Four chords every beginning guitar player should know and songs that go with them

You want to learn the guitar. Does it seem like all the songs you love have chords like F#maj7/B? Have no fear! You don’t need chords that look like a physics equation. Learn G, C, D and E minor. With them you can play a ton of songs. Keep reading and I’ll tell you how to play those chords, where to find the tab and as a bonus, I’ll show you a strum that’ll work for all of the songs.

(If this post isn’t enough, I teach via Skype. Contact me here for details. If you live in Ottawa, ON, you can come to my studio.)


These diagrams show you the top of the guitar. The line that goes across at the very top (under the letter) is where your strings start. The line that goes up and down on the far left is the lowest sounding string. The one on the far right is the highest sounding string. The dots show you where to put your fingers. The numbers on the dots show you which fingers to use: Learn G, C, D and Em:

Ignore the rest of the chords. Remember, I only said you had to learn four chords.


You can use the strum suggestions in the link for each song. Or you can simply play:

down down up down down up

If you’re counting, that’s 1-2-and-3-4-and. If you read music you may understand this pattern as quarter note-two eighth notes-one quarter note-two eighth notes.

That’s one measure. There might be some places where you play that pattern twice and a few places, only half that pattern. Make the strum sound even and smooth.


These all come from the Heartwood Guitar site. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I go there because unlike many other sites, his tabs are accurate. He’s a guitar teacher. They’d take away his guitar teacher card if he wasn’t right. Or at least, make him suffer such great ridicule that he’d take up the accordion. I hear “Lady of Spain” is a nice song.

Just click on the song title to get to the chords. Use your back button to return to my site.

Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell. Fun song, whether you know Joni’s version or someone else’s.

Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrision. A lot of my adult students like this one.

Blowing in the Wind – Bob Dylan. This one’s only three chords. Some versions of this have a fourth chord but I’ve found that this version works just fine.

Dead Skunk – Louden Wainwright lll. Because it cracks me up.

Good Riddance – Green Day. You can ignore the altered G chord. A regular G chord works well. And while it sounds good with the Cadd9 chord it’ll also work with a plain ol’ C.

Hurt so Good – John Mellancamp.

Let It Be – Beatles. The outro has more than the four basic chords but it’s not essential to the song.

Orphan Girl – Gillian Welch. Great folk tune. A lot of her songs are easy to play.

Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash. Everyone knows this one.

Teardrops on My Guitar – Taylor Swift. Country music is always great if you’re looking for simpler songs. My teen students really like this one.

You Are My Sunshine. This one’s great for campfire singing.

 Want more?

Check out my earlier blogs especially for guitar players.

You can contact me for lessons on Skype. I can show you how to play these and much more. If you live in Ottawa, ON, come to my studio.

Did you find this post helpful? If so, please think about keeping me in coffee and my cats in kibble. And it’s only $2. Merci y’all.

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About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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24 Responses to Four chords every beginning guitar player should know and songs that go with them

  1. Successful HIt Songwriting says:

    Enjoying your articles. With reference to this one, have you come across the “Axis of Awesome” videos on Youtube? All you need to play every song ever written is 4 chords and the truth apparently. Here’s the link:

  2. Sherri Zann says:

    June in Durham? Well, awright, we’ll be watching for performance dates.

  3. madaline says:

    I am a beginner and this is really helping! i obviously need to keep working but this is by far the easiest most effecient site for learning the 4 chords! thanks so much!

  4. Chris says:

    Your awesome 🙂 thank you

  5. Leon says:

    I still dont get it! I have a talent show to attended to in 2 months and still didnt learn anything! I need help on songs it doesnt sound right when i play a song what the heck am i doing wrong? 😦

  6. Pingback: How do I know what guitar strum to choose? | Jamiebobamie

  7. Megan says:

    Thank you for this, it is really helpful. Do you have any tips, I am struggling to get the strumming right , it just never sounds right? Thanks 🙂

  8. Erika Guilds says:

    Do you know of any more songs that have some pretty easy chords like this? I’ve been playing guitar for almost 3 years, but I still love playing songs that are easier!

  9. moverdrive says:

    This is a great article. I try and get students learning simple guitar songs almost immediately (first lesson, in fact) because the sooner they’re actually connecting the chords they’re learning with playing actual songs and music…the more excited they get. Very cool range of songs you’ve got attached to these chords. I’m going to pass that along…thanks!

  10. Robert Gordon says:

    I am a beginner if u can send easy finger picking songs or more easy songs like this id thank ya . Thinks ,a bull rider trying to play a 6 string

  11. Pingback: The “w” part of musician/writer/teacher/parking lot attendant | Jamiebobamie

  12. Pingback: Easy to play stringed instruments | Jamiebobamie

  13. Pingback: Guitar♥️Resources – ATU Music 4 Kids

  14. PATRICK b buhl says:

    what fast relief, if any, for the cramping?

  15. Ben chris says:

    I read this article and tried on my guitar. Very helpful and unique techniques. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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