“I Don’t Care” was a huge hit for Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber back in 2019, charting at number one in 26 different countries. In the UK, it held the top spot for eight consecutive weeks upon its release, while in the US, it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It was written collaboratively by Sheeran, Bieber, Max Martin, Shellback & Fred Gibson, the latter three names also handling the production. In this online guitar lesson, we will look at the chords, tab and music theory that make up “I Don’t Care” – as well as a few different ways in which it could be performed.
“I Don’t Care” – Chords
A simple yet very effective composition, “I Don’t Care” contains only four different chords played in the same order all the way through the song. Let’s have a look at the chords to the original version, which is in the key of F# Major:
The chord progression itself is fairly simple. After a two bar intro of F#, the main progression begins and is repeated all the way through. It starts off with F#, whcih is played for two bars, followed by two bars of D#m, before progressing to a bar of B, then a bar of C#, before finishing with two of F#, as outlined in the chord chart below:
The key of F# major is a rather unfriendly key for guitar, since most of the chords are barre chords. Due to the way in which they are fretted, barre chords can be difficult to play, especially when they are required to be played all the way through a song such as in “I Don’t Care.” This is especially true if you are going to perform this piece on acoustic guitar. With that in mind, I have put together two different alternative versions for you to try. Both of these methods can still be performed in the original key of F# major, however, in my opinion, both are significantly easier to play.
“I Don’t Care” – Acoustic Chords
The first alternate method to playing this song involves using a capo on the 6th fret of the guitar.
With this method, even though you are fretting open chord shapes as outlined above, the chords are still sounding out in the original key of F# major. If you are going to play this song with a capo on the 6th fret, then the chord chart will need to be altered, as detailed below:
If you do not wish to use a capo, then there is one more alternative method that you can try. It involves tuning the entire guitar down a half step, so that the strings, from low to high, are tuned to D# G# C# F# A# and D#, or Eb Ab Db Gb Bb and Eb depending on your tuner settings. Based on the various YouTube clips I have watched of Ed Sheeran performing this song live in various settings, I believe this to be his preferred method too, and he will sometimes tune the guitar lower even lower in order to place the song into a lower key to make it easier for him to sing. With the guitar now tuned a half step lower, this will give us the following 4 chords:
From listening to Sheeran perform this tune live, it sounds as if he leaves his finger held down on the 3rd fret of the B string throughout, making the transitions between each chord easier, but actually expanding the harmony greatly. I really like this approach, and I have tabbed his live arrangement below:
There are a number of different ways you could pick the example above, however if you want to achieve the same feel as Ed Sheeran, then make sure you use your thumb on your right hand to pick the bass notes, before flicking the double stops upwards with your index finger. Below is an audio only video of Ed Sheeran performing this song with a similar technique:
Music Theory Analysis
As previously mentioned, “I Don’t Care” is a simple song, utilising the same four chords, diatonic to the key of F# major all the way through. It starts out on the tonic chord of F#, before moving to the relative minor of D# minor, which is chord VI in this key. It finishes with chord IV, which is B, before moving to chord V, C#. This is a classic I, VI, IV, V chord progression, also known as the “Do Wop” chord progresson, and is very commonly used in various different forms of pop music. In fact, we have already seen Ed Sheeran himself use this progression in “Perfect”, which also uses a I, VI, IV, V progression in the verse.
I don’t care is a simple yet very catchy pop song, and it makes an excellent choice for beginners to learn on the guitar, or for intermediate guitar players looking to practice barre chords. It works equally well in a full band situation, or as a stripped back acoustic performance. I hope you have found today’s guitar lesson useful, and that you will use at least one of these methods to perform the song yourself. Have fun, and I’ll see you next time.