Play Your First Song With 4 Easy Chords

Learn how to play your first song on guitar using just four easy chords. This article includes a song example by Pearl Jam.

Playing Your First Song

Are you ready to play your first song?

We mentioned in our previous lesson about different parts of the song affecting your dynamics in playing the song or simply strumming quietly or loudly to convey a message. We also had you practice your first chord progression: G, Em, C, D.

Your first song playing this chord progression is “Last Kiss by Pearl Jam”. It is the rock band’s highest-charting cover song in 1999, originally written by Wayne Cochran in 1961. This is one of the easiest songs to play using the same chord pattern all throughout the song. Last Kiss is more basic than the typical song, both in chords and melody in the key of G Major.

Easy chord progression using the most popular key among all keys plus an evenly distributed chord, shifting per bar, can give you a great deal of head start in playing your first song.

You have 4 beats in a bar or measure. You simply start by counting one to four in a consistent rhythm. Do the basics by strumming down on count 1 and resting on 2, 3 and 4. Don’t sing the song yet, just keep on counting the beat so you’ll get used with your chords and tempo.

LAST KISS by Pearl Jam | Key of G, 112 bpm

Chorus

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4 

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4 

G-1 2 3 4 | G-1 2 3 4 

Verse 1

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4  

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4  

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4 

G-1 2 3 4 | G-1 2 3 4  

Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus

Outro

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4 

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4  

G-1 2 3 4 | Em-1 2 3 4 | C-1 2 3 4 | D-1 2 3 4 

G

Notice that you are only strumming down for a start, strumming up will come next if you can already play and change chords comfortably. If you are now confident in forming each chord and in changing chords, you can start strumming down on count 1 and 3 until you are strumming down on all four counts.

  • G 2 G 4 | Em 2 Em 4 | C 2 C 4 | D 2 D 4
  • G G G G | Em Em Em Em | C C C C | D D D D

You can also start singing along while you strum on count 1. Memorizing the lyrics will help you better in playing the song so that you can focus more on strumming and changing chords.

Now, for your final strumming pattern, strum on count 1, 3 & 4 and rest on count 2.

  • G 2 G G | Em 2 Em Em | C 2 C C | D 2 D D

The level of difficulty in strumming variations is determined by how well you practiced your chord shifting exercises in the previous lesson. Feel free to go back practicing if you feel like you’re still having a hard time advancing to playing all four chords.

  • G, Em
  • Em, C
  • C, D
  • D, G

Don’t skip the process so you will not end up frustrated playing your first song. 

Basic Guitar Chord Variations

After playing the chord progression in its common form, which is very important, here’s another hack in playing this song or this chord progression faster using an “anchor note” common to all four chords. This time we will be using the other variation or chord form of the G chord.

G Major (Gmaj or G)

  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 6th string/3rd fret (this is your bass note, G)
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret (anchor note for all chords)
  • Place your 4th finger on the 1st string/3rd fret (anchor note for 3 chords – G, Em, C)
  • Play strings 4 and 3 open

The note in the 2nd string/3rd fret, is the anchor note of all four chords. It means your 3rd finger keeps fretting even when you are changing chords. To do this, there will also be slight adjustments to chords Emin (Em) and Cmaj (C).

E minor Chord (Em) + anchor notes

  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret (anchor note 1)
  • Place your 4th finger on the 1st string/3rd fret (anchor note 2)
  • Play strings 6 and 3 open (the 6th open string is your bass note, E)

Cadd9 (C major + anchor notes)

  • Place your 1st finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 5th string/3rd fret (this is your bass note, C)
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret (anchor note 1)
  • Place your 4th finger on the 1st string/3rd fret (anchor note 2)
  • Play string 3 open
  • Do not play the 6th string, (X)

D Major (Dmaj or D)

  • Place your 1st finger on the 3rd string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 1st string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret (anchor note 1)
  • Play string 4 open (this is your bass note, D)
  • Do not play 6th and 5th string, (X)

Playing these chord variations, you will notice that from the G chord, only the first and second fingers are changing positions as you change chords to Em and C. It is only in chord D where you remove your pinkie, keeping your 3rd finger in the same position while your first and 2nd finger change position. This way, you move easily and faster in changing your chords. Just make sure you played the common form of the chords in your previous exercises really well.

Popular Simple Chord Songs that You May Play Next

The following are some of the most popular songs that you can play on an acoustic guitar. We’ll go into more detail about these songs in our next blog post!

  • Stand By Me by Ben E. King

This song only uses 4 basic chords, but is a great example of how powerful they can be. If you’ve played your first song effectively, this song will most likely be played faster since it employs the same chords.

  • Payphone by Maroon 5

This song is a bit more fast-paced, but still uses the same 4 chords throughout the entire song. You may also appreciate this as a treat, since it employs the same four chords in a different chord progression.

  • Love Me Do by The Beatles

The Beatles are one of the most popular and influential bands of all time, so playing one of their songs is sure to impress. But, wait! You just use three chords from your previous progression this time.

  • Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door By Bob Dylan

This song is a bit more slow and relaxing, and still uses four chords. We just add a new easy open chord, Am, to the mix. You can show off your skills by playing this one next.

  • Three Little Birds by Bob Marley

It’s hard to ignore this song from the legendary Bob Marley, which is a must-have for any reggae lover. Although this song only uses three chords, they are a great refresher from the last four songs.

  • Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus

This song is perfect to show off your country side. The use of just two simple chords is all you need to know about this song. Just make sure you don’t get too achy breaky from all the strumming!

Rock Your First Song!

You may strum it flatly as an absolute beginner but as you get to strum more often, you can feel your strumming bouncing to the beat producing a more round sound.

Play Your First Song

Your consistency and discipline going through the same stroke can make wonders in playing guitar. It will slowly take shape for you as a guitarist. Keep the faith and keep moving forward everyday.

We’ve got good news for you! Your first song will get you farther. You can play more songs using this chord progression. You can now have your family sing with you while you’re playing the guitar and you can definitely sing for them. Rock on!

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