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Willie Nelson’s Chord: How to Play Like a Country Legend

Willie Nelson is one of the most influential and iconic country singers of all time. He has a distinctive voice, a unique guitar style, and a vast repertoire of songs that span genres and decades. He is also known for his use of simple but effective chords that create a rich and warm sound. In this article, we will explore some of the common chords that Willie Nelson uses in his songs, and how you can apply them to your own playing.

Chord

C 
Forgiving you was easy but forgetting 
                          F 
Seems to take the longest time
       G7 
I just keep thinking 
                                 C 
And your memory is forever on my mind


You know I'll always love you 
                                          F 
And I can't forget the days when you were mine
   G7 
Forgiving you is easy 
                                         C 
But forgetting seems to take the longest time


The bitter fruit of anger growing 
                              F 
Growing from the seeds of jealousy
        G7 
Oh what a heartache but I forgive 
                       C 
The things you said to me


Cause I believe forgiving 
                                        F 
Is the only way that I'll find peace of mind
    G7 
And forgiving you is easy 
                                         C 
But forgetting seems to take the longest time
 

The years have passed so quickly as once again 
                          F 
Fate steals a young man's dreams
       G7 
Of all the golden years 
                                 C 
And growing old together you and me


You asked me to forgive you 
                                   F 
You said there was another on your mind
   G7 
Forgiving you is easy 
                                         C 
But forgetting seems to take the longest time

   G7 
Forgiving you is easy 
                                         C 
But forgetting seems to take the longest time

The Tricks: Suspended, Add9, and Slash Chords

Willie Nelson also likes to spice up his chords with some variations that add more color and flavor to his songs. Some of these variations are suspended chords, add9 chords, and slash chords.

Suspended chords are chords that replace the third note with either the second or the fourth note of the scale. This creates a suspended sound that is neither major nor minor. Suspended chords are often used to create tension and anticipation before resolving to a major or minor chord. For example, you can play a Csus2 chord by using the notes C, D, and G. Then you can resolve it to a C major chord by adding the note E.

Add9 chords are chords that add the ninth note of the scale to a major or minor chord. This creates a bright and airy sound that adds some sparkle and freshness to the chord. For example, you can play a Cadd9 chord by using the notes C, E, G, and D.

Slash chords are chords that have a different note in the bass than the root note of the chord. This creates a different sound and feel for the chord. Slash chords are often used to create smooth transitions between chords or to add some variety and interest to the progression. For example, you can play a C/G chord by using the notes G, C, E, and G. This is essentially a C major chord with a G note in the bass.

Here are some examples of how to play Csus2, Cadd9, and C/G chords in different ways:

Csus2: x30013 (open position), x35533 (barre position), 8 10 10 0 8 8 (barre position)

Cadd9: x32030 (open position), x35535 (barre position), 8 10 12 9 8 8 (barre position)

C/G: 332010 (open position), x35553 (barre position), x20013 (open position)

You can use these variations to spice up any major or minor chord by adding, replacing, or changing the notes of the chord. For example, if you want to play a Gsus2 chord, you can use the same shape as the Csus2 chord in the open position, but move it up by three frets: 300033. Or if you want to play an Amadd9 chord, you can use the same shape as the Cadd9 chord in the barre position, but move it up by two frets: x02410.

The Examples: Willie Nelson’s Songs

Now that you know some of the common chords that Willie Nelson uses in his songs, let’s look at some examples of how he applies them to his music. Here are some of his famous songs and the chords that he uses in them:

  • Always On My Mind: This is one of Willie Nelson’s most popular and beloved songs. It is a cover of a song originally written by Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, and Mark James. The song is in the key of D major, and it uses mostly major and seventh chords. The main progression is D – A – G – D – A – G – A7. He also uses some slash chords to create smooth transitions between the chords, such as D/F# and G/B. He also adds some embellishments to the chords, such as hammer-ons and pull-offs.
  • On The Road Again: This is another one of Willie Nelson’s signature songs. It is a song that he wrote himself, inspired by his life on the road as a touring musician. The song is in the key of E major, and it uses mostly major and seventh chords. The main progression is E – B7 – E – B7 – E – A – B7. He also uses some suspended chords to create tension and anticipation before resolving to the major chords, such as Esus4 and Bsus4.
  • Crazy: This is one of Willie Nelson’s earliest songs, and one of his most successful ones. He wrote it for Patsy Cline, who made it a classic hit. The song is in the key of C major, and it uses mostly major and minor chords. The main progression is C – A7 – Dm – G7 – C – A7 – Dm – G7. He also uses some add9 chords to add some sparkle and freshness to the chords, such as Cadd9 and Dmadd9.

Conclusion

Willie Nelson is a country legend who has a distinctive voice and a unique guitar style. He uses simple but effective chords that create a rich and warm sound. He also likes to spice up his chords with some variations that add more color and flavor to his songs. By learning some of the common chords that he uses in his songs, you can improve your own playing and sound more like him. You can also apply these chords to any song or genre that you like, and create your own music with them.

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