords, there are a multitude of other ways to strum them also!

Try this alternate strumming pattern that involves the same amount of strums as the original:

1      2      3      4

D     D     D  U D U

This pattern helps push the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords a bit harder on beats 3 & 4, whereas the first pattern provides a bit of a bounce in the middle with how it modulates between downstrokes and combinations of down and upstrokes.

Now that we’ve gotten a feel for the chords and how to strum through them, you know what time it is. Let’s put everything together!

Chords-fo- You-are-my-sunshine

You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords III: Putting The Song Together

With all of the fundamental pieces in place, it’s time to run through this song in full.

Thankfully, there are only two real sections you need to remember (especially if you’re going to sing this to your child at bedtime) – the verse and the chorus.

We’ve assembled the lyrics of both sections for you below, as well as the second verse. Check them out alongside the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords below:

First Verse:

A

The other night dear as I lay sleeping,

 

                     D                        A

I dreamed I held you in my arms,

 

              D                           A

When I awoke dear I was mistaken

 

         E                                   A

So I bowed my head and I cried,

You-are-my-sunshine-guitar

Chorus:

A

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,

 

                        D                                    A

You make me happy when skies are gray,

 

                       D                                     A

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you,

 

                                       E              A

Please don’t take my sunshine away,

Second Verse:

A

I always loved you and made you happy,

 

                      D                               A

and nothing else could come between,

 

                            D                       A

but now you’ve left me to love another,

 

                  E                           A

you have shattered all my dreams.

Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble placing the chords in their correct spots alongside the right lyrics, briefly ditch the strumming pattern and play solely with downstrokes!

This will help you work out the correct placement without having to worry so much about rhythm.

free-guitar-lessons

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.

You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords IV: Smooth Chord Transitions

Once you’ve worked out the ins and outs of this tune, it’s time to work on tightening the screws!

Remember, it’s one thing to play a series of chords, and another to play them fluidly. We always want to learn to play chord progressions seamlessly, so they’ll always sound their absolute best.

Fortunately, the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords are an easy enough trio to get through.

Try This: Practice chords in pairs. Rotating back and forth between two chords will give you the chance to work out the weak spots in your transitions. This way when it comes time to play a song in full, you never have to worry about a sloppy transition.

national-guitar-academy

Practicing chords in pairs is a much quicker way toward mastering not only the chords themselves and their structure, but also the movement between them.

When we understand the easiest ways to move between chords, we begin to gain a better understanding of their sounds and their notes, as well as the fretboard itself.

Chord movement is one of the most important principles in music, so learn it well and learn it early.

There is one more principle that we’d like to impart upon you before you go today, and it’s one that we feel will help get you out of your musical shell in a big way.

How Singing & Playing Can Drastically Improve Your Musicality

Several of you may have just sighed, but that’s okay – we’re going to change your mind on this before the end of this lesson.

We preach this often, but it bears repeating – singing along to the chords you play is important, especially with the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords.

This does a number of things for your ears and playing:

  1. Helps to sharpen your ability to hear chords and associate them with other notes
  2. Helps to improve your coordination for strumming/playing
  3. Serves as a built-in ear training lesson

Singing along to any song works well, but it’s a more effective process for ear training when you sing along to simple tunes like this one.

The beauty of simple songs is that they can teach us a lot about melodies and how to hear them.

Melody can only truly be learned by listening. The more we listen to music and pick out the melodies in a song, the more we can learn.

Remember, music is just as much about playing as it is about listening, and there’s nothing wrong with listening to a song ten or more times before attempting to play it.

The more familiar you are with a song before you pick up your guitar, the easier it will be to play it – this is one principle of practice that works 100% of the time, so use it to master the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords.

A Few More Practice Tips

If you’re looking to master the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords, you’re going to want to put some time in on figuring out the best finger placements as well as how to get them sounding great.

If you want to tighten the sound of your chords, try using arpeggios to find the strings that you might be muting unnecessarily. Click here for a complete guide to playing arpeggios.

If you want a great alternate version to check out for this song, listen to this version by The Civil Wars. It’s a beautiful, slow and compassionate rendition that we’re especially fond of.

Remember, practice will always make perfect!

Recommended Resources

If you liked this lesson on how to play the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords, you’ll love these other lessons we have for you below:

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