“Cheap Thrills” was released in 2016 to instant commercial success. Written and performed by Australian singer songwriter Sia, the song was a number one hit in most countries, particularly the US, where it remained there for four straight weeks. With a remix version featuring guest vocals from Sean Paul, “Cheap Thrills” also sees Greg Kurstin handling production duties. Kurstin is known for his work on Adele’s “Hello”, and also shares a writing credit on this tune. Although it is a straightforward song, this guitar lesson will explore different ways in which it can be performed on both electric and acoustic guitar. There will also be a brief music theory analysis of this tune.
“Cheap Thrills” Chords
“Cheap Thrills” is a fairly simple song, consisting of just 4 chords played all the way through. Although there isn’t an audible guitar part on the recording, it is still possible to perform this tune on guitar. Our first method involves the use of barre chords with no capo used. Therefore, here are my suggested chord voicings:
I have chosen to use barre chords here because of the syncopated rhythm employed throughout the majority of the track. As a result, this method would suit an electric guitar performance. If you can fret chords with your thumb, then I would suggest these voicings as alternatives to those shown above:
I’ve found that these chords give a little more clarity to your rhythm playing. Particularly to the E/G# chord, which can sound a little muddy if using the full barre shape originally shown. Depending on the size of your ensemble, you may want to experiment with omitting the bass notes entirely, voicing the chords entirely on the first 2, 3 or 4 strings. As a result, this will give your overall mix more balance. If either of the above methods are too difficult, then it is possible to replace the 3 major chords with open voicings instead:
“Cheap Thrills” Tab
However you decide to fret the chords above, the rhythm part to this song is very specific. Here is a transcription of the part below. I have opted to use the chords presented in the first diagram for ease, however feel free to substitute these shapes for your own as you see fit:
Try and make the chords as “choppy” as possible by using your left hand to mute the strings. The rhythm shown is a syncopated Latin style beat, and can be performed with all downstrokes on the guitar.
“Cheap Thrills” Acoustic Chords
Although it is possible to perform the all of the chords shown above on both electric and acoustic guitar, you may want to use an alternative method if you are going to play an acoustic version of “Cheap Thrills.” For this method, I have chosen to use a capo on the second fret, ensuring all of the chords are familiar open shapes.
If you want a slightly different take on the chords presented above, then it is possible to make a couple of substitutions. The Em chord at the start can be replaced with an Em7, and the C chord can be replaced with a Cadd9. This is perfectly acceptable to do so, and is my chosen method of performing this song acoustically. Not only do you get added harmonic interest with the Em7 and Cadd9 chords, but it also makes the whole song easier to play, since your 3rd finger will remain on the 3rd fret of the B string throughout:
With that in mind, here is a tab for the acoustic version of “Cheap Thrills.” I have chosen to use the same rhythm as on the original, with the chords played with a capo on the second fret of the guitar, as described above. I have listed the standard chords, but feel free to substitute for your own chosen voicings:
Music Theory Analysis
As mentioned above, “Cheap Thrills” is a simple song, consisting of the same 4 chords throughout. It is performed at 90 BPM, with a time signature of 4/4, and it is in the key of F# minor. F# minor is the relative minor of A Major. In order to analyse the chords, we first need to look at the harmonised scale of A Major:
This gives us a chord progression of vi, IV, I, V/VII, a common chord progression in pop music. Of particular interest is the fourth chord in the progression, which is the E/G# chord. An E chord consists of the notes E, G# and B, which are the root, major third and fifth respectively. Here, the 3rd is placed in the bass, hence why it is written as E/G#. This has been done to create a smooth descending motion in the bassline. The second bar begins on an A chord, before descending a semitone to G#, followed by a whole tone back to F#, which sounds nice to the ear. While a bassline jumping from A to E would sound fine had the fourth chord been a simple E major, it could be argued that the bass motion on the track works better.
I hope you have enjoyed learning this hit song in today’s online guitar lesson. Comment on what you’d like to see me cover next, and as always, I’ll see you next time.