HT Image
HT Image

Three chords and the truth

One of rock music’s most legendary quotations is by one Harlan Howard, a songwriter who wrote many hits for country singers like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, among many others. He said, “All you need to write a country song is three chords and the truth.”
By Luke Kenny | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2010 06:25 PM IST

One of rock music’s most legendary quotations is by one Harlan Howard, a songwriter who wrote many hits for country singers like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, among many others. He said, “All you need to write a country song is three chords and the truth.” And very often, qualities to great songwriting have often been paraphrased as ‘…three chords and the truth’.



In fact, U2 fans will recall, on the album Rattle And Hum, when Bono does a live version of Bob Dylan’s

All along the watchtower...

, one of the lines he sings on it are, “

All I need is my red guitar, three chords and the truth…

,

and the results are magnificent to behold. In fact, ‘All along the watchtower...’ is one of the many hundreds of three chord songs that exist out there.

Lou Reed once said, “One chord is fine, two chords is pushing it, three chords, and you’re into jazz.” Hilarious, because Lou Reed himself went on to write many complex compositions in his lifetime, and still continues to do so. A lot of the early blues songs are all three chord songs, while some of them are two. There are no rules to writng three chord songs, as long as they are good and make you move in some way or the other.

Many variations
Early rock ‘n’ roll, which, as we know, was a graduation from the early blues itself, also featured many three chord variations, some of which are: Elvis Presley’s All shook up..., Chuck Berry’s Johnny be good...,The Beatles’ Long tall sally... and Love me do... and Little Richards’ Tutti frutti....

But that’s not all; the three chord phenomena has continued right upto contemporary times with artists like the Rolling Stones (It’s only rock ‘n’ roll...), Dire Straits (Walk of life...), Alanis Morissette (Hand in my pocket...), Nirvana (Terretorial pissings...), Michael Jackson (Black or white...) and Guns N’ Roses (Paradise city...), among many others going the three chord way.

Perfect education
Three chord songs are the perfect way to start a guitar education, a music education, as well as a songwriting education. And the mere rearranging of three basic chords like E, A and D can give rise to many songs in itself, with surprising results.

Now, I will go further to say that there are some two chord songs as well, and alarmingly, even one chord songs! But that’s for another time. I leave you now to seek out and learn to play, your own favorite three chord songs and write your own truths… if I may say so.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Music composer AR Rahman has been in the music business for almost three decades now.
Music composer AR Rahman has been in the music business for almost three decades now.

AR Rahman: I never look at music as the second option, for me it is the only option

By Juhi Chakraborty
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 08:47 PM IST
Music maestro AR Rahman says sometimes people say that music is going to ‘end’ with other things coming up, but asserts it will evolve and stay.
Close
Delhi-NCR music bands such as Euphoria (above) talk about resuming live performances while considering safety protocols.
Delhi-NCR music bands such as Euphoria (above) talk about resuming live performances while considering safety protocols.

Music bands @NewNormal stage: Sanitised equipments, selfies with mask and masti

By Naina Arora and Mallika Bhagat, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:11 PM IST
Popular bands from Delhi-NCR share how they are taking precautions while resuming live gigs, and get back to the stage after Covid-19 forced them to perform virtually.
Close
BTS singer Jungkook shared the audio clip of his Dis-ease version on Weverse.
BTS singer Jungkook shared the audio clip of his Dis-ease version on Weverse.

BTS's Jungkook drops an alternative bridge of Dis-ease, fans ask 'Where is BTS?'

PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:04 PM IST
  • BTS singer Jungkook released an alternative bridge of the group's song Dis-ease. The 45-second clip has the BTS member singing in English.
Close
Aanchal Shrivastava has released a new song titled Saajan Ji.
Aanchal Shrivastava has released a new song titled Saajan Ji.

I am not making million views and I don’t intend to: Aanchal

By Nikita Deb
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:04 PM IST
The singer says that she is happy to concentrate on her independent music and does not want to shift her focus to Bollywood music as of now.
Close
Shehnaaz and Badshah in a still from the song.
Shehnaaz and Badshah in a still from the song.

Shehnaaz Gill, romances Badshah in new song Fly, watch video

PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 11:54 AM IST
  • Bigg Boss 13 star Shehnaaz Gill romances Badshah in new song Fly, but 'looks part Indian-part Thai'. Watch the video here.
Close
Neha Kakkar and Rohanpreet Singh pose together.
Neha Kakkar and Rohanpreet Singh pose together.

Rohanpreet Singh cannot get over Neha Kakkar’s ‘hotness’ in glamorous new photos

PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:52 PM IST
  • Rohanpreet Singh was bowled over by Neha Kakkar's "hotness" in their glamorous new photoshoot together. See pictures here.
Close
Hyderabad-based hip-hop multilingual rap crew Nawab Gang was founded in 2018
Hyderabad-based hip-hop multilingual rap crew Nawab Gang was founded in 2018

Our art reflects reality, which people don’t like: Nawab Gang’s Seshi Roy

By Sugandha Rawal
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:06 PM IST
Hyderabad-based hip-hop multilingual rap crew Nawab Gang’s A Pramod Seshi Roy feels big names refrain from talking about problems of India
Close
BTS singers Jimin and V have been awarded the Presidential Award.
BTS singers Jimin and V have been awarded the Presidential Award.

BTS' Jimin and V felicitated with Global Cyber University's Presidential Award

PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:54 PM IST
  • BTS singers Jimin and V graduated from Global Cyber University. The duo has been conferred with the Presidential Award as well.
Close
Shreya Ghoshal is all set to become a mother.
Shreya Ghoshal is all set to become a mother.

Shreya Ghoshal announces pregnancy: 'Need all your love and blessings'

PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:07 AM IST
  • Singer Shreya Ghoshal has announced her first pregnancy. She is married to Shiladitya M since six years.
Close
BTS leader RM once sang Punjabi pop song Tunak Tunak Tun in school.
BTS leader RM once sang Punjabi pop song Tunak Tunak Tun in school.

When BTS leader RM revealed he sang Tunak Tunak Tun at the age of 14

PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:12 AM IST
  • BTS leader RM, during a conversation about India, revealed that he was familiar with Daler Mehndi's hit Punjabi track Tunak Tunak Tun and confessed he sang the song in middle school.
Close
Sushant Divgikar identifies himself as gender fluid.
Sushant Divgikar identifies himself as gender fluid.

Sushant Divgikar: There’s deep rooted homophobia in many institutions in India

By Sugandha Rawal
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 03:33 PM IST
Former Mr. Gay India and LGBTQI activist, Sushant Divgikar reacts to Centre’s response to Delhi High Court on same-sex marriage, and says it marginalises a community which is already marginalised.
Close
Harshdeep Kaur and husband Mankeet Singh have welcomed a baby boy.
Harshdeep Kaur and husband Mankeet Singh have welcomed a baby boy.

Harshdeep Kaur welcomes baby boy, says 'our Junior Singh has arrived'

UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 03:46 PM IST
  • Singer Harshdeep Kaur and husband Mankeet Singh have welcomed a son. They had earlier shared several posts trying to guess the baby's gender, wondering if the child would be a 'Singh' or a 'Kaur'.
Close
Armaan Malik is known to be quite vocal on social media about the issues pertaining to the music industry.
Armaan Malik is known to be quite vocal on social media about the issues pertaining to the music industry.

Armaan Malik: I do not believe in talking about religion or politics on social media

By Sugandha Rawal
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 08:21 PM IST
Singer Armaan Malik says he has his own beliefs and way of thinking, but he doesn’t feel the need to voice that, because someone or the other will take offence to it.
Close
BTS singer V and his friend Peakboy worked on Snow Flower, which released in December 2020.
BTS singer V and his friend Peakboy worked on Snow Flower, which released in December 2020.

BTS's V drops vlog featuring his workout session, his friend Peakboy and more

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:01 PM IST
  • BTS singer V released his vlog on YouTube, which featured a few behind-the-scenes glimpses at his song Snow Flower with Peakboy, his workout session, and more.
Close
BLACKPINK singer Rose in her solo debut poster.
BLACKPINK singer Rose in her solo debut poster.

BLACKPINK's Rosé solo debut release date out, see teaser poster

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 06:27 PM IST
  • BLACKPINK member Rosé shared posters to confirm that she will make her solo debut on March 12. Her fellow BLACKPINK members Jisoo, Lisa and Jennie extend their support.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP