How To Strum Bob Dylan's- Knockin on Heaven's Door

"Knockin on Heaven's Door" is a timeless song by Dylan that's been coverd countless times. It has some easy beginner chords, and the strumming isn't too complex. So, it's one of those easy songs for beginners if you haven't been playing for very long. For the rest of us it's a classic, so it's great anyways.

Song: Knockin On Heaven's Door
Artists: Bob Dylan
Album: The Essential Bob Dylan
Buy this song on Amazonor Buy it on iTunes.



Guitar Tuning for Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heavens Door"

Now, let's take a look at the chords in the song: Click here for help on reading chords

The song is in 4/4 time and the tempo is 70 BPM. There's only one section to this song, that simply repeats with variations we'll discuss after we look at the first pattern.

The Main Pattern


how to read a lead sheet

Click Arrow to Play

Here's the audio that repeats throughout

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Here's that same audio at a slower speed- 50BPM (without a repeat)

The First Pattern

This pattern pretty much only happens the very first time. The rest of the time, play the pattern above. You'll notice the only difference between these two patterns is the very first beat. Above it's two eighth notes, here it's a quarter note.

how to read a lead sheet

Click Arrow to Play

Here's the audio for that first part- it's only played once

The Rest of the Story

That's pretty much the whole song. It repeats with subtle variations. For example, the very first beat of the first measure is played as a single quarter note instead of two 8th notes the very first time through. Future varations has that same beat played as an 8th with two 16ths (the same as beat two). Many other variations like this happen throughout.

He often crescendos (grow louder) on the last half of both the Am and C measures. The Em7/A chord is really just a couple of strokes where he doesn't have any fingers on the strings and he plays approximately the highest 3 to 5 strings (be sure to avoid the low E, though). The G(no5) that follows is just an anticipation, where he slips the pinky of the G chord on a 16th note early. Again he hits only about 3 strings on this stroke, but 4 is fine (try to avoid strings 5 and 6 though). In fact, if you're not trying to get your playing to be an exact copy of Dylan's then you could stay on Am the whole time. The chords he's playing are actually the kind of notes alot of players unintentionally create when swithching chords. They aren't critical to the song. So, if they trip you up, just stay on the Am for those 3 strokes.

The Tabs

Here's the tabs I've created for the site. There's 3 formats for you to chose from. I've also uploaded them to if you like to use them.

Listen to Knockin on Heaven's Door

Here' the song on Youtube for your listening pleasure: