Can You Play Guitar Without Knowing Any Chords?

One of the most common questions asked by beginner guitarists is whether they can play guitar without learning any chords. While there is no single way to learn how to play guitar, there are some fundamentals that every guitarist should know. But are chords one of them?

While it does not seem possible, you can learn to play guitar without knowing the chords. You can play single notes, individual melodies, and riffs to play some songs. There are even songs you can play on a single string. 

But to play western, modern, popular songs, you must learn to strum chords or arpeggiate them by holding the chord positions. Learning chords will be inevitable eventually if you are serious about playing guitar.

In this article, I will explain the importance of chords while explaining how you can start your journey as a guitarist without knowing any chords.

How Do You Play Guitar Without Knowing Any Chords?

There are many ways to play guitar without chords, such as playing individual riffs with single notes, learning how to play solos, or using double-note power chords.

Playing Single Notes

The first and the most straightforward option is to play single notes instead of chords. You can learn how to play individual melodies, riffs, licks, or phrases that do not use even a single chord. There are even some riffs you can play on a single string with a few notes.

Some examples that come to mind are Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes, the intro riff of Enter Sandman by Metallica, the main riff of Sunshine of Your Love by Cream, or the Mamma Mia melody of ABBA. You can check this article to learn easy songs to play without chords.

Also, if you want to improvise and take a different approach, you can play the root note of the chord instead of playing the whole chord. So, if a D minor is strummed in the song, you can play a D note instead. It won’t sound as good as the chord, but it will sound similar and create a way to learn the whole song. For instance, you can try this approach for songs like Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple or Iron Man by Black Sabbath.

Learning How To Play Solos

Another way to avoid chords is to learn how to play solos. Solos often do not use chords and are played with single-note licks or double stops. There are many easy guitar solos to learn for beginner guitarists, as well as quite advanced ones for seasoned musicians. However, I must say that, generally, solos require a bit of familiarity with the instrument.

For instance, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana has quite an easy yet melodic and fun-to-play solo. If you want to learn some easy solos to start with, you can check this article.

Using Double-Note Power Chords

Double-note power chords are great for playing rock songs without learning full chords. Power chords only have two notes: the root note and the 5th of the chord. So, they are pretty easy to play as they always have the same shape. You just have to move the shape across the fretboard to play different chords.

Also, power chords do not have minor or major characteristics, so you do not have to worry about that. Used very often in rock songs, power chords are a great way to play songs without learning chords.

A simple power chord like A power chord is played with the 5th string on the low E string and the 7th string on the A string. But you can make things even easier by tuning your guitar to the Drop D tuning, which requires you to tune your low E string to D. This way, you can play power chords even easier with the same frets on different strings. For instance, the A power chord with the drop D tuning would be played by barring the 7th fret on the low E and A strings.

Check this article to learn some simple power chord songs to play.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing Guitar Without Knowing Chords


  • The main advantage of playing guitar without learning chords is the ease of the learning process. Getting rid of the hassle of learning different chord shapes and strumming patterns makes learning faster and more straightforward.
  • If you want to play only solos, riffs, and melodies, you really do not need to learn chords. So, you can spend that time learning different techniques or doing exercises to get better at lead guitar playing. Though, learning chords and scales would help you a lot in the process.
  • Skipping the chord-learning process might be an advantage for people who get bored easily, as playing different songs and melodies quicker can reduce the chance of losing interest in the instrument.


  • The main disadvantage of not learning chords is that it will significantly limit you as a guitarist. You won’t be able to play even the easiest songs fully and will not be able to enjoy the perks of being a guitarist.
  • Without chord knowledge, you can’t learn fundamental music theory to understand what you are playing. Without knowing scales, harmony, progressions, and key signatures, you won’t be able to compose your own music or jam with friends.
  • You will be very limited in your repertoire, as most of the songs require you to play chords one way or another.


In the end, you can learn to play guitar to a level without knowing any chords. But, if you are serious about playing guitar, you must learn to understand and play them eventually. 

Some guitar players know all the chord shapes and names, but they do not know what they are doing or why that chord is being played. That is the lack of knowledge of music theory. There are other guitarists who know all the theory and chords, but they are not great players. There are also excellent players who have some idea of chords and theory, but their knowledge does not go very deep.

The importance is to find the balance between what you want to achieve, practice, and theoretical knowledge without making the learning and playing processes dull. Although you might not want to start your guitar journey by learning chords in the first weeks, I highly recommend learning them eventually, preferably earlier.

If you found this article useful, you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board.


I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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