I know this fact because of some research I did in preparation for a play about King Henry VIII that I was involved in. The music for the play started out classical and gradually changed to modern and even rock music. I spent an afternoon with the director’s favorite Elvis CD learning songs that might be used in the play. After about 4 or 5, I began to see the pattern. Almost every song could be played using D, G, A and B minor. I ended up learning several more songs that day and they all used these four chords (he ended up using the song “Burning Love” for the play with Henry himself singing lead). It was a revelation! All my life I’d been striving to learn more complex and difficult music, but what people really loved is 3 and 4 chord rock and roll. The very kind of rock made people incredibly happy with this simplified music. He wrote enough hit songs to keep any listener content for a good long while.
Now I didn’t mean to discourage my friend from achieving his goal of seven chords, I just wanted him to know that the beautiful music he wished to make was within his grasp long before all seven chords are under his fingers. There are hundreds of songs from all different styles of music that can be played with as little as two chords (“Mary Had A Little Lamb” comes to mind).
My advice is this; as soon as you learn C and G or D and A, look up every two chord songs you can find and start playing. If you can sing along, do so. This makes the song immediately recognizable and may lead to spontaneous sing-alongs. And by the time you’ve learned four chords you’ll be ready to play along with the King.
-Contributed by (in the words of) Joel Davis, guitar instructor