Three Chord Guitar
The Three Chord Trick - What do you do when you only know three chords on guitar?
It is easy to play songs with three chords, and so many songs can be played with the three chord trick! The best music is often the simplest. This page on three chord songs came into being when a friend asked me to recommend some 1960s songs that use only G C and D - the Three Chord Trick in G . My first response was "Wouldn't A D E work a lot better?" My friend said something about transposing and using a capo, so I looked at some of my resources and decided to put this "busking" page together! Three chord guitar is not something I practise personally - I am like Guitar George in the Dire Straits song. I adore harmony, I may not know every chord, but I could certainly list and play you thousands BUT not everyone wants to commit to much rhythm work and G C D is a great starting point for beginners. (Especially if you can bring yourself to throw in an Em and make it a four chord instead of a three chord trick)
So, here we go with some three chord guitar - in G, A and E - have fun!
Three Chord Trick in G - Guitar Chords G C D and a 12 Bar Blues in G
This graphic shows you the chords of G C and D and a 12 Bar Blues in G, which with slight modifications will do for a LOT of 1950s and 1960s rock and roll including some early Beatles! Clicking on the image will take you to my guitar website where you can see more chords and free guitar lessons.
Rock and Roll using the Three Chord Trick
Three Chord Songs you can try with 12 Bar in G
Here is a three chord song task for you! Did you know all of these great rock and roll songs from the 1950s and the 1960s can be played with a 12 Bar Blues with G C D (or A D E or even E A B7) allowing for a little tweaking and simplification? Add a capo to the mix and the sky is the limit!
Can you play by ear? The busker's best weapon is the ear! All guitar players should at least try this; listen to the songs until you really know them and you should be able to work out the order of chords yourself with a little practice. If you can't, don't worry you can use TAB sites.
(Image of Chuck Berry from Wikipedia, modified under Creative Commons license)
Elvis Presley - Blue Suede Shoes
Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode
Chuck Berry - Route 66
Twist and Shout
Buddy Holly - Oh Boy!
The Beatles - Love Me Do
The Beatles - I Saw Her Standing There
Roy Orbison - Oh, Pretty Woman
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Buddy Holly - Not Fade Away
Buddy Holly - Rave On - Guitar Guru File
Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue - Guitar Guru File
Buddy Holly - That'll Be the Day - Guitar Guru File
Many music books have a fine selection of early Rock n Roll songs for piano vocal and chords if you want to take it that step further:
Three Chord Guitar - Books for Three Chord Guitar
Three Chord Guitar in A - A D E chords and a 12 Bar Blues in A
If you know A D and E chords that is a great start for playing rock and roll music. With all the open string basses, this is the ideal key for simple bass/chord work and basic lead guitar riffs! A really famous example of a three chord song using these is Born to Be Wild
Beginner Guitar Packages - Need a beginner guitar package?
Here are some great packages for beginners!
Guitar For Dummies
The popular Guitar For Dummies package has everything a beginner is likely to need to start playing guitar.
Three Chord Guitar in E - E A B7 and 12 Bar Blues in E
In the key of E it is much easier to use B7 because B is a barre chord! Strictly speaking, sevenths are really common in the rock and roll version of a 12 bar blues anyway! Playing in this really guitaristic key opens up LOTS of possibilities with riffing and soloing!
About the author
Guitar books from Photahsiamirabel
Photahsiamirabel is an experienced guitar teacher, professional guitarist and online publisher and has written several guitar books for fingerstyle guitar. here is a small selection of those books.
My First Very Easy Christmas Carol Book [Spiral-Bound]
Carols for beginners to play. Single note melodies with chord letters. Very easy large font notes with notename noteheads.
Traditional Christmas Carols For Guitar Solo [Paperback]
Easy and intermediate arrangements of well loved Christmas carols for fingerstyle guitar. Includes TAB as well as music.
Traditional Christmas Carols for Guitar Ensemble [Paperback]
Arrangements of well loved Carols for flexible sized guitar ensembles, these are full scores, not separate parts.
Or perhaps, like me, you are a bit of a guitar George! Please leave your comments here!