Singer-songwriter chords

singer-songwriter guitarIn this article, you will learn about the singer-songwriter genre in terms of chords and chord progression primarily.

How to define the singer-songwriter genre

A singer-songwriter is defined by many as a male or female artist that performs their own songs, often with a sparse arrangement. The guitar is the most common instrument and some of the well-known names that we find under the epithet singer-songwriter are Bob Dylan, Neil Young, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Ryan Adams.

These are just a few names and the definition of singer-songwriter could also be made more in depth. The focus here, however, will lay on how to adapt to guitar playing in a way that gives resemblance to this music genre.

The first chords to know

These suggestions about the first chords you need are partly common major and minor chords plus some slash chords.


  • C chord diagram


  • C/B chord diagram


  • D chord diagram


  • D/F# chord diagram


  • F chord diagram


  • G chord diagram


  • G/B chord diagram


  • Em chord diagram


  • Am chord diagram


  • Am/G chord diagram


  • Dm chord diagram


  • Bm chord diagram

Common chord progressions

The progressions in the singer-songwriter genre are not "standardized" as in blues. The following progressions are therefore to consider as suggestions to getting a feel of the style and perhaps ideas for your own songwriting.

Try both strumming and finger picking techniques or a mix between them to reach the best expression for different progressions.

Am – Am/G – F – C – Csus – G – Am

C – G/B – F/A – C/E – F – C/G – G – C

The above progressions could serve as intro or verse in a song.

C – G/B – Am – F

Use finger picking for this one.

G – D/F# – Em

This sequence is used in Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" and Eric Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Way" as well.

The singer-songwriter genre has, as implied earlier, no fixed rules in regards of progressions. In some songs there are few chords and changes and instead the focus is on the singers' expressions. Like in Kris Kristofferson’s "Help Me Make It Throught The Night" and Bob Dylan’s "Girl From the North Country".

Here you could find more tips of chord progressions. Beside the choice of chords and progressions you could also create interest by, for example:

1. Play the bass notes first and when the rest of the chord.
2. Walk into the chord through bass notes.
3. Use embellishments including sus chords and add chords.
4. Use dynamics (playing calmer or louder).
5. A last thing you could try is open tunings.

See also the guide to songwriting.