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Learn 4 key Keith Richards chords from classic Rolling Stones songs

Keith Richards
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Although the Rolling Stones have always been a twin guitar band, perhaps the most iconic selection of chords and riffs come from the one constant in their guitar player line up, Keith Richards, the man affectionately known as 'The Human Riff'.

A large part of the Stones catalogue has been recorded in Keith’s favoured Open G tuning, so the chords in this lesson will all be in Open G.

Low to high, that is D/G/D/G/B/D, however if you want the full Keith Richards experience, you can lose the Low D altogether. He tends to remove this from his favourite Telecasters and just play with the five strings.

C Major

Chord

(Image credit: Future)

You might be thinking, a C Major isn’t a particularly interesting chord, but in Open G tuning, you can play C Major, and any other major chord, with a single finger barred across 5 strings. 

This, as simple as it seems, is the foundation for Keef's Rolling Stones guitar style. On top of this single finger major chord you will add different extensions and variations to create those Richards style guitar lines.

This is the first chord you hear in Start Me Up


C6sus4

Chord

(Image credit: Future)

This chord might have a name that sounds complex, but once you’ve gotten the hang over the one finger major chord, this is just adding two extra fingers. 

As a shape this will look like a regular tuned 5 string min7 chords, but in Open G, the tuning shift makes this a 6sus4 chord. It’s a major chord with an added 6th note and a suspended 4.

Go between this and the major for instant Stones vibes. You can hear this chord all over tracks like Honky Tonk Women and Start Me Up.


D#add2

chord

(Image credit: Future)

This add2 chord makes an appearance the track Brown Sugar. It’s a regular major chord played with a single finger, but on the G you’re adding a note two frets higher, this creates the Add2 sound. 

This is slightly different to a sus2, as it still contains a major 3rd. When strummed it creates a spacey, mysterious sound, but mix the add2 in and our with the major chord with a cranked guitar amp and it takes on a bluesy grit.


G5

Chord

(Image credit: Future)

This chord is the opening chord from Jumpin’ Jack Flash. On the record it’s played with a capo on the 4th fret. What we have here is essentially a stacked power chord. It’s a combination of root notes (G notes) and 5th notes (D Notes).

It’s a very simple chord to play, but it has a lot of impact.

You could also transpose this chord by replacing the open strings with a bar and playing the note on the B string with a higher finger, though you may need to drop the note on the High D if barring this one.

Keith Richards guitar lesson: The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed

Leigh Fuge
Leigh Fuge

Leigh Fuge is a guitar player and content creator with a love for all things '80s. When he’s not creating gear demos for his Youtube channel (opens in new tab) he’s teaching students via his online guitar course Right Notes Music Tuition (opens in new tab). Off camera he spends most of his time travelling around the UK performing at functions and corporate events.  www.instagram.com/leighfugeguitar