Three Chord ProgressionsLearning Guitar Songs

These three chord progressions for guitar will be the basics for hundreds if not thousands of songs.

Most are diatonic. In other words they come from one scale and not two or more scales as songs can and many times do.

Three Chord Music Styles.

The list of 3 chord hit songs is endless. There are tons of Rock and Blues songs that are 3 chords and a lot of Country songs and lets not forget Folk music where Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) got his start.

Folk music was very popular in the 60’s where a lot of the songs touched on political and social issues. The Byrds was another group that evolved from a Folk music background.

Here is a list of the 3 major chords for each major scale. These will make up all of the 3 chord diatonic progressions.

Major Chords List

In the list above the G♭ scale is equal to the F♯ scale. A G♭ chord is the same as an F♯ chord just written different for the key.

I-IV-V Chord Progressions

Here are some three chord progressions and some songs they are used in.

These are used in the same order as above I-IV-V.

Twist and Shout – Example

This song written by Bert Russell and Phil Medley was first made popular by the Isley Brothers and then The Beatles.

Here is the basic progression and chords.


C F G progression like twist and shout

The single notes are G A B C. The chords are C F and G. The G chord I used is the F form moved up to the 3rd fret.

La Bamba – Example

This song uses the C F and G chords like above and the single notes are chord tones or C scale notes.

This song is a folk song made popular by Ritchie Valens in the late 50’s.

This song is sung completely in Spanish. It’s listed in Rolling Stone magazine at number 345 out of 500 for all time greatest songs of all time.

Here links to an mp3 download and sheet music downloads of this song.

La Bamba – mp3
La Bamba – Sheet Music – Digital Download (Opens New Window)

C F G progression like LaBamba

My Best Friends Girl
Three Chord Progressions

This song was written by Ric Ocasek of The Cars.

This song is in F so your chords are F B♭ and C. The break in the song goes from B♭ to C and back a few times and then starts the I-IV-V over again.

The guitar in this song has a really great tone. It’s crisp, that’s the only word I can think of to describe it

My Best friends girl mp3 and sheet music links.


F B-flat C progression like My Best Friends Girl

Three Chord Progressions

This progression just plays the V chord before the IV. This is a common progression in Country and Folk music.

One example of this progression is the Rolling Stones song Dead Flowers.

The song uses the D, A and G in that order. The other changes in the song use the same chords just different timing.

Here’s a link to this Stones song mp3. They didn’t do too many with a taste of country music like this one

The very first chord is the Dsus2 chord. Lift your finger off the 1st string of the D chord. It only lasts two beats in the very beginning of the song.

Dead Flowers

Dead Flowers – mp3 (Opens New Window)


Dead Flowers – Example

D A G Progression like the Stones Dead Flowers

Another song that uses this progression is Bob Dylans song “Knocking on Heavens Door”

Here’s a link to this song. This song has been done by a lot of different people

Here’s the Chords


More Three Chord Progressions

Knocking on Heavens Door – Example

G D C Progressions like Bob Dylans’ Knocking on Heavens Door

This C chord in this song changes every other time to an Am7 which is a C with an added A note.

Once again these are only two samples. There are many other variations of three chord progressions for guitar.

V-IV-I Three Chord Progressions

This progression is used in a lynrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama”

The chords D C and G in that order are picked more than strummed.

Here’s links to mp3 and sheet music for this all time country rock song

Here are the chord forms used.


D C G Progression like Sweet Home Alabama

The notes in between are played on the 5th and 6th strings on the 5th and 7th frets.

Someone else can play the actual chords along with this or do some lead work like the song.


Learn The A Major Scale

The A major Scale is good for acoustic guitars because of the E, A, D and B open strings belonging to the scale. It has three sharps in it the F, C and G notes.

The open string notes are the 6th string E=5, the 5th string A=root, the 4th string D=4th, the 2nd string B=2/9 and the 1st string E=5. The numbers after the notes tell you what scale degree they are. Check below for more detail on numbering.

These are notes that can be used freely in the A scale. They normally won’t clash with any other scale tones.

Learn Scales EasierTake it for a Free Ride

Guitar Scales Method

The A scale is made from two tetra-chords from the D and the E scale.

You will see the same notes and chords in the A, D and E scales.

Here Comes the Sun

This is the key for the Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” written by George Harrison.

Abbey Road (1990)-Here Comes the Sun
Here Comes the Sun – Sheet Music/Tab

A Scale

The A Scale Construction

The first 4 notes of this scale came from the last 4 notes of the D major scale. The last 4 notes of are from the first 4 notes of the E major scale.

A Scale Tetra-Chords

The tetra-chord is a four note that makes up half a major scale. Major scales have two of these.

The first A scale tetra-chord comes from the last D scale tetra-chord and the second one comes from the first tetra-chord of the E major scale.


1st Tetrachord


2nd Tetrachord


A Major Scale Numbering

All the major scales have numbers that go with the notes for easy identification. You will find out later that this way of referring to numbers makes it possible to refer to all scales and chords no matter what key you are in.

This also refers to chords built from scales. When referring to chords the numbers are written in Roman numerals, upper case for major chords and lower case for minor chords.

A Major Notation-Tab

A Major Chords

A Major Chord Diagrams

A Major Key signature

This is how the beginning bar in sheet music will look if you are in the key of A. The sharp symbol is over the F line and the C and G spaces in the music staff.

This doesn’t mean the music won’t have other flats or sharps in it. They will be marked in the music itself. This means every note in the F, C and G position in the music staff will be sharp.

This helps keep the music easier to read as you get more flats or sharps in a key.

Major Key


Key Signature

Rel Minor


F♯, C♯, G♯


I hope you found this page useful.


Reading Music NotesLearn More Faster

Music Gift Ideas Page or Music Gift Ideas List

You might think it’s hard to start reading music notes or notation as its also called but it’s fairly simple. To read music fast and accurate will require some time and practice.

You don’t have to become an expert music reader for this to be a valuable learning tool. Just knowing what the notes are and where they are on your guitar will expand your learning field.

Remember as a musician you are also a music student for life no matter how good you get.

Let’s start with the staff and see how it relates to the guitar.

The Staff and Middle C

The term middle C always seemed to apply to piano players for reading music notes because I wasn’t taught about the bass and treble clefs while taking guitar lessons. I had to find this stuff out myself.

Ever wonder why you saw notes like these not on a staff? They are on a staff that’s what the little lines are.

Two Music Staffs

There are two types of staffs for guitar players to understand the treble or G clef and Bass or F clef.

The clef tells you what range of tones you are in like bass for a bass guitar or treble for regular guitar.

This is the same double staff or Grand staff as it is called that you see for piano players below

They read both lines at the same time

If the millions of people that play piano can read two staffs at once there is no reason you can’t learn to read one staff

The Grand Staff

The treble clef is the top 5 lines staff and the bass clef is the lower 5 line staff. Together these are known as the Grand Staff. Middle C separates them.

Left Side Symbols

The symbols on the left tell the musician what staff they are looking at. The 4/4 symbol is the time signature more on that later.

There is usually a la


The upper and lower notes are one octave apart.

The lowest note on the guitar is the 6th string E. Which is the 3rd note on the bottom staff above.

Our 6th String E Note

In the above staff you will see the E note in the lower bass clef. This is our 6th string note. We have 2 lines above it plus the middle C line.

This is how we get the notes from the top of the page. They come from the bass staff.

Middle C

The middle C line runs through the center of these two staffs.

The C on the left side in the treble clef is the same as the C on the right in the Bass clef

The notes go up or down by one note with each space or line.

The staff will get divided into measures according to the time signature.

Name Those Notes
Reading Music Notes

These will be the names of the notes that are on each line or space. For now there are several different types of notes you will need to learn.

No matter what type of note it will still be a B or C or whatever the line or space is called.

We also need to look at the time signature that’s next to the Clef symbols then we’ll do the note types.

Once you get going you will see it’s pretty simple. There is just a lot of little things I need to point out to you first. Hang in there.

Reading Both at the Same Time

A keyboard or piano player uses both of these clefs reading both at the same time.

The treble clef is played with the right hand and the Bass clef is played with the left hand. Show-offs.

Treble Clef – Reading Music Notes

You might want to get familiar with the treble clef first. Learning the Bass clef isn’t necessary but it can come in handy reading or interpreting music not written for the guitar.

Time Signatures – Note Values

Top of Fraction =

Number of Beats per Measure

Bottom of Fraction =

Type of Note that gets a Whole Beat

Whole note – Hollow center, No stem or flag = 4 beats

Half note – hollow center, always has a flag = 2 beats

Quarter note – filled center, always has flag = 1 beat



Windows Media

Whole half and quarter note examples

There are some extra clicks from the metronome to separate the notes.

Combinations of the three notes

There is only one way of playing the whole note other than making it last two or more measures

Here are some combinations of the half and quarter notes within one measure.

The C where the time signature goes means 4/4 time like the above samples. It means common time because a majority of the music is written in this time signature.

Ties and Dots – Reading Music Notes

There are ways to change note values by combining notes using a curved line or placing a dot after the note like below.


In the above sample measures 1 and 2 will sound the same, the same is true of 3 and 4, they are just written different. You are making the first note sound longer.

When you use a tie you add the two values of the notes together unlike a dot.


A dot after a note raises its value by one half. If you put a dot after a half note which is two beats you make it three beats long.

Measures – Reading music Notes

Every measure except for pick up notes(later) must equal the top number in the time signature.

If its a 4 or C there must be 4 beats in every measure.

If the top number is a 3 then there must be 3 beats in every measure.

3/4 time is a Waltz One two three with an accent on the one beat.