Chord progressions in famous songs

To play known songs are one of the favorite things to do on the guitar for many. 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.

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

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)

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.

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 will also be 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.

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


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 chord are used in most of the song.

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)

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

Sweet Home Alabama

Artist: Lynard Skynard
Album: Second Helping (1974)


D5 - Cadd9 - G (verse)

Comment: It is 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.

Story of My Life

Artist: Social Distortion
Album: Social Distortion (1990)


G - C - D (verse & chorus)

Comment: Open chords works fine.

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