This is a widely beloved song from Bob Dylan. The cool thing about this song is that it’s super easy to play and sing!
There are four different chords used in the song. Each chord lasts for 4 beats or one full measure except for the last chord of each line (the Am and C chords) which last two measures or 8 beats. The chord progression is the same throughout the song: G, D, Am, G, D, C.
Here’s what it looks like:
The basic strumming pattern begins with a half note followed by a quarter note and two eighth notes. You can use all downstrokes except for the very last note where you’ll want to use and up-stroke.
We’ll strum the G chord before we begin the vocals. “Mama” begins right around the 2nd beat. We’ll switch to the D chord on the word “badge” and to the Am7 chord on the word “me”.
The next line, “I can’t use it anymore” is sung similar to the first line. We begin the line behind the G chord and switch to D on the word “use” and then to the C chord on the 2nd syllable of the word “anymore”. For example (D) any (C) more.
G D Am7 Mama take this badge off of me G D C I can't use it any-more
The 2nd half of the verse is very similar. In the line “It’s getting dark, too dark to see” we’ll strum the G chord and wait about 1 beat before beginning the vocal line. We switch to D on the word “dark” and then switch to the Am7 chord on the word “see”. The last line has the same vocal approach, switching chords on the words “knockin” and “door”.
G D Am7 It's getting dark, too dark to see G D C I feel I'm knockin on heaven's door
Here’s the super easy chorus. The lyrics are easy to remember. Just sing “Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door” 4 times. It’s the same chord progression. As in the verses, you’ll start the vocals at about the 2nd beat, so you’ll want to strum G and wait for 1 beat before you start singing. With each occurrence of the word “knockin’ ” we’ll switch to the D chord. We’ll alternate between Am7 and C for the word “door”.
G D Am7 Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D C Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D Am7 Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door G D C Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
This verse is sung and played just as the 1st verse.
G D Am7 Mama put my guns in the ground G D C I can't shoot them any-more G D Am7 That long black cloud is comin' down G D C I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
Imagine this as just an extension of the vocal melody found in the verses.
G D Am7 Oo - oo - oo - oo
Putting It Together
Strum through the song by only playing the chord at the beginning of the measures (every 4 beats)
Add the full strumming pattern.