A woman plays her white keyboard near the window

Fact: With 3 Chords You Can Play Hundreds of Songs On The Piano

Sound too good to be true? It’s not!  Hey there – Scott Houston here.  One of my three “Secrets” to teaching adults of any age how to learn AND enjoy playing the piano is that you only need a couple of chords to play dozens and dozens of songs that you know and enjoy.  Learning songs you like helps to keep you energized and makes the learning process enjoyable instead of a chore.  Over the years, many of the most popular songs we hear on the radio actually use this secret to create their chart topping hits.

But don’t just take my word for it!  Below, you’ll find a comical video by the Australian comedy rock group “The Axis of Awesome.” Back in 2009, they preformed a skit to prove just how many chart topping hits only use 4 chords by meshing together 35+ songs into one “4 chord song.”  It demonstrates in a fun and entertaining way how just a few chords can open up the flood gates!

WARNING: I must warn that there is one instance of “colorful” language at the beginning of this video – around the 0:45 second mark.  But don’t worry, the rest of the video is very clean and entertaining!  I think you’ll be surprised by how many tunes you recognize.

35+ Songs With Only 4 Chords

Here is a full list of the songs they play:

  • Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
  • James Blunt – You’re Beautiful
  • Alphaville – Forever Young
  • Jason Mraz – I’m Yours
  • Mika – Happy Ending
  • Alex Lloyd – Amazing
  • The Calling – Wherever You Will Go
  • Elton John – Can You Feel The Love Tonight
  • Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved
  • The Last Goodnight – Pictures Of You
  • U2 – With Or Without You
  • Crowded House – Fall At Your Feet
  • Kasey Chambers – Not Pretty Enough
  • The Beatles – Let it Be
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge
  • Daryl Braithwaite – The Horses
  • Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry
  • Marcy Playground – Sex and Candy
  • Men At Work – Land Down Under Banjo Patterson – Waltzing Matilda
  • A Ha – Take On Me
  • Green Day – When I Come Around
  • Eagle Eye Cherry – Save Tonight
  • Toto – Africa
  • Beyonce – If I Were A Boy
  • The Offspring – Self Esteem
  • The Offspring – You’re Gonna Go Far Kid
  • Pink – You and Your Hand
  • Lady Gaga – Poker Face
  • Aqua – Barbie Girl
  • The Fray – You Found Me
  • 30h!3 – Don’t Trust Me
  • MGMT – Kids
  • Tim Minchin – Canvas Bags
  • Natalie Imbruglia – Torn
  • Five For Fighting – Superman
  • Axis Of Awesome – Birdplane
  • Missy Higgins – Scar

Pretty incredible huh?  With just a handful of chords in your pocket, songs that you know and love, just like these, will open up to you on the piano!

Happy Playing!
Scott Houston

  • Steve holloway
    Posted at 10:43h, 04 March

    what do you do when the melody notes intersect the chords. ie.. Am chord and notation requiring a c note

    • Scott Houston
      Posted at 12:29h, 06 March

      That’s an easy one Steve … Just play your entire melody line up on octave higher. It will create more separation between your LH chords and the Rh melody and will solve that problem. Also, it often sounds nicer to play the melody up an octave from where you might see it written in a lead sheet. it’s the same reason sopranos always get the melody in choir, it just “sings” a little more played up higher.

      • Trenna
        Posted at 14:12h, 08 March

        That was awesome, Scott. Really enjoyed it.. thanks.

  • Donna Christensen,Donna
    Posted at 15:35h, 11 February

    That was very good and fun. can’t wait to get to the piano.
    Donna Christensen

  • Ulla
    Posted at 10:31h, 26 February

    Looking forward 😃

  • sophie
    Posted at 15:54h, 19 March

    Wow! Incredible!

  • Orai Gairo
    Posted at 21:37h, 22 July

    Thank you Scott, am finally going to attempt a start. Wish me luck!

  • matthew soule
    Posted at 13:05h, 13 September

    okay so i am playing chords but still have to play a melody line. I don;t read music, so how do I know what the melody is suppose to sound like?

    • Mary Welch
      Posted at 16:32h, 14 September

      Well assuming you already know what the tune sounds like (i.e. you could whistle or hum it to yourself) you could just figure out the first note of the melody from the lead sheet and hunt and peck from there by ear. Alternatively, you do need to acquire a v-e-r-y basic understanding of note reading, only in the treble clef, and only one note at a time (i.e. no stacked notated chords or anything). 1) It’s basically what they have kids in band doing by the end of the first week or two in junior high – not a huge mountain to climb, and 2) we cover what you need to know thoroughly in the Courses that comprise the online method.Let me know if that helps Matthew! – Mary