It never fails to amaze me that there are so many amazing (and not so amazing) songs written with just 4 chords.
When you start really thinking about it, what’s more astounding is that new, individual songs are written every day with the same four chords.Yet they don’t all sound the same. You can even play the same four chords, in the same order, at the same tempo, however, if you put a different melody on top, change the rhythm or move the accents and it’ll sound completely different.
There’s no better online example than this funny and very entertaining video by ‘The Axis of Awesome’, an Aussie musical comedy trio. Sure they’ve transposed some of the songs to make their point, but it pretty clearly demonstrates that there are a lot of possibilities with 4 simple chords (I, V, vi, IV – or more simply put in G major – G, D, Em, C).
Then there are some songs don’t bother with even four chords. Off the top of my head, here are some famous tunes with three chords …
– Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band (Am, Dm, E7),
– Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley (A, D, E)
– All Along The Watchtower – Bob Dylan/Hendrix (C#m, A#, G#),
– Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival (A, D, G),
– Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol (A, E, F#m7)
– La Bamba – Los Lobos/Richie Valens (C, F, G)
– Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something (A, D, G)
– Red Red Wine – Bob Marley, UB40 (C, D, G)
– Wild Thing – The Troggs (A, D, E)
– All Shook Up – Elvis Presley (A, D, E)
And then two!
– Eleanor Rigby – Beatles (Em, C)
– Jambalaya – Hank Williams (G, D7)
And then only one chord….