In this article, I will provide you with the 3 Little Birds guitar chords and explain how to play this Bob Marley classic in detail. 3 Little Birds by Bob Marley is not only a brilliant song. It’s also an ideal song for early-stage beginner guitar players. If that’s you, you’re definitely in the right place because this one is going to help you fine tune your strumming, your timing and, your chord changes! As for those who’re past that early stage, stick around because this one is a nice relaxing track that any guitarist will enjoy playing.
Next, I’ll show you what chords you’ll need to play 3 Little Birds and then afterwards, I’ll walk you through the chord progressions you’ll need to memorise and finally, we will look at three different options for strumming all of which have varying degrees of difficulty. Let’s start with the chords.
Bob Marley 3 Little Birds Guitar Chords
I have some fantastic news for you. 3 Little Birds by Bob Marley only has three chords. The only chords you’ll need to play this song are the standard open A major, D major and E major chords. Here are the chord charts. If you’re at the song learning stage, I must assume that you already know how to correctly play a chord. If you don’t have this knowledge, go, and learn, then come back.
Bob Marley 3 Little Birds Guitar Chords and Guitar Lesson – Chord Progressions
You’re about to see the beginning of a pattern. We’ve established that 3 little birds has three chords already. Well, it also only has three chord progressions that you need to learn and one of them isn’t even really a chord progression. Let’s break it down.
I’ll explain “how” to play this, and the other progressions later but first, let’s take a look at the other two chord progressions that this song uses.
Post intro, 3 Little Birds is broken down into alternating verses and choruses. Each of these two sections has a unique chord progression. We’ll look at the chorus chord progression first as that’s what we hear first after the intro.
The chord progression for the chorus sections looks like this.
A / A / D / A
A / A / D / A
Nice and simple. 2 bars of A major, 1 bar of D major and finally, 1 more bar of A major and then, repeat those 4 bars and you have your chorus section.
The verse sections are slightly more complex than this. Let’s take a look.
Like the chorus parts, the verses last for eight bars only they aren’t two sets of four bars repeated. Here is what the verse sections look like.
A / E / A / D
A / E / D / A
Still not massively complex but you do have a little more work to do in terms of memorising because the A and D chords switch around on the second run through.
Extra – the A major in the third bar may feel a little strange but it’s correct.
That concludes the chord progressions section. Next, we will look at the strumming instructions for the song. There are three approaches we can take with this song. Let’s start with the ultra-beginner version. If you’re beyond this stage in your guitar journey, skip ahead as this isn’t something that’s here to benefit you.
Bob Marley 3 Little Birds Guitar Chords and Guitar Lesson – Strumming Instructions – Ultra-Beginner
To make this as easy as possible for those who’re at the very early stages of guitar playing, I’m going to recommend you take a metronome, and set the beats per minute (bpm) to 74. This is the tempo of Three Little Birds. Well, there or there abouts.
This song is in 4/4 timing. Long story short, this means that there are four beats in each bar and each “tick” of the metronome represents one beat.
For the ultra-beginner version of the strumming, all you need to do is perform a downward strum on the very first beat of each bar and let the chord ring. Then, you can execute your chord changes at around beat four. This gives you plenty of time to get in position for your next chord for beat one of the following bar.
The below example demonstrates this concept in action. The example is the entire chorus but the same logic would be applied to the verses too.
Get it? I hope so because I aren’t going any deeper with this explanation. When you feel comfortable, ditch the metronome, and do this alongside the record.
Once you can play through the song using the above instructions, move onto the next set of strumming instructions.
Upper beginner version
We’ve already looked at a way of playing this song for the complete newbie. Next, we’ll look at two more approaches to the strumming. The first approach we’re going to look at uses a straight forward strumming pattern that can be used throughout the song. The strumming pattern is D D UDU D D DU. This will be digestible for some but others will be confused. Another example is in order. This time, I’ll use the verse.
I’ve added some extra markup to help you see where the strums land in relation to the beats in the bar. Again, a metronome will probably come in useful. The first image well help you get to grips with the strumming and the rhythm and the second is the full verse. The strumming and rhythm from image one can used throughout the entire song.
You could also practice the strumming with just the A major chord and the metronome until you get the hang of the rhythm.
End of the verse
Earlier, I said that our strumming pattern can be used from start to end but we could develop this very slightly to add a little variation in sound. Let’s change the rhythm for the very last two bars of the verse section to the following.
I guess this would be a DD DD DD DD strumming pattern. I haven’t added extra markup here because I’d like you to figure it out. There’re eight downward strums there which need to be evenly spaced out between the beats. Count this in your head as 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. The numbers fall directly on the beat and the ands fall between the beats.
Want to play Three Little Birds by Bob Marley with a little more of a reggae feel? Try the off-beat version.
The off-beat version is similar in difficulty to the standard strumming. It may just feel a little weird for those who haven’t tried this before. I’m not going to go into a whole big thing about what off-beat is here. This is a song tutorial. I’m just going to tell you what you need to know in order to play the song and that is simply this.
The chords are played over the “ands” in the bars. Let’s see how this applies to our chorus.
I discussed “ands” earlier. The ands fall between each beat. So, 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.
This rhythm can be repeated throughout the song from start to finish. It will have a nice reggae feel to it and it will help you get to grips with off-beat rhythm.
QUICK TIP – Experiment with the sharpness of the chords. Do they sound good if they’re short and abrupt? They’ll need to be abrupt at least to a certain extent. Why? See those funny symbols between the chords? They’re “rests”. They’re telling you to play nothing or to be silent for that period of the bar.
Bob Marley 3 Little Birds Guitar Chords and Guitar Lesson – Combine strumming options
Once you’ve mastered these different approaches of strumming Three Little Birds, I’d encourage you to try mixing and matching. Can you play one section off beat and use the strumming pattern for another section? Experiment with this and see what works and what doesn’t. You can also change the strumming and kind of just groove along with this song but I’ll leave that in your capable hands.
Three Little Birds doesn’t end very conclusively. It uses a fade out. Ending your performance of this song can be done very easily simply by strumming one final A chord. You’d end up with something like this. Our example is using the off-beat version of strumming to approach that last bar but it doesn’t matter because the very last bar which is our outro is not off-beat and lands directly over the first beat. This will be the same no matter which version you’re using.
Bob Marley 3 Little Birds Guitar Chords and Guitar Lesson – Conclusion
That concludes the 3 Little Birds guitar lesson. I suppose different guitar players will take away different things from this. Some no doubt will have come and grabbed the chords and the progressions and left and others will have found great value in the deeper instructions.
Either way, if you’re looking for similar content, take a look at the links below.
Ben E King Stand By Me guitar lesson
Tracy Chapman Talkin Bout a Revolution guitar lesson
If you want to try something else with an off-beat, take a look at my Valarie guitar lesson where I teach you how I perform Valarie by Amy Winehouse originally by the Zutons. If you’d like another Bob Marley track, try the Redemption Song guitar lesson.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.