15 Guitar Songs With One Chord

Does the thought of playing songs with innumerable chords keep you up at night as if haunted by spirits? Don’t worry too much, as once you get a few chords under your belt, you’ll play those songs with ease. 

But what is one to do in the meantime? Fortunately, there are many songs based around 1 single chord, with the following songs being great examples. 

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“Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles

If you take the time to explore the catalog of The Beatles, you’ll discover some vast sonic landscapes. The song, Tomorrow Never Knows, from the Revolver album, is definitely one of their most intriguing and bizarre. 

Yes, this song is truly trippy, on a level that few songs considered to be “psychedelic” even compare with. The lyrics and musicality are like a combination of different dimensions as if the song was a medium for otherworldliness.

Of course, when you do some research on the song’s background, it does make a little more sense. In many ways, some of the lyrical content matches up quite nicely with Eastern spiritual teachings. 

The song itself is actually based around a C chord. If you’ll notice, a tambura is used to play a droning note in the background throughout the entire song. 

The tambura is an instrument designed to provide the harmonic foundation for the sitar. This song uses it as a canvas for adding production elements that were truly quite innovative for the time. 

Tomorrow Never Knows is a pretty popular song nowadays, and has been covered by many artists. Phish, Sonic Youth, and Los Lobos have all been known to cover the song during performances. 

“Crosseyed And Painless” by Talking Heads

The Talking Heads expanded their sound in a very potent manner by the end of the 1970s. This period really saw the band encapsulate the form of a powerhouse funk band.

Their album, Remain In Light, which came out in 1980, remains to be a pinnacle of music composition achievement. It also produced some of the band’s biggest and most well-known hits.

One of the many standout tracks from the album is the song, Crosseyed And Painless. This song has a driving funk sound based around the B minor chord.

Despite being based on 1 chord, the band is able to make the song sound immensely complex. This is a classic example of simplicity allowing for complex, orchestral layering.

In fact, the band at this time is almost the definition of a funk orchestra. Their performances consisted of many musicians, all of whom played a small role in the bigger picture of the song. 

If you play this song on the guitar without any help from others, you might find it a bit sparse. Some creative arpeggiation and rhythmic patterns might come in handy to fill out the sound. 

“The National Anthem” by Radiohead

If you’ve never listened to Radiohead, the song, The National Anthem, might perplex you. It might not be so readily apparent as to which country this national anthem is for. 

However, if you’re a Radiohead fan, this song definitely is your national anthem. It embodies the gritty, emotional undertone that exists within much of Radiohead’s music. 

What you’ll immediately notice is the fact that The National Anthem has a driving, repetitive bass line. This fact means that The National Anthem is built from 1 chord, which happens to be D. 

The National Anthem is a song that will have you gripping the edge of your seat. There is a particular horn section within the song that really adds an element of tension. 

“Exodus” by Bob Marley

Have you ever wondered what song gave Bob Marley the worldwide reputation he has today? Look no further than the track, Exodus, which he released with The Wailers in 1977.

This song helped to give reggae a worldwide platform, and it’s full of classic reggae stylings. You’ll find this song to be full of orchestral layers of horns, backing vocals, and spacey rhythmic guitar elements. 

For the most part, Exodus is based around the A minor chord. As you will continue to see with many of the songs on this list, the extra instrumentation provides depth. 

“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher

Out of all the husband-wife musical duos throughout history, Sonny & Cher proved to be a force to be reckoned with. For over a decade, the radio was littered with hits that had the voices of Sonny & Cher.

One of their biggest is the song, The Beat Goes On, climbing to the top 10 of the pop charts. This track has a loose and lazy feeling, as if being in a daze on a summer Saturday afternoon. 

What’s interesting is that the song is actually based on the single chord of F. Sonny & Cher manage to keep things sonically interesting with their voices.

If you’ve ever heard of the studio band, The Wrecking Crew, this is a song they recorded. As history goes, this track apparently took nearly 4 hours, despite its musical simplicity. 

Nevertheless, The Beat Goes On makes for a great song to have up your sleeve for the right occasion. It can come in handy for an impromptu duet that wouldn’t otherwise happen if you didn’t know the song. 

“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin

"Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin

You’re probably thinking to yourself, no, it can’t be, Led Zeppelin would never play a song based on 1 chord. Well, think again, because the track, Whole Lotta Love fits this criterion.

On a passive listen, one would certainly not think that this song has simple roots. This is largely in part due to the riff-heavy nature of Led Zeppelin’s music.

Whole Lotta Love is built primarily from the chord E. All of the riffs within the song serve as a dressing, disguising this simplicity.

Even the song’s guitar solo takes place in the spaces between the rhythmic stabbing of an E chord.

This track is probably best-known for the fact that it has a theremin solo. The simple base of the song allows for this experimentation to really take place.

With songs like this, it’s a clear indicator that a popular song doesn’t necessarily need to be overly complex. 

“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations

While The Temptations reigned supreme in the 1960s, the following decade was really no different. The 1970s saw The Temptations stepping out and exploring different forms of songwriting.

Take the song, Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone, for instance. Despite being a memorial song, it has a feel as if it came straight from the film, Shaft. 

Compared to other songs by the group, Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone was quite a bit different. This track has a length of nearly 12 minutes, which is far different than their pop stylings of the 1960s. 

The entirety of the song is built from the Bb minor chord, though it isn’t always readily apparent. All of the instrumentation within keeps things fresh as each second of the song passes by. 

“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly & The Family Stone

Funk music is often one of the likeliest music genre candidates to employ a single chord throughout an entire song. A great example of this is Sly & The Family Stone’s classic, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). 

The song is primarily built around an E minor chord, though you wouldn’t guess that on the first listen. Lush horn ornamentation and a driving bass line make it easy to look past this simple fact.

This track is especially important, as it consists of one of the first recorded instances of slap bass. Generations of bass players have learned the technique as it is a commonplace technique in today’s music. 

In a way, this song was definitely a bit ahead of its time, considering that it came out in 1969. Funk didn’t become too common until a few years later, though it had been around (James Brown, for example).

Plus, when you think of other famous funk songs, this track has an undeniable heavy funkiness. It is perhaps one of the funkiest songs to ever be recorded. 

“Lazybones” by Soul Coughing

Soul Coughing is one of those 90s bands that likely missed your radar. However, you owe it to yourself to discover their discography. 

This band really had a unique sound, although it wasn’t exactly fit for mainstream radio criteria. A good primer might be found with the track, Lazybones, which comes from their 2nd album. 

Throughout this track, you’ll notice that there is a distinct droning effect produced by the repeating guitar line. Despite the song seemingly modulating to another chord, the track actually stays based around D#.

“Loser” by Beck

"Loser" by Beck

Today, Beck is highly regarded as one of the best songwriters and record producers in the music industry. However, it wasn’t until around 1994 that Beck started gaining the reputation he has today. 

If you were alive then, you could not go a day without hearing his song, Loser, on the radio. This track managed to infiltrate all broadcasting waves, cementing Beck as a household name.

Part of the song’s success was the fact that it blended hip-hop elements with folk in a weird, art-rock way. It was unlike anything that came before it, and it proved to be a highly addictive song.

Loser is actually built from the single chord of D. This allows Beck to introduce many samples into the song’s mix.

Beck has definitely traversed some different sonic landscapes since Loser broke him into the mainstream. Many of his albums have been featured on innumerable Top 10 lists of various tastemakers over the years.

“Coconut” by Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson is one of those obscure artists that was always seemingly present, though never at the forefront. His music has been featured in countless films, though you might not have known it was him. 

There have been many historical accounts of his various friendships over the years, as well. John Lennon is perhaps the most notable friendship to emerge from these stories.

Perhaps the best primer on Harry Nilsson is to start with one of his most famous tracks, Coconut. This is based around the C7 chord and is readily recognizable by its picking pattern and lyrics. 

Coconut is a song that people of all ages enjoy, but children especially enjoy due to its playfulness. The lyrics are a bit zany, which only adds to the overall fun feeling this song manages to provide. 

“Keep On Chooglin’” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival songs are known to be especially easy to play on the guitar. Yet, despite their simplicity, their songs are uniquely distinct, and never feel or sound basic.

Their track, Keep On Chooglin’, is perhaps one of the most enduring songs amongst CCR fans. This has the band’s signature swamp-rock sound, with a hefty dose of delta blues stylings thrown in. 

However, unlike most blues songs, Keep On Chooglin’ stays based around the chord of E. This allows the solos to really tear into some nice dimensions while remaining ever so swampy. 

“Ding Dang” by The Beach Boys

If you’ve never listened to The Beach Boys, don’t let the surf imagery turn you away. Letting this affect you would cause you to miss out on some of the greatest music ever written.

Millions of words have been used to describe the genius of Brian Wilson at length. Some of those words have even gone on to describe his bizarre musicality that sometimes challenges the ear. 

Take the track, Ding Dang, for example, which has a length of just shy of 1 minute. Throughout this song, you’ll be confronted with an exquisite layering of simple vocals over a piano line. 

In some ways, Ding Dang is like a musical kaleidoscope too powerful for any track time beyond its current length. It’s based around F and doesn’t modulate at all from the chord. 

“Low Rider” by War

War had a few hits throughout their career, but none has been as enduring as the song, Low Rider. This track definitely provides the laid-back feeling of cool that is associated with classic cars. 

Low Rider is usually immediately recognizable by the bass line and percussion. However, it’s generally the iconic horn lines that most people are able to recite from memory. 

As this is primarily a funk song at its heart, Low Rider is based on the single chord of G. You’ll notice that the bass line remains relatively the same throughout the entire song. 

Despite coming from the 1970s, Low Rider will always be a song that epitomizes the word “cool”. It’s been featured in countless films over the years when such a feeling is needed in a scene. 

“Smokestack Lightnin’” by Howlin’ Wolf 

Howlin’ Wolf is definitely one of the towering figures of the Chicago blues scene of the 1960s and 70s. Though his legacy is huge, he doesn’t often get the recognition he deserves from younger generations. 

It’s usually the result of a little musical exploration that one comes across the music of Howlin’ Wolf. The result is usually the revelation that though much of the blues is similar, Howlin’ Wolf is unique. 

If you’ve never taken the time to listen to Howlin’ Wolf, be sure to check out the song, Smokestack Lightnin’. This song, built around the E minor chord, has all of his iconic musical idiosyncrasies. 

You’ll hear a large voice that could have only come from a large personality to match it. He might have been a scary presence to some, but his music is like no other. 

Guitar Songs With One Chord, Final Thoughts

It just goes to show that you don’t need more than 1 chord to put together a potent song. Some of the very best tracks ever recorded have employed this fact to great effect.

No matter how skilled you get at the guitar, always keep this simple fact in mind. It can really help you out when you feel stuck and experiencing a bit of compositional writer’s block.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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