House of the Rising Sun

  • Traditional
  • Beginner to Novice
  • North American Folk Music
  • Arpeggios
  • Chords at the nut


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Performance Tips

Learn the tune first, from the tablature, then learn the chords with strumming, and then tackle the arpeggios, if you have not learned this arpeggiation pattern before. Use the thumb of your picking hand for the lowest two notes of the pattern, and fingers index, middle and ring for the highest three notes.

Meta Analysis

  • Key of A (harmonic) minor
  • Zone 2, based on 2nd form minor scale in the open position


Am, C, D, F,
Am, C, E, E,
Am, C, D, F,
Am, E, Am, Am

Nashville Notation

i, bIII, IV, VI,
i, bIII, V, V,
i, bIII, IV, VI,
i, V, i, i

Chord Forms

  • A minor – 2nd form minor open, roots on strings 5 and 3
  • C major – 5th form major open, roots on strings 5 and 2
  • D major – 3rd form major open, roots on strings 4 and 2
  • E major – 1st form major open, roots on strings 6, 4 and 1
  • F major – 1st form major bar, roots on strings 6, 4 and 1


The harmonized harmonic minor scale would have indicated that a C augmented chord be used for degree bIII. Likewise, the D minor chord would be used for degree IV in the harmonized scale. However, in the melodic minor scale, both F# and G# appear in the ascending scale, so the harmonization used here fits that variant. The harmonization works in the song as it is, and may be a little bit more interesting than that provided by strict harmonization of the scale. The progression is one I learned when I started to play, and it is undoubtedly related to a version done by the group, Eric Burdon and the Animals. The song was fairly high in the charts at the time, and probably every guitarist of my generation learned to play it.