Learn The Chords to Prince’s “Purple Rain”

The Purple Rain Chords

We all know of course that Prince was an outstanding musician.
There is a lot we can learn from analyzing his songs, chord progressions, and solos.

Today I want to go quickly go over the Purple Rain chords.
I’m not intending to go into the very specific notes or note placements of the guitar part too much.
This is mostly about the actual chords and about how you can use a specific version of chords to make a guitar part much more recognizable and memorable.

The first 4 chords of the song, are instantly recognizable as being “Purple Rain”.
Just that, in and out of itself, is a testament to how good a songwriter and musician Prince really was.

Purple Rain is in the key of Bb.
The intro and verse chord progression is: I VI V IV

The chords are:

Bb | Gm | F | Eb

It pays off to just strum these chords with regular bar chord shapes, so you hear how very different it sounds from how Prince plays the chords.

So what makes the Purple Rain chord progression so instantly recognizable?

Answer: the cool tensions and chord versions Prince is playing.

  1. The Bb chord is played as a Bbsus2 chord
  2. The Gm chord is played as a Gm11 chord with an open D string.
  3. The F chord is played as a bar chord the Jimi Hendrix way with thumb over but can be played with an open G string (As Jimi Hendrix does in “The Wind Cries Mary”)
  4. The Eb chord is played as an Ebadd9 chord, using a fingering that is not for the “average guitarist”.

Here’s the transcription

This song is a great example, showcasing how adding tensions or turning chords into sus2, or add9 chords can give chord progressions a unique, instantly recognizable sound.

Use this to your advantage in your songwriting.
Applying this knowledge to your chord progressions will make your songs instantly more memorable and colorful.

You can see how to play this here:

While we’re on the topic of Prince, here are 2 gorgeous purple guitars.


Hit me up anytime at vreny@zotzinmusic.com if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.

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There is only so much that self-study can accomplish.

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