Sure, there are a million things you can learn on the guitar. And if you love the guitar enough, you’ll spend the rest of your life discovering some of those things. But the truth is, you don’t need to be Eddie Van Halen if you want to rock! Three-chord shapes, a dash of courage, and a pinch of groove are all you need to rock!
In fact, some of rock’s most iconic songs use just three chords!
Wild Thing: A, D, & E
In 1965, Chip Taylor wrote Wild Thing in a “couple of minutes.” The song failed to chart when it was initially released by the American band, the Wild Ones, but it’s been a timeless classic ever since the English band, the Troggs, covered it a year later in 1966.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Wild Thing ranks as number 257 of the 500 greatest songs ever written
The song uses just three chords: A Major, D Major, & E Major.
You Really Got Me: F5, G5, & A5
Written by Ray Davis from the English band, the Kinks, You Really Got Me was inspired by American blues artists like Lead Belly & Big Bill Broonzy. Surprisingly, this iconic rock guitar riff was originally written on piano in a “lighter, jazzier style.” Moreover, it was one of the first songs Davis had ever written.
You Really Got Me was released in 1964, and the song hit number one on the UK singles chart. It was later ranked the 82nd Greatest Song of All-Time by Rolling Stone magazine and number 4 on their list of top 100 Guitar Songs of All-Time. You Really Got Me was later covered by iconic rock guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, in 1978.
Well, I guess it turns out, you can be Eddie Van Halen and still rock just three chords!
You Really Got Me makes use of rock’s most common chord shape: the mighty power chord!
Sweet Home Alabama: G, C, D
This iconic southern rock anthem was released in 1974 on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s second album, Second Helping. The song was written in response to another classic rock song, Southern Man by Neil Young. Ironically, none of Sweet Home Alabama’s three songwriters—Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, or Ed King—were from Alabama.
While Sweet Home Alabama is mired in controversy over it’s references to former Alabama governor, George Wallace, there is no denying its lasting power as one of the most iconic opening guitar riffs of all-time. In fact, Sweet Home Alabama was ranked 398th on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.
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