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How to play A Horse With No Name on guitar?

A Horse With No Name by America is one of the milestone songs in folk rock history. Not only does it have a hypnotizing story arc, but the song is also built on two chords only, which allows the story to take the lead. 

In this lesson you will learn:

  • How to play a horse with no name chords (Em D6/9)
  • How to switch between Em and D6/9 chords
  • The strumming pattern of the song 

Table of content

1. A Horse With No Name Chords

    1.1 Em chord

    1.2 D6/9 chord

    1.3 Switching between Em and D6/9 chords

2. A Horse With No Name Strumming Pattern

    2.1 Strumming exercise 1

    2.2 Strumming exercise 2

    2.3 Original strumming pattern

3. Conclusion

4. How to play your favorite songs on guitar?

A Horse With No Name is one of the relatively easy songs to play on the guitar, as you will use the same two open chords most of the time.

This “A Horse With No Name” tutorial starts with the chords Em and D6/9 for the Verse and Chorus (repeating over and over, quite simple, really!). 

A Horse With No Name’s rhythm is consistent throughout the song. Then we show you how to strum these chords with the original strumming pattern in the simplest way possible.

Finally, we go over the song structure so you can put all the parts together.

We hope that you enjoy the lesson and good luck!

1. A Horse With No Name Chords

You will only need Em and D6/9 chords to play A Horse With No Name on the guitar. Let’s break them down.

1.1 Em chord

Em (E minor) is the easiest chord to play on the guitar, which makes you start making music right away! It consists of the notes E, G and B, as well as the octave variations of these same notes.

Here’s the chord chart for Em:

Em chord practice for A Horse With No Name in Guitar Learning App
Em chord in Guitar Learning App

Mind that the line on the left side of this chart represents the very top string of the guitar.

In order to better visualize, here’s the 3D hand model from the Guitar Learning App by Deplike:

Em chord practice for A Horse With No Name in Guitar Learning App

You can rotate the hands in every direction, as well as zooming in and out inside the Guitar Learning App.

The fingers on your left hand that you will be using for this chord are your middle (2nd) and ring (3rd) fingers.

Place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the string that is right below the top string. Then, place your ring finger right below it, that is, the 2nd fret of the string that is right below. After the finger placement is done, just strum the strings together and let the music happen!

1.2 D6/9 chord

Our next chord in the song is D6/9, which is another version of D major chord, consisting of the addition of 6th and 9th degree notes of the D major scale.

It’s also relatively very easy to switch from Em chord, which goes like this: Move your middle finger to the string right above, keeping it on the second fret. Then, move your ring finger to the string right below, again keeping it on the second fret.

1.3 Switching between Em & D6/9 chords

You see, both Em and D6/9 chords are positioned on the 2nd fret on the guitar neck, but using different strings. Easy, right? 

Middle finger goes from the A (5th) to the E (6th) string, and the ring finger goes from the D (4th) to the G (3rd) string.

Here’s what it looks like switching between Em and D6/9 while playing A Horse With No Name: (screenshot)

Congratulations! You have got most of the song covered.

Once you get comfortable switching between the chords, it’s time to work on your strumming pattern. 

Em and D6/9 chord switching practice for A Horse With No Name in Guitar Learning App
Em – D6/9 switch exercise in Guitar Learning App

2. Strumming Pattern of A Horse With No Name

Before practicing the original strumming pattern, it is important to practice the chord switching in simple straight patterns along with a metronome’s guidance.

2.1 Strumming exercise 1

The first phase of practicing the original strumming pattern will consist of playing the chords one time per beat in order to warm up. This exercise will reinforce the chord switching mechanics in your muscle memory.

Here’s how this exercise works:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

D   D   D    D   

Each number (1,2,3,4) counts the beats, while the +s count the off-beats. Off beats are the half notes in between each beat. We are essentially dividing a measure into eight equal parts in order to make it easy to visualize the strumming pattern.

Firstly, what you need to do is to play Em as a downstroke each beat. You can set up a comfortable metronome tempo for this exercise, such as 90 bpm.

When you get comfortable with this exercise, you can speed up to the original tempo, which is around 120 bpm.

2.2 Strumming exercise 2

Once you get comfortable switching between Em and D6/9 chords using this basic pattern at 120 bpm, you will be ready to give the original strumming pattern a go!

What is the most important about A Horse With No Name is the shuffle rhythm that the strumming pattern is based on. In shuffle rhythm, each beat (quarter note) is divided into three, while the first and the third notes of each group are played in order to create a groovy feeling. Shuffle rhythm is basically the rhythmic foundation of blues and jazz music.

In order to simplify the shuffle beat, we will visually divide each beat into three equal parts as following:

1 + a 2 + a 3 + a 4 + a

In this shuffle rhythm, we still count each bar as 4 beats, because A Horse With No Name has a 4/4 time signature, which indicates that it should be counted with quarter note beats in groups of four.

Our second exercise is to mix up basic shuffle rhythm and right hand strumming variation. Play a downstroke strum on each beat number (1,2,3,4), and play an upstroke on each “a”. After getting comfortable with the basic shuffle rhythm pattern strumming on your guitar, you can practice switching between Em and D6/9 along with this exercise.

1 + a 2 + a 3 + a 4 + a

D   UD    UD       D    U

2.3 Original strumming pattern

Now, let’s visualize the original strumming pattern of A Horse With No Name using the shuffle rhythm visualization:

Em                               D6/9

1 + a 2 + a 3 + a 4 + a 1 + a 2 + a 3 + a 4 + a

D      D    UD   U D   U D   U       UD    U D   U

Where the downward arrow indicates a downstroke, whereas the upward arrow indicates an upstroke.

3. A horse with no name – Conclusion

Don’t let the fancy music terminology intimidate you, because  A Horse With No Name is a very easy tone to start your guitar journey with. It is one of the most beginner-friendly songs out there to play on both electric and acoustic guitar. Not to mention that it is a timeless folk-rock classic as well. If you want to start playing a real song on guitar on Day 1 of your musical journey, then you have picked the right song!

Learning a song on guitar from Youtube tutorials or looking at tabs are the most common ways while starting out. However, guitar beginners have a much better option now. Guitar Learning mobile app by Deplike is designed to revolutionize the guitar learning journey of absolute beginners, so that they never lose their motivation, speed of progress and joy while learning.

4. How to play your favorite songs on guitar?

Guitar Learning app by Deplike offers you:

  • The fastest way to learn your favorite songs
  • Fun way to stay on track with with your goal
  • Adaptive and guided learning path
  • Bite-sized lessons adapted to you
  • Visualization made  easy with 3D and AR 
  • Fun, gamified practice 
  • Get Instant feedback
  • Fast progress 

If you want to start playing your favorite songs on guitar without going through music theory and boring exercises, then the Guitar Learning app is the perfect guide for you on your musical journey.

With the 3D and AR features, you will be able to zoom in to and rotate the 3D hand model to perfectly grasp the chord positions and strumming patterns. 

Your virtual guitar coach will be in your pocket wherever you go!


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