How To Play ‘Three Little Birds’ – Jamming With Bob Marley

Ahoy, guitar enthusiasts! Looking to add a touch of sunshine and reggae vibes to your guitar repertoire? You’re in for a treat! “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley is not just a classic, but it’s also a joy to play.

Whether you’re strumming away at a beach bonfire or just chilling in your room, this song is bound to uplift spirits. So, let’s jam our way into this reggae anthem, step by step.

First Up, A Bit About The Song

Before we get into the strings and frets, let’s chat a bit about this gem.

The Message

Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” is more than just a song; it’s a message of hope, positivity, and relaxation. “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright” – These lyrics resonate universally, reminding us to embrace positivity even when things seem bleak.

The Vibe

Reggae music is all about the groove. It’s relaxed, laid back, and makes you want to sway to the rhythm. Remember this vibe when you’re playing; it’s not about speed, it’s about feel.

The Nuts And Bolts: Chords & Structure

Alright, let’s get our fingers ready. Here’s the lowdown on the chords and structure.

Chords You’ll Need:

“Three Little Birds” is pleasantly simple, which makes it great for beginners and seasoned players alike. You’ll need to know these three chords:

  • A Major (A)
  • D Major (D)
  • E Major (E)

Song Structure:

The song mainly revolves around these sections:

  • Verse: A D E A (x2)
  • Chorus: A E D A (x2)

Getting That Reggae Strum

Reggae strumming is distinct. Instead of the down-strumming dominance you find in many genres, reggae often emphasizes the upbeat.

The Basic Strum:

Try this pattern:

  1. Down on the A chord.
  2. Miss the down strum and go for an Up strum on D.
  3. Down on E, and then another Up on A.

Practice this pattern slowly until you get the feel. Remember, it’s all about the groove!

Video: How to Play “Three Little Birds” on Acoustic Guitar

Little Nuances: Making It Sound Authentic

Now, to capture the essence of Bob Marley, it’s not just about playing the right chords; it’s about adding those little touches that make it sound authentic.

Muted Strums

In reggae, there’s often a percussive element to the guitar strumming. This is achieved by muting the strings with your palm just after you strum, giving a short, staccato effect. This can add that authentic reggae touch to your playing.


Even though the chords are simple, playing them with varying dynamics (louder and softer) can bring the song to life. Try emphasizing the upbeat more than the downbeat for that true reggae feel.

Keep It Loose

Your wrist should be loose, allowing for fluid movements. Reggae isn’t about rigid, robotic strums. It’s laid back, remember?

Sing Along, Feel the Vibes

Bob Marley’s songs are as much about the vocals as they are about the instruments. If you’re up for it, sing along. The beauty of “Three Little Birds” lies in its simplicity, both in terms of chords and lyrics. And trust me, belting out “Don’t worry about a thing” while strumming along has its own kind of magic.

Walk The Bass: Spice Up The Intro & Verses

If you’ve heard the song (and I assume you have), you’ll notice there’s this catchy little bass walk happening. To simulate that on your guitar and add some flair:

Bass Walk Sequence:

Starting from the A chord:

  1. Play the open 5th string (A).
  2. Play the 4th fret on the 5th string (C#).
  3. Shift to the D chord and play the open 4th string (D).
  4. For the E chord, play the 2nd fret on the 4th string (E).

This simple sequence adds a lot of character to your playing and keeps things interesting.

Video: How to Play “Three Little Birds” on Bass Guitar

Add Some Fills & Flavor

Playing the basic chords is all well and good, but to truly make the song your own, try adding some fills between chords.

Some Ideas:

  1. Hammer-ons & Pull-offs: Especially when transitioning between the A and D chords. For instance, on the A chord, you can hammer-on or pull-off your index finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string.
  2. Slide Between Chords: A slide from the 2nd to 4th fret on the 5th string when moving from A to D adds a nice touch.
  3. Vary Your Strumming: Throw in some single string plucks amidst your strumming, mimicking a bit of the melody or just adding some texture.

Jamming With Friends

“Three Little Birds” is not just a solo number; it’s a communal, feel-good song. So, if you’ve got musical friends:

  1. Two Guitars? One can focus on the chords and rhythm, while the other adds fills, lead elements, or even tries a bit of the melody on the higher strings.
  2. Got a Percussionist? Hand drums, shakers, or even a cajon can reinforce that reggae groove and make the whole thing pop.
  3. Singers Galore: Those harmonies in the chorus? They’re begging to be sung. Get your friends to join in, and you’ve got yourself a proper jam!

Some Parting Wisdom

  1. Feel Over Precision: While it’s important to get the chords and rhythm right, reggae, and especially a song like “Three Little Birds”, is all about the feel. If you’re too caught up in getting every strum perfect, you might miss out on the joy of the song.
  2. Practice Makes Perfect: The transition to the upbeat-focused strumming might feel a tad unusual initially, especially if you’re new to reggae. But stick with it, practice, and soon it’ll feel as natural as breathing.
  3. Make It Your Own: While it’s great to stay true to the original, feel free to add your own flair. After all, music is all about expression.

In wrapping up, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” is more than just notes on a fretboard or words in a lyric sheet. It’s a feeling, a vibe, a mantra for life. So, as you strum those chords and sing those words, let go of any worries, embrace the moment, and let the music flow through you. Because every little thing is gonna be alright! Happy jamming!

Video: How to Play “Three Little Birds” on Electric Guitar