Guitar lesson for

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

by Bob Dylan  •  Lesson #88

Video lesson

Get the sheet music(3 pages)

  • A properly licensed, print-friendly arrangement is available for individual purchase at Musicnotes.com
  • This sheet music was designed & hand-crafted by me (David Potsiadlo) with care, providing you with everything needed to both learn and play this song.
  • On the fence? Here's a video guide I made showing the purchase & print process.
Buy at Musicnotes.com

Patreon supporters: click here to get the 50% off discount code on this purchase

Editor’s notes

This lesson shows you an easy way to play “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan. This is an absolutely classic song that only uses 4 chords (G, D, C, and A minor). I’ll teach you these chords, explain the strumming pattern, how to play the chords in the right order, and finally show you some flourish & fills you can add.

Video timestamps:

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]

Chords needed

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–––––      –––0–––  –––3–––  –––3–––
B ––––0–––––1–––––1–––––3–––––      –––1–––  –––1–––  –––1–––
G ––––0–––––2–––––0–––––2–––––      –––0–––  –––0–––  –––0–––
D ––––0–––––2–––––2–––––0–––––      –––2–––  –––2–––  –––2–––
A ––––2–––––0–––––3–––––––––––      –––0–––  –––0–––  –––3–––
E ––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––      –––––––  –––––––  –––––––
      G     Am    C     D             Am7      Am7       C   

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   

Chord progression

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
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
G               D               C               C
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Strumming pattern

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.

The Triple UpStrum

One final variation of the strumming pattern, to be used as you please – is as follows. The idea here is to play the same accented note (3rd fret of high-E string) for all three of the up-strums. I’ll often use this on the 4th measure and 8th measure, using normal strumming patterns for the other measures.

G                 D                 Am                Am7
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D       D   D U   D       D   D U   D       D   D U   D   D U   U   U

and/or:

G                 D                 C                 C
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D       D   D U   D       D   D U   D       D   D U   D   D U   U   U

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.

Good luck!

I hope this helps, and as always let me know if you have any questions.

Get my lessons in your inbox!

Every couple weeks I send out an email newsletter with links to whatever new lessons I've made. Sign up here and stay in the loop!


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).

You can also support me on Patreon. For only $3/month you'll get access to a print-friendly PDF of my notes for each new lesson (view free sample).

Thanks!


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:

📝 My "song" PDFs are now individually purcasheable! I've arranged a licensing agreement with Musicnotes, a service that lets you buy sheet music. Patreon suppoters get 50% off each purchase. Get the latest info here »   (last updated July 1, 2021)

Browse my all lessons

By lesson type

By song decade

By musical genre

By guitar technique

By musical key

By popular artist


← back to lesson list