You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords, And How To Play It

Couple hugging in the sun

You Are My Sunshine is undoubtedly one of the most popular country songs of all time, having been re-recorded over 350 times and ranking in the top region of numerous lists, including the Country Music Foundation, the Recording Industry Association of America, and many more. 

It is one of Louisiana’s official state songs and was published and popularized in 1940 by Jimmie Davies, a two-time state governor.

And, of course, it’s a great song for beginner guitar players to learn as it requires only three chords — and they’re three very easy chords.

Original (1940) Jimmie Davis You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords

Although there are various versions of the song nowadays, and most of them are slow ballade types like the Johnny Cash version, the most famous version originally recorded by Jimmie Davis was upbeat with an element of swing. 

The Jazz ensemble that joins Jimmie on the track is indicative of the style during the 1940s and 50s, meaning you can add some Jazz- and Blues-flavoured notes in your chords. But let’s keep it simple for now.

Originally in the key of F, there are only three chords with one pattern that repeats throughout all the verses and chorus of the song.

The first chord is F Major, followed by Bb Major (B flat Major), and the ‘turnaround’ third chord is C Major. 

F chord diagram
B flat chord diagram
Open C chord diagram

You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords For Beginners 

Fingering the You Are My Sunshine guitar chords in the key of F might be a bit difficult for beginners. This key forces you to play two barre chords, and you might not be ready for that yet.

If that’s the case, you can play the song in different keys that allow you to use open chord progressions without any barre chords at all. 

For instance, in the key of A, you would play the open shapes of an A, a D, and an E major chord:

A guitar chord diagram
D guitar chord diagram
E guitar chord diagram

In the key of C, you only need to play one barre chord, F. But the other two chords—the C chord and the G chord— can be played open: 

Playing the song in the key of G also requires only open, easy chords—a G major, a C major, and a D major chord:

F diagram
G major diagram
C diagram

You Are My Sunshine Guitar Chords And Lyrics


The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms
But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

I’ll always love you and make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me to love another
You’ll regret it all some day

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

You told me once, dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you’ve left me and love another
You have shattered all my dreams

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

Tabs For You Are My Sunshine

Although the song has a simple chord progression, you can make it more soothing by picking the strings individually or adding some of the main melody notes to give the piece more character and definition. 

Guitar Tabs For Amanda Ayala’s Cover

A great example is Amanda Ayala’s cover of You Are My Sunshine.

As you can see in the video and tablature below, all you need to play the song’s main melody on an electric guitar is the C major pentatonic scale plus an F note. 

Note: Amanda plays the song in the key of C#. She is using E flat tuning, i.e., each guitar string is tuned down half step, so she can use the same open chords you would use to play the song in the key of D with standard tuning. 

"You Are My Sunshine" guitar tab, Amanda Ayala's cover

You Are My Sunshine Jasmine Thompson Guitar Tabs

And then, of course, is Jasmine Thompson’s immensely popular version. To play it, place a capo on the fifth fret, and fingerpick the strings as shown in the tabs below. 

"You Are My Sunshine" guitar tab, Jasmine Thompson's cover

Jasmine plays the song in the key of D. And what makes this version so interesting is how she spices up the chords.

She starts the chord progression with a plain vanilla D major chord. But then she plays a Gmaj7 instead of a basic G and an Aadd11 instead of a plain A.

These chords might sound complicated, but the capo allows Jasmin to play the entire progression using only her middle finger and ring finger (but you can use the index finger instead of the ring finger if that feels more comfortable):

D major diagram with capo on fifth fret
G major seven diagram with capo on fifth fret
A add 11 diagram with capo on the fifth fret.

Best Youtube lessons

Due to the simple nature of the song, there are various lessons available in different keys, depending on your vocal preference, with simple strumming patterns that make the song very easy to learn and play

SwiftLessons

Rob Swift teaches you how to play the song in the key of A. In this key, it is very simple to play a nice chord-melody intro 

Rob also uses the “boom chick” strumming pattern, which fits this song like a glove, accentuating the tune’s country style in a beginner-friendly way.

SimplifiedGuitar

Jonathan Reux also uses a countryesque strumming pattern but adds a bit of harmonic spice to the song, playing the song in the key of C but with a C/F (or Fmaj7) instead of an F major chord and adding an Am7 for good measure.

AndyGuitar

For the guitarist seeking a challenge, the following video by Andy Crowley teaches how to play the song in the key of G but in a fingerpicking style with an altering thumb bass. 

FAQ’s

Here are some typical questions you might have when learning this song.

What Is The Strum Pattern For You Are My Sunshine?

You can play this song with many strumming patterns. But if you’re a total beginner, playing basic downstrokes on the four beats of each bar fits this song pretty well. From there, you can progress to a boom chick pattern, as Robert Swift shows in the video above.

If you don’t know what the boom chick pattern is, check out this lesson by the great Tony Polecastro:

How Do You Fingerpick You Are My Sunshine?

You can fingerpick You Are My Sunshine in myriad ways, but as a general rule, you will probably want to get your thumb to work accentuating the bass notes and the other fingers of your right hand to play most of the melody.

Besides the video by Andy Crowley that we referred to above, consider this one by SkyGutiar, also in the key of G, but played on a classical guitar:

And this one by LickNRiff:

What Are The Guitar Chords For Zach Bryan’s Version Of You Are My Sunshine?

The guitar chords for Zach Bryan’s version of You Are My Sunshine are A, D, and E. You can play the whole song with open chords, and your fingers won’t have to travel farther than the third fret!

What Are The Guitar Chords For Chris Stapleton’s Version Of You Are My Sunshine?

This version of the song is also in the key of D, meaning the second and third chords are G and A, respectively. However, Chris tunes his low E string down to D resulting in an “open” sound when strumming the root chord. 

What Are The Guitar Chords For Elizabeth Mitchell’s Version Of You Are My Sunshine?

The guitar chords for Elizabeth Mitchell’s version of You Are My Sunshine are G, C, and D, but she tunes her guitar a half step up, effectively playing a G#, C#, and D# chords.

In a second version of the tune, she plays A, D, and E, using standard tuning.

What Are The Guitar Chords For Kina Grannis’s Version Of You Are My Sunshine?

The guitar chords for Kina Grannis’s version of You Are My Sunshine are A, D, and E, but she tunes her guitar a half step up, meaning she actually plays an A#, a D#, and an E#.

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