SEPTEMBER 18th, 2006


One-Chord Songs

With beginning students, my primary goal is to get them making music as soon as possible. Often, the first lesson is their litmus test to see if they really are interested in playing the guitar - understandably, they want to explore this idea they've had of learning to play an instrument, and they want to make sure that they haven't made a mistake, that it won't be too hard or too frustrating. In other words, the longer they have to wait before they feel like they are really "playing," the more likely they are to give up after a while.

Start With A Song

With this in mind, I always to try to start with a song. Sometimes, a student will pick up chords fairly quickly, in which case the choice of material is wide open. However, for many students, the physical aspects of contorting their fingers into a chord shape are just so new and challenging that they really need to take it slow. Asking them to try to strum, hold a chord shape, and then CHANGE chords is just too much all at once.

Don't Skimp on the Groove

I also feel that too often teachers (and students, for that matter) spend too little time developing rhythmic skills. Often students demand a maximum amount of material to keep them interested, and teachers comply with new chords, songs, and riffs, afraid of losing the interest of the student. Consequently, the student spends all his/her time learning new fingerings, and takes rhythmic elements for granted.

All-in One

Because of these factors, one chord songs offer interesting possibilities. Most importantly, the student can play a song from the very first lesson. Secondly, the teacher has an opportunity to work on rhythmic ideas and right-hand techniques without boring the student, but without piling on too much at once either. Even later on, when students have mastered more chords, one chord songs are a great way to explore scale choices for improvising.

One-Chord Wonders

Listed to the right you'll my find my master list of all the one-chord tunes that I've been able to find, complete with links to the lyrics of each. I hope to keep expanding on this list, and if you have any to add, please let me know. By the way, you'll also find a nice list of one-chord children's classics at


Was it good for you, too? Join the discussion »

Learn More

Related Topics: Accompaniment, Technique

Search Guitar Pedagogy

Search the Web

One-Chord Wonders

*Of course, Tomorrow Never Knows does have a Bb/C chord, which makes it arguably a two-chorder, but what's a Bb/C among friends?