New Chart: “Space Oddity” by David Bowie

David Bowie

Photo credit: Getty Images

This strange, gorgeous, moving piece about an AWOL astronaut features fifteen chords and a challenging strum pattern I've never heard elsewhere.

Here's the chart.

Playing "Space Oddity" like the recording requires solid barre chord and rhythm skills, but a little creativity can make it more accessible. For example, the Folk Strum (search my site if you don't know what that is) played twice per measure is a decent substitution for the main strum pattern. What I call the "Rock Riff," awesome as it may be, can be axed if it's out of your league. You can play a non-barred Fmaj7 in place of F and Fm. And the Bbmaj7 can be avoided if you play it and the three following chords as power chords.

Incidentally, this song was performed reverently by Commander Chris Hadfield in the first music video to be shot in space, on the International Space Station, this past May. Major props to "Major" Chris for capturing the hearts of so many of us (and for this fun explanation of the joys and challenges of playing guitar in space). But please, be careful of that little Larrivee Parlour guitar! Watching it tumble through the capsule of the I.S.S was like watching my son pitch out of his high-chair in slow-mo.

New Chart: “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line” by Waylon Jennings

waylon

People who've followed my blog over the years know that my student Wesley is a big Johnny Cash fan. He was when he gave his amazing performance of Folsom Prison Blues back in 2009, and he's learned and performed several more since then.

His love of Johnny Cash, and in particular his The Best of The Johnny Cash TV Show album, has led him to other great country singers like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash's one-time roommate. Last fall, I taught him "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line."

Here's the chart.

The song just has three chords, but you'll need to stay on your toes to nail the timing of the end of the chorus. Just watch this live performance to see the trouble Jennings and his bass player (singing backup vocals) had with this funky 10-beat break. First time through, Jennings doesn't hold the first note quite long enough, and you can see him smiling at the mistake afterwards. Second time he nails it, though you can tell he was working hard.

Third time through, he loses his nerve, or maybe he just decided to mess with his bass player. I wouldn't put it past him. Whatever the reason, he sing's "You've got the--" and then stops singing. The bass player hits his note for a split second, but immediately realizes his voice alone and naked--and he collapses into laughter. One of my all-time favorite live music bloopers.

New Chord Chart: “Live and Die” by The Avett Brothers

the avett brothers

You know what makes this guitar teacher happy? Travis-picking while watching squirrels run in the yard, great vocal harmonies, and whenever my students request an Avett Brothers tune. This song features all three (note: squirrels not included). The happiness is almost too much to bear.

Here's the chart.

If you haven't heard of The Avett Brothers, and you like alt-country, you should check these guys out. The San Francisco Chronicle's says they have the "heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones." "Tuneful" is right--these guys were born with that melody-making-microchip you can't find in stores.

This is one of those great guitar songs that's simple enough for beginners and also offers a challenge to advanced guitarists. The chords and strumming are straightforward. Fingerpickers will have fun with the Travis-picking solo I arranged, in tab below the chart. I'll also upload a guitar pro version of the tab so you can hear what it sounds like.

Enjoy the music.

New Chart: “Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel

SandGI love songs with layers of difficulty. Beginners will appreciate the basic chords (F is tough, but Fmaj7 is always a decent substitute), and the song sounds great using the venerable Folk Strum Pattern I recommend.

The vocals, however, are challenging, and there's a badass Day-Tripper-esque riff that will hold the interest of more advanced players.

Here it is.

Hope you enjoy this great song.

New Chart: “I Will” by The Beatles

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Here's my chart of "I Will." Enjoy!

If you ever get frustrated with your progress on the guitar, you might be encouraged to hear that it took Paul McCartney 67 takes to record this lovely little song. Granted, the song's under two minutes long, but that's still two hours of singing and playing, not counting time spent retuning, drinking water, adjusting the mic, and saying, "Let's give that another go, George."

A tip for beginners: There are lots of opportunities to make chord changes easier in this song by using anchor fingers, where you leave a finger in place as you change chords. For example, with Em-->Am7 the second finger stays put, and with Am7-->D7 the first finger stays put. There are more anchor finger opportunities with C-->D7 and Em-->C. See if you can find 'em.

New Chart: “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers

the-lumineers

Here's a simple, sweet, soulful song to brighten your day: "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers.

If it doesn't put a spring in your step, surely this will: An all-clucking version by Jimmy Fallon and his Chickeneers.

And if THAT didn't work, you must be upset that this simple, sweet, soulful song turns out to be not-so-simple to play. Here are a couple tips:

  • When playing the main C-->F progression, mute the 1st string with the underside of your 1st finger. Not critical, but for whatever reason the guitarist decided he didn't want that string ringing.
  • The C-->F and F-->C changes are quick, and will probably be a new movements for you. Try using my fabulous Chord Pushups technique to speed up the learning process.

Have fun!

New Chart: “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash

sueCash’s version of this Shel Silverstein poem, performed without rehearsal at California’s San Quentin State Prison and released on the At San Quentin album, was Cash’s biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100. I love listening to his backing band negotiate his erratic delivery (he claims to have only read the poem twice before hitting the stage), trying their best to intuit chord changes when Cash deviates from the standard form of the song. What a great recording of a master showman, great band, and classic poem.

Here’s the chart.

New Chart: “Laura” by Bat for Lashes

Bat_for_Lashes

This chart for “Laura” will be fun for budding fingerstylists who already have some basic strumming skill. Below the chart is a simple fingerstyle arrangement of the chord progression played by the piano during the intro and verses. Assign your thumb to the 5th and 6th strings, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fingers of your picking hand to the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings, respectively.

You can also just strum the song with the patterns provided.

Enjoy this beautiful, mysterious song. Here’s the chart.

New Chart: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye

208662-gotye-and-kimbraWhat a fantastic arrangement. The quiet fingerstyle acoustic guitar groove, the delicate xylophone/marimba part, the tremulous electric guitar melody, and Gotye’s whispered verses and sing-to-the-sky chorus. Great song to listen to with headphones and eyes closed.

Here’s the chart.

Note that this is an easier, strummed arrangement of the song. There’s tablature below the chord chart to show you how to play the xylophone and lead guitar parts, but they probably won’t sound good unless you’ve got a band or at least a friend to hold down the rhythm part.

But playing solo doesn’t mean you have to skip all the cool instrumental melodies this song features. Advanced guitarists can come up with chord/melody arrangements of these parts, where they play the chords (or at least the bass line) and the melody simultaneously. But if that’s beyond you, consider whistling the parts (if you can), or singing them using syllables like “ba-ba-ba” (my favorite) or “la-la-la” or “doo-doo-doo”.

Have fun!