Chord progressions in famous songs

To play known songs are 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 see (A)bad (G)times (D)today

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.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(F)Down on the (C)corner (G)out in the (C)street
(F)Willy and the Poor Boys are (C)playin' bring a (G)nickel, tap your (C)feet

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 (F) 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 E7+9 (the "Hendrix chord") for E, the shape is X7678X. Besides, that barre chord might be preferable instead of open chords.

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.

The River

Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: The River (1980)


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


Em - G - D - C (verse)

Comment: 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

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

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. Only one stroke is enough on the F chord.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(Dsus2) It's all the same, (Cadd9) only the names will (G) change

And ev'ry day, it seems we're (F)wasting (Dsus2)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.

Hand In My Pocket

Artist: Alanis Morissette
Album: Jagged Little Pill (1995)


G5/F - Csus2 - G5 (chorus)

Comment: G5 (3X0033) played through the whole verse. The G5/F is played as 1X0033, but it's alright to play it as a normal G5.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(G5)And what it all comes down to(G5/F)
(Csus2)Is that everything's gonna be (G5)fine, fine, fine
'Cause I've got (G5/F)one hand in my pocket
And the (Csus2)other one is givin' (G5/D)a high five

What a Wonderful World

Artist: Louis Armstrong
Single album: What a Wonderful World (1967)


F - Am - Bb - Am (intro, first part)

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

I see (F)trees of (Am)green, (Bb)red roses (Am)too
(Gm)I see them (F)bloom, (A7)for me and (Dm)you
And I (Db)think to myself,(Gm)what a (C7)wonderful (F)world

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 use barre chords with the bass note on the fifth string.


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 resulting from the double pedal points on the highest strings.

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)

Learning To Fly

Artist: Tom Petty
Album: Into the Great Wide Open (1991)


F - C - Am - G (intro, verse & chorus)

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(F)Well I started (C)out, (Am) (G)
(F)Down a dirty (C)road. (Am) (G)
(F)Started (C)out, (Am) (G)
(F)All al(C)one (Am) (G)

Wild World

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


Am - Dm - G - C - F - Dm - E (verse)

Comment: These chords are used in most of the song. An addition is to play Esus4 after E to create some extra tension in the end of the verse to anticipate the chorus.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

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

The Thrill is Gone

Artist: B.B. King
Album: Completely Well (1969)


Bm7 - Em7 - Bm7 - G7 - F#7 - Bm7

Comment: The same progression is used for the whole tune. A tip is to use closed chords, including bar chords, which enable you to use muting techniques. Don't play all the six strings, sometimes only the three lowest. By variate the numbers of hit strings can help you find the right vibe.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

The (Bm7)thrill is gone, the thrill is gone away
The (Em7)thrill is gone, the thrill is gone (Bm7)away
(G7)You done me wrong (F#7)baby And you're gonna be (Bm7)sorry someday

The Final Countdown

Artist: Europe
Album: The Final Countdown (1986)


F#5 - B5 - F#5 - E/G# - A (verse)

D5 - E5 - A - E/G# - F# - E - D5 - C#5 - E (pre-chorus)

Comment: If you play on an electric guitar with overdrive or something like that, try to avoid the highest strings.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(F#5)We're leavin' together
But still it's (B5)farewell
(F#5)And maybe we'll come back
To (E/G#)Earth, who (A)can tell?

Still Got the Blues

Artist: Gary Moore
Album: Still Got the Blues (1990)


Dm7 - G11 - Cmaj7 - Fmaj7 - Bm7b5 - E - Am (verse)

Comment: Barre chords may be preferable for most of the chords. Short notation for G11: 3X3211, Bm7b5: X2323X. G11 can be replaced with G7.

Lyrics together with chords (excerpt):

(Dm)Used to be so (G11)easy (Cmaj7)to give my heart (Fmaj7)away
(Bm7b5)But I found out the hard (E)way
(Am)There's a price you have to pay.

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)

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 0-2-3 (frets) sequences after every progression.

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 5) and open string 4.

I Fought the Law

Artist: The Clash
Album (EP): The Cost of Living (1979)


D - G - D (1x) - D - A - D (2x) (verse)

Comment: Power chords can be used as well, D as D5 and so on.

Walk, Don't Run

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


Am - G - F - E (intro)

Comment: Use bar chords (except E).

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