When you are at the beginning of your guitar learning journey, one of the best ways to practice is by learning songs you like and playing them until they sound perfect. This approach is fun and allows you to perform in front of your friends as soon as possible. You just need to know a bunch of chords and some simple strumming patterns.
In an another tutorial I listed 10 songs that you can play with just the C and G major chords. The next chord to learn is F major. Why? Because F major is the fourth chord in the Key of C and one of the most common chord progressions is I-IV-V, or C-F-G. There are thousands of songs that use these simple three chords.
F major barred 133211 is not always easy for a beginner so we can always play F major like this XX3211 if necessary. The I-IV-V progression is known as the “Rock N Roll progression” so many of the examples below will fit into the rock and pop rock genre.
When dealing with two chord songs we are actually a little limited, especially when using only C and G, however by adding F major in a whole world of new music is opened up to us. One thing not mentioned in the last article was transposition. If we have a song in the Key of D using the chords D major and A major, it is easy to transpose that song to the Key of C were the chords will be C major and G major.
Since we are sticking to the Key of C some of the songs below may be slightly transposed, it all depends if it was possible. Sometimes a song just doesn’t sound right when transposed. So below are 10 songs that are perfect for knowing the chords C, F, and G.
Another simple traditional spiritual song, first recorded back in the 1920’s. This simple folk song is a perfect example of how these three chords work together. The fourth (F major) and fifth (G major) are used to create a musical tension and bridge before returning back to the root (C major). It is truly amazing how much western music is based off of how these three chords sound together!
This song was not written by the Beatles, but they are certainly the band who made it popular. This was the last song recorded on their album Please Please Me because their producer George Martin knew John Lennon’s voice would take a beating. He definitely gave it is all while singing this song!
The Georgia Satellites had a hit with this southern rock song back in the mid-80’s. In this case we have transposed it back to C from the Key of D. It is a hard rockin’ and fun song to play especially through a good amp with some distortion!
This song was written by June Carter Cash about falling in love with her soon to be husband Johnny Cash at the time. It has been covered many times and is a perfect beginner song. Often times it is played in the Key of G, but here we have transposed it to C.
Cecilia is a song off of Simon and Garfunkel’s album Bridge Over Troubled Water. The rhythmic part of the song was actually recorded at a late night party by banging on a piano bench! While playing it on the guitar I try to get a little rhythmic strumming going while slightly using the guitar body as a drum. After playing it a few times you will get the feel and see what I mean.
This song is a traditional folk song from the Bahamas, released by the Beach Boys in 1966. Now of course the Beach Boys took this simple folk song and added more to it with harmonies and some minor chords, but at its core it is a great beginner three chord tune for the guitar.
Creedence Clearwater Revival originally played this song on live tv with a washboard, gut bass, kazoo, and a cheap Kalamazoo guitar. All to emulate a simple street corner band they called Willy and the Poor Boys (granted they likely were not really playing some of the instruments but it sure looked good!). When you play this song you don’t need a fancy guitar, just 3 chords and some rhythm!
With this song we move a little closer to modern times. Blink-182 recorded this simple and catchy ditty inspired by the Ramones. Like the rest of the songs all it requires is three chords and some energy. Even with an acoustic guitar you can put some punk into it!
This song was written by George Jackson and made popular by Bob Seger. This is a staple of classic rock radio and a tune guaranteed to be played at a bowling alley at least once a day! This is another tune that uses G7, and while you can use a regular G chord, challenge yourself and use that G7. Sevenths are the backbone of Rock N Roll chords so it definitely needs to be played in this song.
Do you know this song only recently became available in the public domain? That is why we rarely heard it sung in movies and on TV because anytime it was used royalties needed to be paid! Seriously! It may seem like a silly song to include on this list of three chord songs, but this is a song that you want to know. It is very easy and if you play your guitar enough for an audience, eventually this WILL be requested!
About the author:
Gianca is a guitar teacher and a software engineer from Italy. He is the founder of FaChords, a guitar tuition site where you can find free books, interactive learning software, guitar lessons and tutorials.