Yeehaw! Nothing gets a foot tapping like some good ol’ country music!

Today we’ll turn our attention to chords for country guitar, the meat and potatoes of every good country song.

Many guitarists want to focus on those twiddly country licks – don’t me wrong, I love those too – but you’ve gotta get the foundation in place first.

I want to show you the most important chords and progressions for learning country music on guitar quickly and easily.

Let’s get into it...

15 country guitar chords to learn for players at any level

Learning the right country music guitar chords is essential if you want to be a country guitar aficionado.

One of the best ways to tune into the sound is by listening to country masters who have perfected the art of songwriting.

They know how to take a handful of basic chords and turn them into something magical.

Here are the top country guitar chords you need to know to play your favorite songs.

Beginner country chords

These are often referred to as ‘cowboy chords’ due to their rustic nature and popularity in country, folk, and bluegrass music.

A handful of open chords can take you a long way in country music.

Mastering these country guitar chords is easy and once you know them, you can play progressions in any key using a capo – more on this later.

For now, let’s check out these simple chord shapes for country guitar.

#1 – G major

This one of the essential country chords. It uses all six strings and sounds warm and full – perfect for strumming.

#2 – C Major

It’s got a bright and cheerful tone, well with G Major and it is often the center of our musical universe – many country songs are written in the key of C major.

#3 –D major

The smallest open chord in this list. It only uses four strings and has a more trebly tone. 

A variety of tonal dynamics is important and this chord's unique sound can be useful. 

#4 –  E minor

One of the easiest chords to play, and an essential addition to this list of basic country chords. 

This is the first minor chord most people learn – its melancholy sound can add some emotional variety to a progression.

#5 – A major

Maybe the second most popular key for country and blues music. The A major chord is an absolute must-know guitar chord.

Intermediate country chords

#6 – F major

This bar chord is the first of our moveable country guitar chords.

It requires a lot more finger strength and precise placement of fingers on the frets than open chords, so don’t get frustrated if it takes a while to get it right.

#7 – B minor

Once you master this second bar chord, you have the foundation to play any chord. 

The great thing about bar chords is that you can move them all over the neck, making it easier to perform a wide range of songs.

#8 – D7

Seventh chords are often associated with jazz, but dominant chords are common in blues, country, and folk music.

#9 – A7

Here’s the dominant chord shape with the open A root note.

#10 – E7

Complete the set with this E7 shape. If you want a real challenge, try to play each of these as bar chords.

Advanced country chords

These are on the trickier side of the spectrum, but you can totally handle them – they’re just a little step up in difficulty from the previous five shapes.

#11 – G7

G is the V in the key of C major – so a G dominant chord is a great way to add some tension before resolving to a C chord.

#12 – C7

C7 is a staple in country music, adding a touch of the blues to your playing. It’s often used in turnarounds and transitions, giving a slightly dissonant sound that resolves beautifully to F or G chords.

#13 – B7

B7 is essential for playing in the key of E and is commonly used in country and blues music. 

#14 – F#m

F#m is a minor bar chord that’s crucial for songs in the key of A major. It’s the relative minor of A and adds a melancholic tone to your progressions.

#15 – A#m7b5

This chord might seem intimidating, but it has the potential to add a sophisticated, jazzy touch to your country playing if used correctly.

These advanced shapes build upon the classic country guitar chords you've already mastered.

How country chords are constructed

You don’t need to understand all the theory to play great country music, your ear is the most important thing: 

"I’d think learning to play the guitar would be very confusing for sighted people"​ - Doc Watson

That being said, it’s still important to learn some of the basics.

I firmly believe that when you know how to build guitar chords, you can write better songs, and create more interesting solos.

On that note, let’s get an idea of what goes into a chord.

I’ll assume you already know how to play a major scale, if not, follow that link for a full explanation.

Major triads

The intervals are the same for every major scale, which makes it really easy to transpose ideas on the guitar.

The formula for major guitar chords is the root note (R), 3rd, and 5th.

If we apply this formula starting from the root note C – we get the notes C, E, and G – a Cmaj chord.

If we apply this formula starting from the root note G – we get the notes G, B, and D – a Gmaj chord.

Minor triads

The simplest way to turn a major triad into a minor triad is by ‘flattening the 3rd’.

All this means is to lower the 3rd interval by a half step (one fret) – a flat 3rd is often written as b3.

You can see how this translates to the fretboard here – an A major chord turning into an A minor chord just by lowering the 3rd.

Just the basics

I don’t want to get into the complexities of chords within a key, stacked 3rds, and building harmony – it’s a bit beyond the scope of this article.

If you’re interesting in getting to grip with more advanced musical ideas, check out Music Theory Learning Pathway.

You can use our 14-day free trial – no strings attached!

What are seventh chords?

Now that you’ve had a crash course in building chords, adding a 7th shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

I explained that to make a basic chord (triad) we need the root (R), 3rd, and 5th – so what do you think we need to add to make a 7th chord?

You got it! The 7th interval.

Seventh chords come in different flavors:

  • Major 7 – e.g. Cmaj7
  • Minor 7 – e.g Cm7 
  • Dominant 7 – e.g C7
  • Half diminished – eg. Cm7b5

Most of these are quite rare in country music, but they’re still worth knowing just in case one pops up in a songbook or lead sheet.

We’ll show you a single shape for each, but there are many different ways to play a chord – check out the CAGED system to learn more.

Major seventh chord

I want you to take another look at this table – turning that C major chord into a Cmaj7 is a piece of cake.

We just add the 7th into our C major chord – R, 3rd, 5th, 7th.

This stuff can be a struggle to figure out at first, but don’t worry.

To make this easier, I’ll show you the open A major chord turning into an Amaj7 chord.

You’ll notice that the root note when lowered by one fret becomes a 7.

 This is because the intervals go in a loop:

R - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - R - 2 - 3 - 4 etc.

So if you take a step backward from the root note, you land on the 7th interval.

Minor seventh chord

The principle is similar with minor 7 chords.

To demonstrate, I’ll show you how to turn a major into a minor scale – to do this we flatten the 3rd, 6th, and 7th.

Here’s what that looks like: 

If we follow the same chord formula using this scale we get R, b3, 5, b7.

This makes a minor seventh chord.

Let’s see how this looks on the fretboard using our open A shape again.

The Amaj7 turns into the Am7 when we lower the 7th and the 3rd.

Dominant seventh chord

The dominant seventh chord is popular in blues and country - it’s great for soloing over because you can switch between major and minor pentatonic scales.

How is this possible?

Because the chord is halfway between major and minor – the 3rd is major, but the 7th is minor (b7).

Take a look…

Minor 7 (flat 5) / Half-diminished chord

It’s rare to hear diminished or half-diminished chords in country music – they’re much more common in jazz – but let’s complete the set anyway!

  • You already know what a minor 7 contains (R, b3, 5, b7).
  • Diminished simply means a flattened 5th interval. 
  • The perfect 5th is a very stable and consonant interval, but when we flatten it, it becomes extremely dissonant.

This extreme dissonance is why diminished chords are far less common.

How to use a capo for country guitar

"To me, it’s all about the song. If the song is there, everything else will fall into place." – Owen Bradley (country music producer)

Like most Western folk music, country heavily focuses on the singer-songwriter style. 

When a vocalist uses a guitar as an accompaniment they want to make play the chords as simple as possible.

One way to do this is with a capo – it allows you to transpose easy open chords to anywhere on the neck.

Why would someone want to do this?  

There are a few reasons:

  • You’re playing with someone whose instrument is tuned to a specific key – like a harmonica.
  • Standard open chords don’t suit your vocal range.
  • You don’t know how to play country chords beyond the open position.

We’ve got a full article on how to use a capo if you want a little more info.

A quick Google search will bring up some of the best country songs with lyrics and guitar chords – try to sing along and move the capo until you find a comfortable key.

Country guitar-specific chords

Besides the cowboy chords we’ve already mentioned, country guitar is based on a certain style and attitude.

If you really want to tune into this genre, study legendary country artists like Maybell Carter, Joe Maphis, Bonnie Raitt, and Chet Atkins.

With that in mind, let’s see how a country guitarist might view different groups of notes.

Two-note guitar chords

This is a bit of a gray area in terms of definition. 

  • Really, a chord should be three or more different notes, 
  • But a powerchord is only the root note and 5th – and we still call it a chord.
  • A ‘dyad’ is another word for two notes that imply a chord.

So how would a country guitar player view this? 

Double stops!

Double stops are one of the most iconic country guitar sounds – they’re not quite chords, but they’re not single-note melodies either. 

They often produce a distinct, twangy sound that is characteristic of country music.

Three-note guitar chords

Triads are the bread and butter of country music and there are four types of triads:

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Augmented
  • Diminished 

The first two are used constantly in country music, whereas augmented and diminished triads are much less common.

Four-note guitar chords

The flavorful 7th chords are more common in jazz and neo soul but still have their place in country music.

I’ve already given a rundown earlier in the article, if you want a deeper dive read this article on seventh chords.

Five-note guitar chords

This is where things get a little more complex. 

We use extensions to create even more harmonic depth – these notes go beyond the octave.

Here’s how to construct chords with extensions.

When we continue to stack thirds beyond the octave, we get the 9th, 11th, and 13th intervals.

So the formula to a Cmaj9 would be – R, 3, 5, 7, 9.

What about these add9 chords I see everywhere?

  • With extended chords, the 7th is always implied.
  • A Cmaj9 still contains a 7th even though it’s not in the chord name.
  • Add9 means this chord does not include the 7th.

Here’s the formula for a Cadd9 – R, 3, 5, 9.

Six-note guitar chords

This is physically as far as we can go with a six-string guitar!

We can play a C11 chord by following our series of stacked 3rds – R, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11.

Any chords with more notes than that become a problem on guitar, so you have two options:

  1. Play an arpeggio of the chord – this allows you to play more than one note per string.
  2. Omit less important notes in the chord.

Country guitar chord embellishments

One of the easiest ways to country-fy your chord progressions is by adding little embellishments and licks to different chord shapes.

This is a really simple and effective method for scattering some banjo-esque style to whatever you play.

These embellishments also help create smooth chord transitions.

Here’s an example of how lifting or adding a finger to an open D major chord can add some extra flair to your country guitar strumming patterns.

If you ever find yourself at RCA Studios in Nashville and need to dial up the country vibes – these embellishments will help out.

Country guitar chord progressions

You may recognize some of these classic country and Western progressions.

It’s surprising how many of our favorite country tunes follow the same sequence of chords.

Let’s familiarize ourselves with some of them. 

For beginners, starting with the easiest country songs to learn on guitar can provide a solid foundation and boost confidence.

The I-IV-V

In the key of C: Cmaj - Fmaj - Gmaj

In the key of A: Amaj - Dmaj - Emaj

  • The I-IV-V progression is one of the most fundamental and widely used chord sequences in country music. 
  • This simple yet powerful progression forms the backbone of countless country songs.
  • It works so well in country music because of its balance and resolution. 

The movement from the tonic (I) to the subdominant (IV) and then to the dominant (V) creates a familiar and satisfying movement.

The I-vi-IV-V 

In the key of C: Cmaj - Am -  Fmaj - Gmaj

In the key of D: Dmaj - Bm - Gmaj - Amaj

  • This progression is a bit more dynamic than the I-IV-V.
  • The inclusion of a minor chord (vi) adds another layer of emotional depth.
  • The vi chord is known as the relative minor to the tonic – they have a very harmonious relationship.

Turnarounds in country music

Now, turnarounds aren’t strictly chord progressions, but they’re an essential part of country music songwriting and structure.

  • Turnarounds are short sequences used to transition between sections of a song.
  • They’re usually a string of notes over one or two chords.
  • A turnaround create a strong sense of conclusion before returning moving on to a new part of the song.

Secondary dominants

These are less common in modern country music, but if you blow the dust off some old vinyl you’ll hear them.

The music theory is a bit beyond the scope of this article, watch this for an overview of secondary dominants.

Which scales fit which chord?

Let’s keep things fairly simple for the moment.

One rule of thumb in country music is to play major pentatonic scales in a major key, and minor pentatonic in a minor key.

[add neck diagrams for major and minor pentatonic]

  • This is known as a ‘blanket approach’ – playing one scale over all the chords in a progression.
  • As you get more comfortable you can switch between major or minor depending on each specific chord in the progression.
  • Advanced country guitarists will use chord tones or modal ideas to take their solos to the next level.

Learn more about modes


What guitar chords are used in country?

🤠 Cowboy chords! Our simple major and minor chords in the open position are a staple in country guitar playing.

Of course, things can get as complex as you’d like. I’ve always enjoyed simplicity in a chord progression, but there’s a world of exciting colors to play with.

When you gain more experience in songwriting you may want to include more complex chords to your progressions.

What is the 3-chord progression in country?

The I-IV-V is a giant in country, folk, and blues music – there’s no shortage of iconic tunes using this chord sequence.

The key of G is a favorite amongst country guitar legends.

If you want to write your own country hit, strum these chords and sing your heart out – G-C-D

What are 10 basic country chords?

You can play practically any country song with your open major and minor chords + two bar chord shapes if you want to complete the set.

Major open chords

C, D, E, G, A

Minor open chords

Dm, Em, Am

Bar chords

F (E shape), B (A shape)

What are cowboy chords?

Cowboy chords refer to the basic open chords like G, C, D, and A. 

They’re called cowboy chords because of their prevalence in country and folk music.

These are great for beginner acoustic country guitar songs.

What are some easy country songs to learn on guitar?

Classic country songs are great for beginners as the chord progressions are usually quite straightforward.

Easy country songs to play on guitar with chords you should already know.

You can find the country guitar chords and lyrics for these online.

Wrapping up

That’s enough to get you rolling on down that country road – just don’t forget to bring your Fender Telecaster!

This genre is packed with interesting techniques, styles, and sounds - and today we only scratched the surface!

When I first started, I had the habit of running ahead and inevitably missing things along the way.

I recommend you take some time to explore everything country guitar has to offer – nice and slowww.

If you're new to country guitar, there are plenty of easy country songs to play on guitar with chords that can help you get started and build your confidence.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of the country style – picking up some of the ideas will undoubtedly enrich your guitar playing.

🎁 We’re currently offering a 14-day free trial for all our courses!

So grab that geetar and get started on the Country Learning Pathway – you’ll be twanging like a pro in no time.

Author: Richard Spooner