Songs you can play with just three chords

You don’t have to be an expert musician to break out a guitar at your next spring barbecue or house party! Many popular songs are built of three simple chords (or can be played with only three chords). Mastering a few chords will put dozens of sing-along worthy tunes in your arsenal. 

Here is a partial list of three-song chords: 

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

G  Cadd9  D 

One of the most well-known three chord songs on our list, this song can also be played with F – but only in the fourth verse! 

Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash 

G  C  D 

One of The Man in Black’s biggest hits only calls for three simple chords! 

Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival  

D   A  G 

This catchy track was CCR’s lead single from their album “Green River”. It was released in 1969. 

Wild Thing – The Troggs 

A   D  E 

Did you know this early rock & roll hit was originally recorded by American rock band The Wild Ones before being recorded by English band The Troggs? The Troggs’ version hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Lean On Me – Bill Withers 

A   D   E 

This classic soul song is ranked number 208 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It’s one of nine songs to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with versions recorded by two different artists.

Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver 

G    D    C

This track was originally included on the singer-songwriter’s debut demo, named “Babe I Hate to Go. His producer convinced him to change the title to “Leaving on a Jet Plane” in 1967, a year later. 

What’s Up? – 4 Non Blondes 

G  Am C 

Use a capo on the second fret to play this ‘90s era hit. 

Three Little Birds – Bob Marley 

A  D  E 

This well-known song is sometimes thought to be called “Don’t Worry About a Thing” or “Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right”, because those phrases are frequently repeated. 

Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen 

A  D   E 

The baseball-themed video for this song was a mainstay of MTV during the 1980s. 

The Joker – Steve Miller Band

G, Cadd9, Dsus4

After topping the Billboard 100 in 1974, this track returned to the top of the charts in the U.K. in 1990 after being featured in a Levi’s commercial! 

The Gambler – Kenny Rogers 

D  G A 

Kenny Rogers’ version of this song was a No. 1 country hit. 

Stay with Me – Sam Smith 

Am F  C

According to interviews, this breakthrough track from English singer/songwriter Sam Smith’s debut album was written with the help of two other songwriters from three simple piano chords. 

Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol 

A  D  E 

Northern-Irish/Scottish band Snow Patrol had “Chasing Cars” as a big hit in the U.S. after it was used in finale episodes of “One Tree Hill” and “Grey’s Anatomy” within a few weeks. 

Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty 

Capo 3 

D  G  Asus 

In 2016, Petty told Billboard.com that he originally wrote his highest-charting Hot 100 song to amuse producer Jeff Lynne. 

All the Small Things – Blink 182 

C  F  G 

It only takes three chords to play Blink 182’s most successful single of all time!

You can find all of the chords you need in the Fret Zealot app! Download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, watch lessons online, and start playing today.

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