Chord progressions in famous songs

To play known songs is for many one of the favorite things to do on the guitar. It doesn’t have to be a complete song, just to know the characteristic verse, the catchy chorus or the cool instrumental riff can be enough satisfaction. So, let's learn some songs that are recognizable and, in most cases, pretty easy to play.

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Artist: Bob Dylan
Album: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)


G - D - Am7 - G - D - C (verse and chorus)

Comment: The chords are same in the verse and the chorus. It sounds ok with strumming, however, in the original song fingerpicking is used.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(G) Mama take this (D) badge off of (Am7) me
(G) I can't (D) use it any(C)more
(G) It's getting (D) dark, too dark to see (Am7)
(G) I feel I'm (D) knockin on heaven's (C) door

Bad Moon Rising

Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Album: Green River (1969)


D - A - G - D (verse)

G - D - A - G - D (chorus)

Comment: The chords in the verse are repeated four times. To get closer to the original song, play the D major as an open chord and A and G as bar chords.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(D)I see a (A)bad (G)moon (D)rising
(D)I see (A)trouble (G)on the (D)way
(D)I see (A)earth(G)quakes and (D)lightning
(D)I (A)see bad (G)times tod(A)ay

Down on the Corner

Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Album: Willy and the Poor Boys (1969)


C - G - C - G - C - F (verse)

F - C - G - C (chorus)

Comment: Barre chords are preferable.

Thorn In My Side

Artist: Eurythmics
Album: Revenge (1986)


D - G - A (verse 1st part)

D - C - G - A - Bb - F - Bb - C (verse 2nd part)

Comment: Dsus and Asus chords are also involved in the first part of the verse. Try to vary between D and Dsus2 and use the sequence Asus4 - A - Asus2 when landing on A.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(D) Thorn in my side, you know that's (G) all you ever (A) were
(D) a bundle of lies, you know that's all that it (G) was worth (A)


Artist: John Lennon
Album: Imagine (1971)


C - Cmaj7/E - F (verse)

Comment: A regular Cmaj7 can also be used.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(C) Imagine there's (Cmaj7/E) no (F) heaven
(C) It's easy if (Cmaj7/E) you (F) try
(C) No hell (Cmaj7/E) below (Cmaj7/E) us
(C) Above us (Cmaj7/E) only (F) sky.

The Passenger

Artist: Iggy Pop
Album: Lust for Life (1977)


Am - F - C - G - Am - F - C - E (intro, verse and chorus)

Comment: The progression displayed above is played all through the song.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(Am)I am the (F)passenger(C) (G)
(Am)And I ride (F)and I ride(C) (E)

Hey Joe

Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Album: Are You Experienced (1967)


C - G - D - A - E (verse)

Comment: The progression is mostly the same all through the song. To get closer to the original, you should try to learn some of the riffs in the song. You could also substitute E for E7+9 (the "Hendrix chord"), the shape is X7678X.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(C)Hey (G)Joe, (D)where (A)you're going with that (E)gun in your hand.

All Along the Watchtower

Artist: Bob Dylan (the Jimi Hendrix version is also mentioned here)
Album: John Wesley Harding (1967)


Am - G - F - G (Bob Dylan version)


Bb - Cm - Bb - Ab (Jimi Hendrix version)

Comment: In the Jimi Hendrix version of the song, barre chords are used. Use palm-muting when playing open chords and mute some strums when playing barre chords.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(Am) There must be (G) some way (F) out of here (G)
(Am) Said the (G) joker to the (F) thief (G)

Brown Eyed Girl

Artist: Van Morrison
Album: Blowin' Your Mind! (1967)


G - C - G - D7 (verse)

G - Em - C - D7 - G - D7 (chorus)

Comment: The chords in the verse are repeated four times in the first verse part.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(G) Hey, where did we go (C) (G) days when the rains (D7) came?
(G) Down in the hol(C)low, (G) playin' a new (D7) game.

Love Is All Around

Artist: The Troggs (also known with Wet Wet Wet)


D - Em - G - A - D (verse)

Comment: Common open chords can be used.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(D)I feel it in (Em)my fingers, (G)I feel (A)it in my (D)toes

Twist and Shout

Artist: The Beatles (cover version)
Album: Please Please Me (1963)


D - G - A (intro)

Comment: A lick is used before the beginning of the chords, which include 0-2-4 (string 4) and open string 3.

Wanted Dead or Alive

Artist: Bon Jovi
Album: Slippery When Wet (1986)


Dsus2 - Cadd9 - G - F - Dsus2 (verse)

Comment: A regular C can be used instead of Cadd9 and C/D. Only one stroke is enough on the F chord.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(Dsu2) It's all the same, (Cadd9) only the names will (G) change

(C/D) And ev'ry day, it seems we're (F)wasting (D)away

Piano Man

Artist: Billy Joel
Single album: Piano Man (1973)


C - Em - Am - C/G - F - C/E - D7 - G (verse)

Comment: This is the first half of the verse and the second half is quite different.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

It's (C)nine o’(Em)clock on a (Am)saturday(C/G)
The (F)regular (C/E)crowd shuffl(D7)es in(G)


Artist: Derek and the Dominos
Album: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)


Dm - Bb - C - Dm (chorus)

Comment: To get closer to the original, you should try to learn some of the riffs in the song.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

Layla,(Dm) you (Bb)got me on my (C)knees.
Layla, (Dm)I'm (Bb)begging darling (C)please.

Wild Thing

Artist: The Troggs
Album: From Nowhere (1966)


A – D – E – D – A (verse)

Comment: These chords are used in all verses.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(A)Wild thing (D) (E) (D)you make my (A)heart sing,(D) (E)
(D)You make every(A)thing groo(D)vy, (E) (D) wild(A) thing!(D)

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

Artist: Pat Benatar
Album: Crimes of Passion (1980)


E - A - C#m - B (verse & chorus)

Comment: The progression is used in the most of the song, with slight variation. A suggestion is to play E and A as open chords and the other two as barre chords.

Don't Look Back In Anger

Artist: Oasis
Album: What's the Story Morning Glory? (1995)


C - G - Am - E - F - G - C - Am - G (intro & verse)

Comment: This sequence makes up a part of the verse and most of the chorus.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(C)Slip inside the (G)eye of your (Am)mind
Don't you (E)know you might (F)find(G)
A better place to (C)play (Am) (G)


Artist: Oasis
Album: What's the Story Morning Glory? (1995)


Em7 - G - Dsus4 - A7sus4 (intro & verse)

Em7 - G - Dsus4 - A7sus4 - Cadd9 - Dsus4 - Asus4 (chorus)

Comment: Recommended fingerings in short notations: Em7 (022033), G (320033), A7ssu4 (X02033), Cadd9 X32033). Notice the small movements.

The River

Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: The River (1980)


Em - G - D - C - Am - G - C (intro)


Em - G - D - C (verse)

Comment: The chords concerning the verse is only a part of it (the thing with this overview is to give short sequences that could be easy memorized). It will also sound cool if you learn to play harp together fasten in a neck holder.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

I (Em)come from down in the (G)valley
Where (D)mister, when you're (C)young
They (Em)bring you up to (G)do (C)like your daddy (G)done

Wild World

Artist: Cat Stevens
Album: Tea for the Tillerman (1970)


Am - D7 - G - Gmaj7 - F - Dm - E (verse)

Comment: These chords are used in most of the song.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(Am)Now that I’ve (D7)lost everything to (G)you(Gmaj7)
You say you (C)wanna start something (F)new
And it’s (Dm)breaking my heart you’re (E)leaving
Baby I’m grieving

Sweet Home Alabama

Artist: Lynard Skynard
Album: Second Helping (1974)


D5 - Cadd9 - G (verse)

Comment: It's alright to play D and C instead of D5 and Cadd9. To get closer the original arrangement, try to do hammer-ons on the 5th and 4th strings in 0-1-2 (frets) sequences after every progression.

Walk, Don't Run

Artist: The Ventures
Album: Walk, Don't Run (1960)


Am - G - F - E (intro)

Comment: Use bar chords (except E).

Run to the Hills

Artist: Iron Maiden
Album: The Number of the Beast (1982)


E5 - A5 - D5 - E5 C5 - D5 - G5 - A5 (intro)

Comment: Only one or two strokes per chord. The progression is repeated twice and the second time is the final chords G5 - D5 instead of G5- A5.

Living after Midnight

Artist: Judas Priest
Album: British Steel (1980)


E5 - D5 - A5 - B5 (intro & chorus)

Comment: A recommendation is to use the 5th string as bass throughout the whole sequence.

We're Not Gonna Take Take It

Artist: Twisted Sister
Album: Stay Hungry (1984)


E5 - D#5 - C#5 - B5 (intro)

Comment: Two strokes per chord.

Heavens on Fire

Artist: Kizz
Album: Animalize (1984)


G5 - Bb5 - G5 - Bb - C - Bb - C - Bb - G5 (chorus)

Comment: The progression is repeated two times on the first two occasions in the song and six times the last time.

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