This article includes some of the biggest hits from a wide timeframe of popular music that you could ever wish to play on guitar. All songs can be played with just two chords per song. Make sure you read this guide to get off to a flying start and get the most from this article.
Two chords are shown, how does it work?
All songs listed in this article have only two chords per song. The first chord shown in each song is the chord that the song begins with. When you hear another chord, that is the second chord. If you then hear that the second chord sounds wrong or sounds strange against the melody then change back to the first chord again, it’s that simple.
What is provided for each song?
We have included both chords for each song, handy notes on how best to play the song as well as a top tips box. The top tip box is to the right of the “Suggested Rhythm”.
What is a suggested rhythm?
The suggested rhythm is just that; a rhythmic idea we feel best reflects the rhythm and melody of the song you are learning. We have added some resources to help you understand how to read rhythms.
01. Achy Breaky Heart
- Artist: Billy Ray Cyrus
- Released: 1992
- Notes: With over twelve studio albums to his name, this song, Achy Breaky Heart has been Billy Ray Cyrus’s best-known hit. Written by Don Von Tress, the song also hit the charts for many other acts such is the popularity of this country classic.
The A Major to E Major chord movement is another one of those chord progressions you need to learn and you’ll use again and again. Try and play with confidence the suggest rhythm shown below.
Top tip: This song is fairly quick and you should concentrate on keeping the “tempo” of your rhythm really “tight”.
02. A Horse With No Name
- Artist: America
- Released: 1971
- Notes: Composed by Dewey Bunnell and released in 1971 by the folk rock band America, this song reached number one in America, Canada, Finland and reached number three in the UK charts.
The song has an easy going strumming pattern which should be played by ensuring that the right arm is always moving up and down at all times (from the elbow).
Top tip: Practice changing between the chords before you begin to try the song. Playing the chords in time and on the beat is a must.
03. Blurred Lines
- Artist: Robin Thicke
- Released: 2013
- Notes: With over five hundred and forty million views on Youtube, this song can only be described as a stupendous hit for Robin Thicke. Written by Robin, T.I., and Pharrell Williams, this song gained a lot of controversy for both the video and lyric content. Chart success has seen it gain top three position all over the world.
The song includes the D Major chord. The movement of D Major to G Major is an excellent chord change used in many other songs.
Top tip: There is a lot going on in this song, but the main rhythm is pretty empty. That is what you are trying to emphasis.
04. Born In The USA
- Artist: Bruce Springsteen
- Released: 1984
- Notes: The anthem that will always be associated with Bruce Springsteen, the song reached number one in both New Zealand and Ireland, but surprisingly not in the USA!
The challenge when learning this song is the B Major “barre” chord. As the diagram show, the first finger is placed over the first five strings (not the thickest string) at the second fret. The chord shape is the same as the A Major open string.
Top tip: After the opening of the song and the band comes in, change the rhythm to be a bit busier than at the beginning.
05. Break On Through
- Artist: The Doors
- Released: 1967
- Notes: The Doors had many huge selling hits, but this song did especially well in Germany being certified as a “Gold” seller with over quarter of a million sales!
Although the song does have two chords in it, this is one of those rare songs where the vast majority of the piece is actually played over just one chord, E minor. The solo section in the middle, for example, is played entirely over an E minor chord.
Top tip: Because so much of the song is played over just one chord, try and free up your rhythm and try out different ideas.
- Artist: Ne-Yo
- Released: 2008
- Notes: Ne-Yo had a massive hit with Closer reaching number one in Brazil, Scotland, UK and USA charts. Over eighty million views on the official Youtube video has also been recorded.
This track is complemented by light arpeggios (single notes played from the underlying chord) which, along with the drum beat gives the song a hypnotic groove. Start strumming at fifteen seconds in. The second chord is played at twenty-two seconds in to the video.
Top tip: Once you can change between the chords, pick out notes from each chord to get a close sound to the original.
07. Dance The Night Away
- Artist: The Mavericks
- Released: 1998
- Notes: An unexpected hit for many but the infectious happy rhythm and sound make this a party favorite. The song reached number four in the Scottish charts and five in the UK charts. The song proper starts at 0.19 seconds in the video.
Make sure you play the chords with a lot of energy and keep that second finger down moving between E Major and B7.
Top tip: Make sure that your right arm always moves up and down to play the rhythm even if you are not playing the chord.
- Artist: Fleetwood Mac
- Released: 1977
- Notes: One of the many hits from super group Fleetwood Mac. Dreams hit number one in the USA and Canada and did reasonably well in Europe.
The F Major seven chord sounds slightly sweeter than a straight F Major and you’ll love it the way it immediately invokes the sound of Dreams. If you’re wondering why it’s called F Major seen it’s because it contains the seventh note from the F Major scale.
Top tip: Don’t mistake the F Major 7 chord for the F7 chord. They are totally different and belong in different musical keys.
- Artist: Alicia Keys
- Released: 2001
- Notes: Failin’ was a song released from Alicia’s first album titled “Songs In A minor”. Interestingly enough, this song which was a number one hit in the Netherlands, New Zealand, Belgium, UK and the USA is not actually in the key of A minor…
Sung beautifully by Alicia Keys the song starts proper at twelve seconds. The E minor chord can be first played at twenty-two seconds into the video. This song is in six eight time so six strums per bar.
Top tip: Like many of the songs in this article, it would be better to arpeggiate (pick notes out of) the chord for best effect.
10. Family Affair
- Artist: Mary J. Blige
- Released: 2001
- Notes: How popular can this song be?! Well if Youtube is anything to go by, very! Over one hundred and five million views for one video alone, it’s one of the highest viewed songs around.
If you want to play along with the video then you will need to buy or use a capo which is placed on fret number four. The chords shown here are played exactly the same, but with the capo applied, you will be actually be playing the chords C♯m and G♯m.
Top tip: If you don’t own a capo, you can still play the song, but the melody will be a lot lower than in the video shown above.
11. Jane Says
- Artist: Jane’s Addiction
- Released: 1988
- Notes: If not one of the biggest hits per-se, this is without doubt one of the biggest hits that the band Jane’s Addiction have had. Recorded not once, but twice, the song is easy to learn and play.
The song begins with drums only and then there is a short guitar chord intro then into the song proper when the vocal begins. The vocal entrance is when you start playing the G Major chord. As you will see on the video, the song is played with an acoustic guitar.
Top tip: This is quite a rambunctious song so make sure that you really do give the strings a good rattle on this one!
12. Le Freak
- Artist: Chic
- Released: 1978
- Notes: Not only a huge hit around the world, it’s been added to the American “National Recording Registry” by the Library of Congress. Selling over four million records in America alone, you’ll want to get this party favorite under your fingers!
Nile Rodgers, the guitarist in Chic does not play full chords, but a repeated riff pattern. The chords shown are the underlying chord sound. Work hard to create the rhythm shown on this page below.
Top tip: When playing funk/disco rhythms, try to keep the strumming right arm (from elbow) moving at all times.
13. Love Is A Stranger
- Artist: The Eurythmics
- Released: (rerelease) 1983
- Notes: The Scottish pop diva sporting a blonde wig and heavy makeup, released this song with the Eurythmics in 1982. It was not until the “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) hit that this songs rerelease really made it take off.
C Major is tricky, however, the F Major chord takes a while to get under the fingers and does not appear in the song until twenty five seconds in. Be aware that the chorus starts on F Major.
Top tip: Use your plectrum (pick) on various strings to alter and give variety to the sound of the chords in the song.
14. Molly’s Lips
- Artist: Nirvana
- Released: 1991
- Notes: Although not a Nirvana song (originally by Scottish band “The Vaselines”) and not a huge hit, it would feel wrong not to include a song by Nirvana if it could only be played with two chords; which it can.
This song is very much about the energy you can generate when playing it. It’s fairly fast in tempo and the song does not let up so make sure you keep your rhythm accurate and tempo strong.
Top tip: As Nirvana were at the forefront of Grunge, make sure you have the fuzz pedal on if playing an electric guitar!
15. Move Like Jagger
- Artist: Maroon 5
- Released: 2011
- Notes: A two chord song that was number one in most countries right around the world! Its catchy beat is infectious and the video is a complete reference to English rock singer Mick Jagger.
This song includes a barre chord which is beyond beginner level, but is necessary to learn. The song starts proper at forty-five seconds. The second chord (E minor 7) is an easy version as the original chord in the song is difficult. Rhythmically, this is a very hard song to play.
Top tip: The barre chord is bad enough, but the rhythm is very tricky. Practice playing on beat one only to begin with.
16. Paperback Writer
- Artist: The Beatles
- Released: 1966
- Notes: The Beatles had many number one hit songs and Paperback Writer was right up there. A massive hit all over the world reaching number one in the USA and the United Kingdom.
Start playing along with the song when the lyrics begin. There is a “riff” (collection of notes) which starts the song and is played after each verse; just play the G major chord along with it (song starts proper at thirteen seconds).
Top tip: The actual song works around a riff that you should try and work out around the G major chord for a closer sound.
- Artist: Oasis
- Released: 2003
- Notes: Oasis, one of the biggest bands to come out of England in the late 20th century and defined a generation. Songbird reached position three in Canada, three in the UK chart polls and number one in the Scottish charts.
Although only two chords needed to play this song, when changing from the G to E minor and back, the fret 6th string can be added.
Top tip: This song is all about a confident right-hand rhythm. Try to maintain a steady volume and steady timing.
18. Tulsa Time
- Artist: Eric Clapton
- Released: (originally 1978)
- Notes: Tulsa Time is a song written by Danny Flowers and originally recorded by Don Williams. Eric covered the song live on his “Crossroads 2: Live in the seventies” album release as seen in the video below. The song was a big hit in the country charts for Don Williams hitting number one in the USA and Canada.
The way Eric Clapton plays this is very much in the country rock style. Emphasis the lower (thicker) strings in the chords.
Top tip: As mentioned above, to get the closest sound aim for string five and four on an A chord and six and five on an E chord.
19. UpTown Funk!
- Artist: Bruno Mars
- Released: 2014
- Notes: Want to know what a big hit sounds like? This is it. Youtube confirms the popularity of Uptown Funk with over three billion views!!! Scan the QR code and find out why.
On many online sites the first chord is shown as D minor, however, the D minor seven chord gives a much better sound although it is a little tricky to play. The first finger holds down both strings one and two at the first fret. It will take a while to get used to this.
Top tip: Over the “Don’t Believe Me Just Watch” play a G Major chord with a suitable rhythm that emphasizes the lyrics.
20. What I Got
- Artist: Sublime
- Released: 1996
- Notes: Reaching number one in the USA “Billboard Charts”, this song was Sublime’s biggest radio hit following singer Bradley Nowell’s untimely death.
This is the second song that uses the chords D Major and G Major, the other one being Blurred Lines, although that song begins on G Major. You should be able to put learning that song to good use and all you need to consider here is the rhythm used.
Top tip: A nice light rhythm with the right hand will make this song sound great. Don’t grip the plectrum too tightly.
21. When Love Comes To Town
- Artist: U2
- Released: 1989
- Notes: The song When Love Comes To Town featured legendary blues guitarists BB king playing with U2. Very much in the blues genre, the song reached number one in Ireland (no surprise there) and sold well around the world’s charts.
The suggested rhythm is just that, however, listen carefully to how the rhythm is played in the video below. A7 has been shown for the second chord, many online sites incorrectly show A major.
Top tip: Taking fingers two and three of E Major just before the new bar will get the chord sound played on the video.
- Artist: Arctic Monkeys
- Released: 2007
- Notes: Reaching number one in the UK album charts and number seven in the USA billboard charts, this is quite a mournful song which uses two minor chords.
This song alternates one bar at a time (four beats per bar starting on D minor then E minor. D minor can be difficult to get under the fingers and finger three is often replaced with finger four.
Top tip: Although the rhythm at the beginning of the song is sparse, make it busier as the song progresses.
Well I hope you enjoyed this article. By the way, if you are a beginner guitar player that recently picked up an acoustic guitar, check out some easy guitar songs that will inspire you.