25 Best One Chord Guitar Songs

Most famous musical artists and bands in Western culture aren’t known for minimalism.

And why someone writing a song would self-impose a limit of one chord can be rather confusing.

Sometimes it may just happen naturally of course, but with some musicians, I think it’s done as a sort of experiment or challenge. 

There’s even a famous quote from solo artist Lou Reed, originally a founding member of the Velvet Underground that may give a clue:

“One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz”.

The quote sounds really cool, but I can’t think of any popular Velvet Underground songs that only use one chord, although they did have a lot of songs with only two chords. 

But the idea is a challenge to what constitutes music and a way to push back against Classical music, Jazz, etc., in the same way, that Modernist art challenged the earlier “formal” works of art both in form and content. 

Now a lot of people are quick to make fun of Modern art and may also be skeptical of songs with only one or two chords.

But it can be complicated. 

What could be considered a one-chord song on guitar is debatable, especially if a song performed by a whole band is arranged to be played on a single guitar. 

Does a double stop count as a chord? 

Can a riff played around a chord disqualify a song from the list? 

If another chord briefly sneaks in or other instruments are playing different chords is it not a one-chord song? 

To clarify, today we’ll take a look at some songs that are considered to be based on one chord

And perhaps the most important question is can such a simple song actually sound good?

You can make your own evaluation but I’ll bet you didn’t even know that some of the following songs are almost entirely limited to one measly little chord.  

1. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

This whole song except for the solo is centered around an E power chord with a riff surrounding the chord that makes it sound like pure gold

Although there is a “hint” of a D chord played as two identical D notes (the A string fretted at the 5th fret and the open D string), this song is pretty pure when it comes to the idea of only using one chord. 

The song’s playtime is rounded out by giving drummer John Bonham some time in the spotlight and Robert Plant doing some “not safe for work” vocalizations. 

And the result is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin tracks: pure Rock and Roll built on a Blues foundation. 

The album Led Zeppelin II is often considered to be the most Blues influenced of the band’s output and there are some famous Blues songs (see below) that are based on one chord, so that may have been an influence.

In fact, the band had to pay out some money to Bluesman Willie Dixon for “borrowing” some of the lyrics in the song. 

Whatever its origins, I’m just glad that this song exists; check out the lesson or tab to learn the timeless riff and play it loud!

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

2. Mama Do the Hump – Rizzle Kicks

A Hip Hop duo from merry old England struck it rich with a G7 chord.

And the funky Bo Diddley-inspired guitar rhythm provides the perfect backing track to rap over, a perfect example of how Hip Hop can make old things new again with a little innovation. 

Now just strumming the same chord over and over would obviously sound boring.

But what makes it catchy is when you choose to press the chord and when you let your hand relax to mostly mute the strings.

With a steady loose strumming you press the chord on down – up – down  -up  -down – down strokes.  

It’s super easy and just check out the short tutorial video if you need to hear the guitar part isolated. 

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

3. Coconut – Harry Nilsson 

Harry Nilsson is one of those guys whose music you probably know, even if you don’t know his name, with hits such as Everybody’s Talkin’ (Echoes), Without You, and this tropical earworm.

You may have even heard this on a Coca-Cola tv ad back when they released their Coke with lime flavor. 

The lyrics were subtly but ingeniously changed from “You put the lime in the coconut” to “You put the lime in the Coke you nut”. I sure hope whoever came up with that marketing campaign got a nice bonus that year.  

To play this song you just need to start with a C7 chord, master the finger-picking rhythm and alternate your ring finger between the 3rd frets of the A and low E strings to create a C – G bass line. 

It’s a perfect ditty for beach (or pool) parties or when you simply want to imagine you’re far away on a beach somewhere!  

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

4. Loser – Beck

Some people may debate whether this song is really just using one chord but there are a few things to consider.

Loser is based on playing slide guitar with either Drop D or Open D tuning, and as with most songs that combine slide and open tunings, your open chord is going to be the basis of the song. 

You could argue that the slide up to the 5th fret is a G chord, but the slide never stays still for very long, and with the added harmonics, the D chord is the only one that ever really rings out. 

This is obviously a song that is influenced by Hip Hop, and like Mama Do the Hump, you don’t really need chord changes to rap over, just a catchy groove and a nice beat.

But it’s a really fun song to play on an acoustic and a great introduction to playing slide guitar.

Link to tab

And here’s a lesson:

5. Run On for a Long Time – Bill Landford and the Landfordaires

6. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) – Sly and the Family Stone

7. Keep On Chooglin’ – Creedence Clearwater Revival

8. Run through the Jungle – Creedence Clearwater Revival

9. Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles

10. Helen Wheels – Paul McCartney and Wings

11. American Woman – Lenny Kravitz

12. Who’s He And What Is He To You? – Bill Withers

13. Get Up, Stand Up – Bob Marley

14. Bad to The Bone – George Thorogood

15. Careful with That Axe, Eugene – Pink Floyd

16. Spoonful – Cream

17. Magic Bus – The Who

18. The Story of Bo Diddley – The Animals

19. Spike Driver Blues – Mississippi John Hurt

20. Bullet the Blue Sky – U2

21. I’m Bad Like Jesse James – John Lee Hooker

22. Lazybones – Soul Coughing

23. One Chord Song – Stoney LaRue

24. The Story of One Chord – Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper

25. The Bogus Man – Roxy Music