Guitar lesson for
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Print-friendly version of this lesson
For a print-ready PDF of this lesson, become a supporter on my Patreon page. For a few bucks a month, you get access to PDFs of all my new lessons.
Lyrics w/ chords
INTRO G D Am Am G D C C ....play twice VERSE G D Am ...Mama, take this badge off of me G D C ...I can't use it anymore G D Am ...It's gettin' dark, too dark to see G D C ...I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door CHORUS G D Am ...Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D C ...Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D Am ...Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D C ...Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door VERSE #2 G D Am ...Mama put my guns in the ground G D C ...I can't shoot them anymore G D Am ...That cold black cloud is comin' down G D C ...I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door CHORUS G D Am ...Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D C ...Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D Am ...Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D C ...Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door [repeat chorus as desired, end]
The entire song uses these four chords. There are plenty of ways you could embellish and modify these chords, such as turning the A-minor to a Am7 (x02010) – which is what it sounds like Bob Dylan does. Obviously feel free to do that if you wish.
E ––––3–––––0–––––0–––––2––––– B ––––0–––––1–––––1–––––3––––– G ––––0–––––2–––––0–––––2––––– D ––––0–––––2–––––2–––––0––––– A ––––2–––––0–––––3––––––––––– E ––––3––––––––––––––––––––––– G Am C D
As I note in my video lesson, if you’re having trouble with the chord transitions, realize that for some of the transitions you’re keeping fingers on the same note. This makes changing much easier, since it is one less finger to move. For example:
E ––––3–––––2–––– B ––––3–––––3–––– <-- left ring finger plays 3rd fret for both chords G ––––0–––––2–––– D ––––0–––––0–––– A ––––2–––––––––– E ––––3–––––––––– G D
Repeat this for the entire song. Intro, verse, and chorus – they all use this basic progression. Remember, 4 counts per measure.
G . . . D . . . Am . . . Am . . . G . . . D . . . C . . . C . . .
The ideal strumming pattern you should strive to play is:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + D D D U
If you’re having trouble with this, start simple. Begin with a single downstrum on the “1” count of each 4-count measure:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + D
When you can do that, add another down strum to the 3 count:
1 2 3 4 D D
After that, add yet another down strum on the 4 count:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + D D D
And finally, when you can do what’s above reliably well enough, add a single upstrum on the “4 and” count:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + D D D U
Repeat this pattern for the entire song. Though of course, should you wish, you could get creative and use any strumming pattern you like.
Flourish and fills
Here’s a few simple ways to spice up the simple chord progression used in this song.
Walk down from C to G
At the end of every chorus, I often like to “walk down” from C to G, meaning I’ll play each individual bass note that connects to C to G. This sounds quite nice. Quite simply, you just need to play this. See my video lesson for reference.
E –––0–––––––––––––3–––– B –––1–––––––––––––3–––– G –––0–––––––––––––0–––– D –––2–––––––––––––0–––– A –––3–––3––2––0–––2–––– E –––––––––––––––––3–––– C G
Using your pinky on the high E-string
In the Bob Dylan version, as well as my video lesson, you can hear times when there’s the high-E string ringing nicely – it’s because of an added pinky on either the C or the Am chord. Listen along for context, but quite simply, here’s how you play it:
E –––3–––––3–––– <-- add your left pinky on this 3rd fret note B –––1–––––1–––– G –––0–––––2–––– D –––2–––––2–––– A –––3–––––0–––– E –––––––––––––– C Am
These are just two of many possible ways you can spice up the song, but I hope this helps get you started.
I hope this helps, and as always let me know if you have any questions.
Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!
If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).
Subscribe to my YouTube channel
Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!
Recent video lessons:
📝 Print-friendly PDFs now available for all new lessons I make, including all those listed below. Get a free sample »
- How I change my acoustic guitar strings
May 19, 2019
- "My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight" (fingerstyle intro) by John Prine
May 17, 2019
- Outlaw fingerstyle warmup ("Sleeping on the Blacktop") by Colter Wall
May 11, 2019
- First Call (horse racing / military bugle wake-up call)
May 4, 2019
- Imagine by John Lennon
May 2, 2019
- Jenny of Oldstones from Game of Thrones
Apr 23, 2019
- Wildflowers by Tom Petty
Apr 20, 2019
- Breezy strumming on E-Bsus4-Asus2 (Warm Up #18)
Apr 18, 2019
- How I composed a fingerstyle guitar arrangement (Practice Log #12)
Apr 13, 2019
- If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett
Apr 10, 2019
- Triad exercises w/ A, D, & E (Warm Up #17)
Mar 30, 2019
- Travis picking finger technique (Practice Log #11)
Mar 22, 2019
- Let Him Roll by Guy Clark
Mar 17, 2019
- Plush by Stone Temple Pilots
Mar 15, 2019
- Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Mar 9, 2019
- Adding flourish to C-F-G-Am
Mar 7, 2019
- The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
Mar 3, 2019
- Always Remember Us This Way from A Star is Born
Feb 28, 2019
- Cowboy chords & walking bass lines (Warm Up #16)
Feb 23, 2019
- Improv blues guitar in A-minor
Feb 21, 2019
- St James Infirmary Blues
Feb 16, 2019
- Barre chord strength & Smells Like Teen Spirit (Warm Up #15)
Feb 14, 2019
- Faking open chords in key of D w/ major & minor triads (Warm Up #14)
Feb 10, 2019
Monthly email updates
If you want to keep posted of new lessons over email, sign up for my newsletter. I'll email once a month with a digest of all my new videos. I promise: no spam.