You might be surprised to hear this, but great music doesn’t have to feature lots of long, winding, elaborate chord progressions. Some of the best songs in popular music feature 3 chords or less and this is because simple musical ideas usually prove to be the most effective. Musical genres like blues and rock and roll feature tens of thousands of incredible 3 chord songs because the music written in these genres was meant to be simple, catchy, and made for anyone to listen to. If you’re new to instruments like the guitar or piano, you can learn how to play great pop songs in no time. In this article we’ll show you how to play some of popular music’s best 3 chord songs. We’ll provide the chord charts for guitar, but feel free to adapt these songs to any other instrument you choose.

 

 

“Ring of Fire” By Johnny Cash

 

 

Written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore in 1963, this song was actually first recorded by June Carter’s sister, Anita Carter for Mercury Records. After Johnny Cash recorded it in 1963, it became the biggest hit of his career. Carter was inspired by her relationship with Johnny Cash to write a song about what it feels like to be madly in love. The “Ring of Fire” symbolizes what it feels like to be in the throes of passion, not pain and suffering.

 

The main difference between Johnny Cash and Anita Carter’s version of this song is the addition of a horn section. It was Cash’s idea to add a “Mexican” trumpet accompaniment to the song, and “Ring of Fire” wouldn’t be the same without it. This is one of the great 3 chord songs to learn if you’re trying to master simple chord transitions on the piano or guitar:

 

 

3 chord songs Ring of Fire

 

 

 

[Intro]

G    C  G  G  D G

[Verse]

G         C       G
Love Is A Burning Thing
D     G
And It Makes A Fiery Ring
C    G
Bound By Wild Desire
D       G
I Fell Into A Ring Of Fire

[Chorus]

D             C               G
I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
D
I Went Down, Down, Down
C           G
And The Flames Went Higher

And It Burns, Burns, Burns
C       G
The Ring Of Fire
C      G
The Ring Of Fire

G    C  G  G  D G
G    C  G  G  D G

[Chorus]

D             C               G
I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
D
I Went Down, Down, Down
C           G
And The Flames Went Higher

And It Burns, Burns, Burns
C       G
The Ring Of Fire
C       G
The Ring Of Fire

[Verse]

C       G
The Taste Of Love Is Sweet
D    G
When Hearts Like Ours Meet
C      G
I Fell For You Like A Child
D         G
Ohh, But The Fire Went Wild

[Chorus]

D             C               G
I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
D
I Went Down, Down, Down
C           G
And The Flames Went Higher

And It Burns, Burns, Burns
C       G
The Ring Of Fire
C       G
The Ring Of Fire

[Chorus]

D             C               G
I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
D
I Went Down, Down, Down
C           G
And The Flames Went Higher

And It Burns, Burns, Burns
C       G
The Ring Of Fire
C       G
The Ring Of Fire

And It Burns, Burns, Burns
C       G
The Ring Of Fire
C       G
The Ring Of Fire

 

“Wild Thing” By The Troggs

 

 

Though this song was written by Chip Taylor and originally recorded by the American rock band The Wild Ones in 1965, the version of this song that we all know and love is a cover recorded by The Troggs in 1966. “Wild Thing” is pure, unadulterated rock and roll at its best. As performed by The Troggs, the song went on to hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 and is still widely recognized and loved today, 61 years later.

 

If you’re looking for a catchy rock song to help teach you simple chord transitions, look no further. It’s a good idea to take this one really slow before attempting to play at the speed of the song. As always, we recommend playing to the click of a metronome, not just for 3 chord songs but for all music.

 

Wild Thing Chords for Guitar

 

A        D E  D           A         D E
Wild thing.. .you make my heart sing…
D        A    D
You make everything
E     D
Groovy
A         D E
I said wild thing…

A
Wild thing, I think I love you

But I wanna know for sure
Come on, hold me tight

I love you

A D E D 2x

A        D E  D           A         D E
Wild thing.. .you make my heart sing…
D        A    D
You make everything
E     D
Groovy
A         D E
I said wild thing…

A

Wild thing, I think you move me

But I wanna know for sure

So come on, hold me tight

You move me

A D E D 2x

E

A        D E  D           A         D E
Wild thing.. .you make my heart sing…
D        A    D
You make everything
E     D
Groovy
A         D E
I said wild thing…
A        D E
C’mon, c’mon, Wild Thing
A         D E
Shake it, shake it, Wild Thing… 2x

 

 

“505” By The Arctic Monkeys

 

 

British band Arctic Monkeys set the tone for the uniquely danceable indie-rock music that swept up the world of music in the mid 2000’s. Bands like Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, and Arctic Monkeys helped define what new rock music sounded like at the turn of the century, and their influence is still relevant and easily heard over a decade later. Singer Alex Turner reportedly wrote this song about traveling to see his girlfriend at a hotel. He describes it as, “The first proper love song we’ve (The Arctic Monkeys) done.”

 

Great songs like this prove that you don’t need lots of chords to make a song interesting and engaging. Breaking a bit from the theme of 3 chord songs, this song only has 2 chords: Dm and Em.

 

505 Arctic Monkey chords

 

 

Dm                   Em
I’m going back to 505 If it’s a 7 hour flight
Dm                 Em                             Dm
Or a 45 minute drive In my imagination you’re waiting lying on your side
Em                       Dm Em
With your hands between your thighs

[Intro]

Dm Em

(One strum for each chord)

[Verse 1]

Dm                           Em
Stop and wait a sec when you look at me like that
Dm                       Em
My darling what did you expect? I probably still adore you
Dm                         Em
With your hands around my neck Or I did last time I checked

[Instrumental]

Dm Em

[Verse 2]

Dm                      Em                                       Dm
I’m not shy of a spark The knife twists at the thought that I should fall short of the mark
Em                              Dm
Frightened by the bite no it’s no harsher than the bark
Em                          Dm                      Em
A middle of adventure, such a perfect place to start

[Verse 3]

Dm                   Em
I’m going back to 505 If it’s a 7 hour flight
Dm                 Em                             Dm
Or a 45 minute drive In my imagination you’re waiting lying on your side
Em                       Dm Em
With your hands between your thighs

[Verse 4]

Dm*  (Faster strumming here)
But I crumble completely when you cry
Em*                                 Dm*
It seems like once again you’ve had to greet me with goodbye
Em*                        Dm*
I’m always just about to go and spoil the surprise
Em*                           Dm*   Em*
Take my hands off of your eyes too soon

[Verse 5]

Dm*                  Em*
I’m going back to 505 If it’s a 7 hour flight
Dm*                Em*                            Dm*
Or a 45 minute drive In my imagination you’re waiting lying on your side
Em*                             Dm*     Em*
With your hands between your thighs And a smile

 

 

“Mr. Tambourine Man” By Bob Dylan

 

 

 

Originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan in 1965, this song has been covered by too many artists to name. Dylan’s inspirations for writing the song are diverse, and in interviews he’s named French poet Arthur Rimbaud and Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini specifically. He wrote the song after returning home to New York City after a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

 

With influences so lofty and intellectual you might assume that this song is complex and difficult to play, but you’d be wrong. This is a terrific straightforward song that is suited for musicians at every level.

 

guitar chords for Mr Tambourine Man

 

 

G        A               D               G
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
D                G               A
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to.
G        A               D               G
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
D             G                 A         D
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you.

[Verse]

G                           A          D             G
Though I know that evenings empire has returned into sand,
D                G
Vanished from my hand,
D               G                   A
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.
G          A             D             G
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet,
D              G
I have no one to meet
D             G                     A
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming.

[Chorus]

G        A               D               G
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
D                G               A
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to.
G        A               D               G
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
D             G                 A         D
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you.

 

(Repeat the remaining verses and Choruses using the same chord progressions)

 

 

“Judy Is a Punk” by The Ramones

 

 

The Ramones are responsible for creating some of the catchiest punk music of all time. Written in 1975, this song manages to sound incredibly full and exciting for being just 1 minute and 32 seconds long. Joey Ramone was inspired to write the song by an apartment building in his neighborhood where many local punks hung out. Though the song sounds lighthearted and playful, its lyrics actually tell the story of two juvenile offenders in Berlin and San Francisco and the possibility of them being punished by death for their crimes.

 

The chords used in this song are colloquially referred to as “power chords.” A power chord is a chord that only uses the root and 5th notes, thereby leaving out the distinguishing third note and making it sound tonally ambiguous. In other words, power chords are neither major nor minor. They’re often used in 3 chord songs in the punk and rock genres.

 

Guitar tabs for Judy is a Punk

 

 

[Verse 1]
Eb5
Jackie is a punk, Judy is a runt
Bb5
They both went down to Berlin, joined the Ice Capades
Eb5              Bb5
And Oh I don’t know why
Ab5              Bb5
Oh I don’t know Why
Eb5
Perhaps they’ll die
Bb5                   Eb5
Oh yeah, perhaps they’ll die
Bb5                   Eb5
Oh yeah, perhaps they’ll die
Bb5                   Eb5
Oh yeah, perhaps they’ll die
Bb5
Oh yeah, second verse, same as the first

 

 

(Do as the lyrics say here and play the rest of the song with same chord progressions)

 

 

“Bloodbuzz Ohio” By The National

 

 

Even sophisticated indie-pop darlings write simple 3 chord songs sometimes. The National’s unique approach to orchestral indie-pop songwriting has earned them an international audience as well as emphatic widespread acclaim. Their single “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is characterized by singer Matt Berninger’s unique baritone vocal style. The song’s lyrics hint at trouble brought on by the recession and housing crisis, “I still owe money, to the money, to the money I owe.”

 

A lot happens throughout the course of this amazing song, but the chord structure is surprisingly simple.

 

 

3 chord songs Bloodbuzz Ohio

 

 

[Verse]

A
Stand up straight at the foot of your love I’ll
F#m
lift my shirt up
A
Stand up straight at the foot of your love I’ll
F#m
lift my shirt up

A                                   F#m
I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees
A                                       F#m
I never married but Ohio don’t remember me

A
Lay my head on the hood of your car I
F#m
take it too far
A
Lay my head on the hood of your car I
F#m
take it too far

[Pre-Chorus]

D
I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
A
I never thought about love when I thought about home
D
I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
A
The floors are falling out from everybody I know

[Chorus]

D
I’m on a bloodbuzz yes I am
A
I’m on a bloodbuzz
D
I’m on a bloodbuzz god I am
A
I’m on a bloodbuzz

A F#m

[Verse]

A                                   F#m
I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees
A                                       F#m
I never married but Ohio don’t remember me

[Pre-Chorus]

D
I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
A
I never thought about love when I thought about home
D
I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
A
The floors are falling out from everybody I know

[Chorus]

D
I’m on a bloodbuzz yes I am
A
I’m on a bloodbuzz
D
I’m on a bloodbuzz god I am
A
I’m on a bloodbuzz

[Outro]

A F#m x3
A

 

There’s lots of other great 3 chord songs out there, but these ones should keep you busy for a while if you’re new to your instrument and looking for something easy and fun to learn.

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