What is a friend 4

With these 4 guitar chords you can play many popular songs!

Play songs on the guitar quickly and easily with just a few chords

(Image: © shutterstock.com 164038340 De Visu)

You only need four chords on the guitar in order to be able to play many popular songs, since a whole series of current hits are harmoniously structured quite simply. To play the so-called 4-chord songs, you only need a capo, with which the barre chords, which are often difficult for beginners, can be bypassed. I'll tell you how in today's workshop.

4 Chord Songs - Quick Facts

Can I accompany familiar songs with four chords on the guitar?
Yes, because various hits in recent music history prove that four chords can be enough for a good song. These are mostly chords that come from the same key. In technical jargon one speaks of a diatonic chord progression.

Do I need barre chords to accompany these songs?
No, at least not as long as we are in the key of G major or E minor. All chords in these keys contain simple open string fingerings that are commonly learned at the beginning of your guitar career.

How can I play 4-chord songs in other keys on the guitar?
To do this, we take our capo in hand and transpose the four fingerings we have learned into other keys. With this little trick, the same four fretboards can be moved back and forth on the fingerboard. You can find out exactly how this works in the workshop.

1. I need these chords for a 4-chord song

Simple melodies can usually be harmonized with the three chords on the first, fourth and fifth degree of a key. One speaks here of tonic, subdominant and dominant.
For our workshop we first need the chords of the three mentioned levels in G major. These would be G major (I), C major (IV) and D major (V). A minor chord, which is formed on the so-called tonic parallel or sixth degree, should also provide a little more variety. This chord is called E minor (VI). The fingerings of the chords are relatively easy to grasp on the guitar and do not require a barre. Those of you who have already played a certain amount of time should have already become acquainted with these chord types. Otherwise, I don't want to go into the music-theoretical context in this workshop. If you still want to deal more closely with the topic of music theory, there are a lot of good and structured workshops on bonedo.


This is what the fingerings of all four chords look like:

G major

2. Accompany well-known songs with just four chords

We don't want to spend a long time doing preliminary exercises, but rather apply the chords we have learned directly to a simple practical example.
A well-known song that gets by with only four chords is, for example, the RnB classic Stand By Me, which Ben E. King made famous. The original song is in A major. If you want to play the song in this key, all you have to do is attach a capo to the 2nd fret.

The chord progression of the chorus looks like this:

Ben E-King - Stand by me

The whole thing could sound like this:

3. Play with four chords in different keys

As we have seen, with the help of the capo we can easily move the fingerings we have learned into other keys. To illustrate this principle, let's look at two more examples.

Let's take the chords of the chorus of "It's My Life", one of the big hits of the band Bon Jovi. The original piece is in C minor. If we still want to play the following song excerpt with our four fingerings, we only have to attach the capo to the eighth fret. Our E minor fingering now sounds as C minor and the other chords are accordingly transposed into the new key.

The chords of the chorus of "It's My Life" could then be accompanied on the acoustic guitar, for example.

Bon Jovi - It's my life

In order to try one more example, let’s take a look at the Beatles classic "Let it be". The original song is in C major. To get around the "mean" barre chord again, we put the capo back on the 5th fret and play our four chords for the verse of the song in the following order.

The Beatles - Let it be

4. 4-chord songs summary

Once you have learned a few of the simple open string chords, you can actually play a lot of songs or at least play excerpts from these songs, which definitely increases the fun factor when practicing.
Nevertheless, it is advisable to learn other chord types and fingerings as soon as possible, as this application method reaches its limits at a certain point.

This workshop shows you how you can learn barre chords:

By the way, you can shift your open string chords to other keys with the help of the CAGED system. You can find out how to do this here:

In order to make your everyday practice more exciting, you will find a list of three other songs, which for the most part manage with only four chords.

"Country Roads" (John Denver) - Kapo on the 2nd fret (original key: A major)
-> || G | D | Em | C | G | D | C | G ||

"Save The Night" (Eagle Eye Cherry) Kapo on the 5th fret (original key: A minor)
-> || Em | C | G | D ||

"No Woman No Cry" (Bob Marley) Kapo on the 5th fret (original key: C major)
-> || G D | Em C | G C | G D ||