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.

Dead Flowers by the Rolling Stones is a good example. This song is in the key of D. Starting with D to A to G and back to D.

A lot of country songs use this I-V-IV progression.

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. The Beatles version is the one I like the best.

Here is the basic progression and chords.


C F G progression like twist and shout

Twist and Shout – mp3
Twist and Shout – Tab
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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 – Tab
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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.

My Best Friends Girl – mp3
My Best Friends Girl – Tab
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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
Dead Flowers – Tab
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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

Sweet Home Alabama – mp3
Sweet Home Alabama – Tab
(Opens New Window)

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.

I hope you found this page useful.

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