How to Play Amazing Grace on Guitar in 5 Simple Steps

by Alex Winnerman  - October 18, 2023

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Learning how to play Amazing Grace on guitar can be challenging, but don't worry—I've been there. The truth is, it is not as challenging as it seems.

I started my trip with this lovely hymn on the piano because it seemed like the right instrument for such a traditional melody. 

However, my school was invited to participate in the Alpha Intra-School Musical Contest in August 2017. 

I had to learn how to play "Amazing Grace" on guitar immediately. 

It was an adjustment, but believe me, it was well worth it!

In this blog article, we will take this journey together, step by step, learning how to precisely and confidently perform this engaging song. 

Are you prepared to produce some delightful music?  Let's explore the guitar universe of "Amazing Grace"!

Key Takeaways

  • Learn the basic guitar chords for "Amazing Grace," including G major, C major, and D major.
  • Develop your fingerpicking skills by learning the melody of "Amazing Grace" and incorporating different techniques like alternating thumb, Travis picking, arpeggios, hybrid picking, and fingerstyle patterns.
  • Explore alternative chord voicings and variations to add depth and complexity to your arrangement of "Amazing Grace."
  • Personalize your rendition of "Amazing Grace" by adding embellishments, substitutions, strumming patterns, rhythmic variations, and improvisations.

The Basic Amazing Grace Guitar Chords

This section will explore the basic guitar chords you need to play "Amazing Grace." The three essential chords are G major, C major, and D major.

G Major Chord

  • You know, when you play the guitar, you press on some strings to make sounds.
  • Imagine you're playing a song called "Amazing Grace."
  • To start this song, you press on some strings at certain spots.
  • It's a bit like pressing keys on a piano.
  • For this song, you press on the 3rd fret of the "thick" string (E).
  • You also press on the 2nd fret of the "bumpy" string (A).
  • The other strings are not pressed; they are just played open.
  • It's like you pluck or strum the strings, and they make music!

C Major Chord

  • This is another part of the song "Amazing Grace."
  • To play this part, you press on different strings and places.
  • For this part, you press on the 3rd fret of the "bumpy" string (A).
  • You also press on the 2nd fret of the "skinny" string (D).
  • And you press on the 1st fret of the 2nd string (B).
  • When you strum the strings from the "bumpy" string down, it sounds pretty!

D Major Chord

  • This is one more part of the song "Amazing Grace."
  • For this part, you press on some other strings in different places.
  • Press on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string (G).
  • Press on the 2nd fret of the 1st string (high E).
  • Press on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string (B).
  • But don't play the "thick" string (D) when you strum.
  • It's like a puzzle for your fingers, and it makes cool sounds!
Guitar Tablature For 'Amazing Grace'

how to play Amazing Grace on guitar - Picking Out the Melody

In this section, we will dive into learning and playing the melody of "Amazing Grace" on guitar.

We will also explore different fingerpicking techniques that can be incorporated to enhance your playing.

Learning the melody of "Amazing Grace" on guitar

Learning the melody of "Amazing Grace" on guitar is an important step in mastering the song. Here are some key points to help you:

  1. Start by listening to the original "Amazing Grace" recording to familiarize yourself with the melody.
  2. Find the tab or sheet music for the melody. This will provide you with the notes and fingerings needed to play it.
  3. Practice playing each melody note slowly and accurately, paying attention to timing and phrasing.
  4. Once you can play each note confidently, try playing the melody along with a backing track or metronome to improve your timing.
  5. Experiment with different fingerpicking techniques, such as alternating bass notes or playing arpeggios, to add depth and complexity to your rendition of the melody.
  6. As you become more comfortable with the melody, try incorporating embellishments like slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs to make it your own.
  7. Feel free to experiment and put your spin on the melody. This will help you develop your style as a guitarist.

how to play Amazing Grace on guitar - The Fingerpicking Techniques

I love using fingerpicking techniques to teach my students how to play Amazing Grace on guitar. It adds a beautiful and melodic touch to the song. 

Here are some fingerpicking techniques you can incorporate into your playing: Alternating Thumb: 

You can use your thumb to play the "thumpy" notes while your other fingers play the high sounds. It's like a musical dance for your fingers!

  1. Travis Picking: This one's like a finger dance. Your thumb plays low notes like a heartbeat while your other fingers play the high sounds. You can make up different dance moves with your fingers!
  2. Arpeggios: Imagine you have to pick individual strings in a special order, like the strings are friends holding hands. It makes the music flow and dance like a river.
  3. Hybrid Picking: This is like having two helpers - your thumb and a guitar pick. Your thumb plays some notes, and your fingers do a dance with the pick. It's like a team performance!
  4. Fingerstyle Patterns: It's like learning a dance routine. You can learn special finger dances that you can use over and over in "Amazing Grace." It makes the music feel interesting and fun!

Alternative Amazing Grace Guitar Chords

Also in learning how to play Amazing Grace on guitar, you have to explore different voicings and variations of the chords, adding embellishments and substitutions to create a unique and personalized arrangement.

Exploring different chord voicings and variations

When playing "Amazing Grace" on guitar, you can also explore different chord voicings and variations to add uniqueness to your performance. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Try using different inversions of the basic chords (G major, C major, D major) to create interesting harmonic variations.
  2. Experiment with open-string voicings by incorporating open strings into the chord shapes.
  3. Add embellishments such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, or bends to create melodic variations within the chords.
  4. Explore alternate tunings like dropped D or open G tuning to achieve a different sound.
  5. Consider using partial or power chords for a more rock-oriented song interpretation.
  6. Incorporate fingerpicking patterns or arpeggios into your chord progressions to add complexity and texture.

Adding embellishments and substitutions

I love experimenting with different guitar techniques to make songs more interesting. 

When playing "Amazing Grace," you can add embellishments and substitutions to give the chords a unique twist. 

Here are some ideas:

  1. Try adding hammer-ons and pull-offs to certain notes in the chords. This technique creates a smooth, flowing sound that adds elegance to the song.
  2. Experiment with chord inversions by changing the order of the notes within each chord. This can create a richer, fuller sound and provide a fresh take on the traditional chords.
  3. Consider substituting some basic chords with more complex ones, such as seventh or ninth chords. These substitutions can add complexity and depth to your arrangement.
  4. Incorporate open strings into your playing by leaving certain strings open while fretting others in the chords. This technique adds a nice ringing quality to the sound.
  5. Explore fingerpicking patterns that go beyond simple strumming. Fingerpicking can add texture and intricacy to your arrangement, making it more captivating for listeners.
Amazing Grace key of c guitar

Working Up Your Arrangement of Amazing Grace Guitar Chords

Develop your unique interpretation of "Amazing Grace" by adding strumming patterns and rhythmic variations, and finalize your arrangement for performance.

Putting your own twist on the song 

When you're making "Amazing Grace" special, you can add your own feelings to it. 

Try new ways to strum and change how fast or slow you play to make it sound different and interesting. 

You can also try fingerpicking tricks to make the melody more beautiful and fancy. 

Don't be afraid to use different chords and extra notes to make it unique. 

Doing these things helps you create your very own "Amazing Grace" that shows your style and how you love music.

Improving your guitar playing

Now that you know the basic chords for "Amazing Grace," let's make it sound even better by trying some cool things:

  • Test different ways to strum: You can use downstrokes, upstrokes, or mix them up to give the song a different style. Try changing the speed, too, to see what sounds nice.
  • Add drum-like sounds: Make your guitar tap or use a pick to make a fantastic beat on some parts of the song. This will make it sound lively and rhythmic.
  • Try fingerpicking: Instead of strumming, you can use your fingers to pick the strings one by one. It makes the song more exciting and beautiful, keeping the rhythm.
  • Use offbeat rhythms: Make some notes, not just the regular beats, stand out at unusual times. This will make the song more exciting.
  • Make the chords fancier: You can add some extra notes or special tricks to the chords. Things like hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, or different ways to play the chords to make them sound more memorable and lively.

Finalizing your arrangement for performance

To finalize your arrangement of "Amazing Grace" for performance, follow these steps:

  1. Experiment with different strumming patterns to add variety and dynamics to the song.
  2. Try incorporating rhythmic variations, such as syncopation or accents, to make your arrangement stand out.
  3. Add embellishments or ornaments to the chords, like hammer-ons, pull-offs, or slides, to enhance the overall sound.
  4. Experiment with different chord voicings and inversions to discover the perfect fit for your playing style and sound preferences.
  5. Practice transitioning smoothly between the chords to ensure a seamless flow throughout the song.
  6. Once you are confident with the song's basic structure, feel free to add your personal touches and improvisations during certain sections.
  7. Record yourself playing the final arrangement to evaluate your progress and make any necessary adjustments.
Famous quote - Alexwinnerman

Wrapping Up: how to play Amazing Grace on guitar

Remember that music can unite us as you set out on your path to perfect how to play  Amazing Grace on guitar. 

An invitation to a musical competition spurred my interest in playing this lovely hymn.

Whether you're an advanced guitarist looking to advance your talents or a beginner taking your first steps, our step-by-step tutorial is here to help.

To help you achieve your musical goals, we offer you in-depth explanations, video tutorials, and free tools. Start strumming the guitar immediately and join me in enjoying the delight of making your version of "Amazing Grace"!

Tell us about your own guitar-learning experiences to motivate other music lovers on their paths.


1. What basic chords are needed to play "Amazing Grace" on guitar?

G, C, and D are the basic chords needed to play "Amazing Grace" on guitar.

2. How do I transition between chords smoothly while playing "Amazing Grace"?

To transition between chords smoothly while playing "Amazing Grace," practice moving your fingers in a fluid motion and use common fingerings when possible.

3. Can I play "Amazing Grace" on a beginner-level acoustic guitar?

Knowing the chord shapes and strumming patterns, you can play "Amazing Grace" on a beginner-level acoustic guitar.

4. Are there any alternative ways to play the chords for "Amazing Grace" on guitar?

Yes, alternative ways exist to play the chords for "Amazing Grace." You can experiment with different voicings or variations of the G, C, and D chords to add your style to the song.

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Alex Winnerman

Meet Alex Winnerman, a seasoned music director and mentor, dedicated to guiding aspiring artists, recommending top-quality instruments, and mastering the intricacies of studio engineering. With a wealth of expertise, his online coaching sessions are readily available for those eager to embark on a musical journey. Married and eternally youthful at heart, Alex's mission is to make music resonate in the lives of others.

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