September 8, 2022 by Klaus Crow
Learning to play guitar can seem a bit challenging, but did you know you can play millions of songs with just four easy guitar chords? Yes you can, absolutely!
With 4 simple guitar chords you can play songs from any genre like pop, rock, campfire or 60’s songs. Choose your pick.
4 Chords for Most Songs
The 4 chords, 4 chord progression and 4 chord songs are related to the 80/20 principle. It means that 20% of causes / input (20% of all chords and progressions) leads to 80% of results / output (80% of the songs). The 80/20 principle, als called the Pareto principle, can be applied to all things in life, and for guitar playing we can see it in learning 4 chord songs.
There are a few basic chords that you need to learn. With those basic chords you can build the most common 4-chord-progressions to play almost any song you want.
4 Chord Progressions
You can build a 4 chord progression from the notes of the major scale or natural minor scale. In music we use roman numerals to indicate the order of chords in a chord progression. Let’s take the chords built of the C Major scale for example – The key of C:
I = C Major
ii = D minor
iii = E minor
IV = F Major
V = G Major
vi = A minor
vii = Bdim.
Now one of the most common 4 chord progression is I – V – vi – IV ( 1 – 5 – 6 – 4 ) If we follow the numeral numbers in the key of C we end up with the chord progression: C – G – Am – F. You can follow this chord progression throughout the whole song.
If you check out the songs in the list below you can already see plenty of songs with this chord progression, but if you take the chord progression I – V – vi – IV and run it through the key of G you get: G – D – Em – C. So in a different key you get a different set of chords but it contains the same chord structure. You can play the same song in different keys if you like.
If you look at the progression in the list below you also see different chord progression in the same key. There are lots of them just in a different order. Ed Sheeran’s song “Perfect” follows the chord progression: I – vi – iv – V ( G – Em – C – D ). If we translate that chord progression I – vi – iv – V to the key of C you get: C – Am – F – G. You can do this with any key.
Below the song-chart you can see examples of the I – vi – iv – V chord progression in major keys and i – VI – III – VII in minor keys. There are 12 keys in total but to make life easier for you I’ve just formulated the most easy key progressions.
4 Chord Songs
Now you know the music theory behind the progressions it’s time to play some easy 4 chord songs. Click on the song titles to see the video guitar lessons, click on “Chords” for the lyrics & chords to the song, and in the last row under “propr.” you can see the 4 chord progression for the entire song. If you want a strumming pattern to go with song check out Basic Strumming Patterns for Guitar
Enjoy the songs!
4 Chord Pop Songs
We start off with some 4 chord pop songs from 2000 to 2021. As you can see the best pop songs all use the same chord progression. Pop is also the style of music that makes the most use of the famous 4 chord progression. The ear likes that sequence of chords. It just sound really good.
|1 Shivers||Ed Sheeran||Chords||Am-F-C-G|
|2 Blinding lights||The Weekend||Chords||Dm-Am-C-G|
|4 Hey Soul Sister||Train||Chords||C-G-Am-F|
|5 Wherever you will go||The Calling||Chords||C-G-Am-F|
|6 Perfect||Ed Sheeran||Chords||G-Em-C-D|
|7 Apologize||One Republic||Chords||Am-F-C-G|
|8 Complicated||Avril Lavigne||Chords||D-Bm-G-A|
|9 Sugar||Maroon 5||Chords||F-Am-Dm-C|
|10 Blank Space||Taylor Swift||Chords||C-Am-F-G|
Featured 4 Chord Song: Shivers – Ed Sheeran
4 Chord Rock Songs
There are plenty of pop, alternative and classic rock songs that also use the 4 chord progression, although bands like Linking park, Greenday and Offspring often use power chords instead of open or bar chords.
|12 When I come around||Greenday||Chords||G-D-Em-C|
|13 It’s my Life||Bon Jovi||Chords||Am-F-C-G|
|14 So Lonely||The Police||Chords||C-G-Am-F|
|15 Save tonight||Eagle Eye Cherry||Chords||Am-C-F-G|
|16 Beast of burden||Rolling Stones||Chords||G-D-Em-C|
|17 Numb||Linking Park||Chords||Em-C-G-D|
|18 Don’t stop believing||Journey||Chords||C-G-Am-F|
|19 Self Esteem||Offspring||Chords||Em-F-C-G|
|20 Behind these hazel eyes||Kelly Clarkson||Chords||Em-C-G-D|
4 Chord Campfire Songs
4 chord “G-Em-C-D” progressions are perfect for Campfire songs. You want perform a song that you can easily play and sing along without having to think about all the different chord transitions throughout the song. Simplicity is key here. If you want to you can even string all the songs together and play it as a whole. It’s going to be a great night at the campfire!
|21 Take me home, country roads||John Denver||Chords||G-Em-C-D|
|22 Stand by me||Ben E King||Chords||G-Em-C-D|
|23 No Woman No Cry||Bob Marley||Chords||C-G-Am-F|
|24 I’m Yours||Jason Mraz||Chords||G-D-Em-C|
|25 This is the life||Amy MacDonald||Chords||Am-F-C-G|
|26 Hey Soul Sister||Train||Chords||C-G-Am-F|
|27 All of me||John Legend||Chords||Em-C-G-D|
|28 Wonderful world||Sam Cook||Chords||G-Em-C-D|
|29 Viva La Vida||Coldplay||Chords||C-D-G-Em|
|30 Have you ever seen the rain||CCR||Chords||F-G-C-Am|
Featured 4 chord songs: Stand by me – Ben E King
4 Chord Beatles Songs
In the chart below you can find some Beatles songs using only four chords. While not all the songs use one and the same chord progression throughout the whole song it does only take four chords to play the songs. Have fun!
|31 Let it be||The Beatles||Chords||C-G-Am-F|
|32 Twist and shout||The Beatles||Chords||D-G-A-A7|
|33 Act Naturally||The Beatles||Chords||G-C-D-A7|
|34 Come together||The Beatles||Chords||Dm-A-G-Bm|
|35 Don’t let me down||The Beatles||Chords||Em-D-A-A7|
4 Chord Song Keys
Let’s take a look at the most common and easy 4 chord progressions in different keys. We’ve got songs starting in the key C, G, D, A and E using the I – vi – iv – V chord progression and songs starting on Am, Dm and Em using the i – VI – III – VII chord progression.
|C||I – vi – iv – V||C-Am-F-G|
|G||I – vi – iv – V||G-Em-C-D|
|D||I – vi – iv – V||D-Bm-G-A|
|A||I – vi – iv – V||A-F#m-D-E|
|E||I – vi – iv – V||E-C#m-A-B|
|Am||i – VI – III – VII||Am-F-C-G|
|Dm||i – VI – III – VII||Dm-Bb-F-C|
|Em||i – VI – III – VII||Em-C-G-D|
This is a great way to organize this information. I’m an advanced guitar player and singer who only later realized how many songs can be boiled down to 4 chords. Now that I teach others, I think more guitar students should spend more time with a simple list like this, learning how much mileage you can get out of simple chord relationships. Nice work!
Klaus Crow says
Indeed the 4 chord songs are great way to get started and motivated as a beginner.
Even for the intermediate and advanced guitar player these songs work wonders for performance,
special occasions, playing for fun and to teach students.
I keep being amazed that new hit songs still keep on using the most common 4 chord progression. It just works wonders.
Thanks for the feedback!
Clark Andrews says
Hey! Thanks for sharing this. I am learning to play guitar and it is new for me to know these things. I love beatles and it is amazing to know the chords used in their songs. I have gotten myself a custom made guitar from Rock Guitars and I am all ready to practice these!
Klaus Crow says
These 4 chord Beatles songs are perfect if you’re looking for an easy Beatles tune to play.
Ready to roll on your own custom made guitar ;)
Ngoc Hien says
May I have some clear explanation from yours!
With the chords: D minor – A minor – C major & G major (created by The Weeknd – Blinding Lights), i found that it is followed the chord progressions: 1 – 5 – 7 – 4 (I – V- VII – IV) instead of 1 6 – 3 – 7 (I – VI – III – VII) as the principle you have explained.
Please tell the difference between them!