Cash’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.
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.
What 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.
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”.
Today's chart is "Poor Little Fool," a 50's pop/rock number performed by Ricky Nelson, but written by a 15-year-old Sharon Sheeley, who pretended her car broke down in front of Nelson's house in order to get him to listen to the tune. That's courage. Or pride. Or innocence. Any way you call it, it's awesome.
Notice that the strum pattern I've recommended accents the 2nd and 4th beat, called the "backbeat" (those ">" symbols are accent marks):
> > B D D U D U w/swing feel Strum: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
They're the same beats that are usually accented by the snare drum in a rock band, so you'll often accent the backbeat while playing solo versions of rock songs in order to capture the overall groove of a full rock band. It's like you're doing double duty, playing guitar and drums at the same time. If you've never done it before, accenting the backbeat can be hard to learn, but just start super-slow and then gradually increase your speed.
Want to hear this kind of backbeat accenting in action? Check out this great cover of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. I first heard Ben sing this at his sister's wedding, unamplified, filling the hall with his gorgeous voice. One of my all-time favorite musical performances.
When I was writing this chart for my beginning guitar student, I struggled and failed to find an easy way to approximate the intro melody on guitar. Advanced guitarists could probably make up a simple chord-melody arrangement, playing the melody on the 3rd (G) string while letting the 4th (D) string drone. A richer-sounding intro could even be achieved using Drop-D tuning. But if that's over your head, I'd recommend shortening the intro, just playing that D7 for a few measures (not 7--way too tedious) or even playing a more predictable G chord for a couple measures.
Remember, as a guitarist you might be obsessed with things like getting the intro to sound good. But most of the people you're going to play with--family sitting around the campfire, classmates hanging out after school, friends swapping songs over a few beers--could care less about the fancy riffs that serve as intros or interludes to songs. Sure, they sound nice, but what they really want to do is sing along, or hear you sing. So don't sweat the riffs you can't play. And don't interrupt an otherwise great singalong song by laboring through a hard guitar part at half-speed, breaking the song's momentum. Just skip that part until you've got it down.
So fun singing this duet with a talented young singer and drummer (and great to have Brady Millard-Kish’s son Luca on keys).
You’ll notice I embedded the video of our performance, which I thought might be helpful for guitarists learning the song. What do you think? Does it help, or just clutter up the chart? If people find it helpful, it’d be easy to embed videos in all the songs I’ve performed with my students–they’ve all been filmed.
Enjoy the music.
Ready for a month of new music? I'll be uploading the following charts I've written for my students in the past year, posting one chord chart per day for the next 30 days. If you see a favorite song below, let me know and I'll put it on the fast track. Otherwise, I'll just post 'em alphabetically.
Hope you enjoy the new tunes.
Avett Brothers - Live And Die
Bat for Lashes - Laura
Beatles - I Will
Beatles, The - In My Life
Beatles, The - You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
Bowie, David - Space Oddity
Cash, Johnny - A Boy Named Sue
Cash, Johnny - I Got Stripes
Decemberists, The - June Hymn
Diamond, Neil - Sweet Caroline
Dylan, Bob - Roll on, John
Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know
Jennings, Waylon - Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line
John, Elton - Crocodile Rock
Keir, Nick - Fires of Edinburgh
Kingston, Sean - Dumb Love
Lewis, Jenny - Carpetbaggers
Loesser, Frank - Baby It's Cold Outside
Lumineers - Ho Hey
Mayer, John - Half of My Heart
Naim, Yael - New Soul
Nash, Graham - Be Yourself
Nelson, Ricky - Poor Little Fool
Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks
Rise Against - The Dirt Whispered
Sheeran, Ed - The A Team
Simon and Garfunkel - Hazy Shade of Winter
White, Jack - Love Interruption
Wilco - The Late Greats
Wray, Link - Fire and Brimstone
This is the first article in a new series I'm calling Gear of the Gods: Sneak peeks of the guitar equipment used to record classic songs.
I'd like to thank guest blogger Dave Wirth of The School of Feedback Guitar for researching and writing this.
For those of us who were not lucky enough to see Jeff Buckley perform, we can only imagine what we missed, especially during his finale. The audiences he played for, though completely energetic during most of his performance, were silent when he played his final song of the night, "Hallelujah."
Jeff’s sparkling-clean, dripping-with-reverb guitar tone was captured in the studio and his live performances with three key pieces of equipment:
• ’83 Fender Telecaster
• ’63 Reissue Fender Vibroverb
• Alesis Quadraverb
If you’d like to reincarnate Jeff’s guitar tone, there’s bad news and also some great news. The bad news is that a lot of the equipment Jeff used is no longer being actively manufactured. The great news is that Fender and Alesis still make similar equipment, and I’ve done all that research for you. The rest of this blog post goes over the results.
The ’83 Fender Telecaster, the one heard on "Hallelujah," was only manufactured for one year. As is the case with many discontinued Fender models, ’83 Telecasters now fetch a pretty penny. I’ve included two options for those interested in a close match.
First, for those who are going for maximum playability as well as fantastic tone, Fender’s American Vintage ’52 Telecaster is a dead-giveaway: Check out the '52 Fender Tele at Zzounds.com
Second, though made in Mexico, the Fender Standard Telecaster is a more affordable alternative: Check out the Fender Standard Tele at Amazon
Fender’s Vibroverb ’63 Reissue is also no longer being manufactured. The Custom Vibrolux, while not exactly the same amp by way of aesthetics or electronics, is the closest replication to the amp that Jeff used: Check out Fender Custom Vibrolux® Reverb Amp at Amazon.com
The Alesis Quadraverb is also no longer being manufactured, which is actually a good thing: The old Quadraverbs were plagued with noise issues. Alesis' modern MidiVerb is a better reverb unit, and the Alesis rackmount processor most comparable to the old Quadraverb heard on "Hallelujah": Check out Alesis MidiVerb 4 Digital Effects Processor at Amazon.com
One final note: If you want that same tone, don’t be shy with the reverb, or the volume for that matter. In fact, I say: lean into it, hard.
Check out the chord chart for "Hallelujah" here.
Researched by Dave Wirth, a professional guitarist and writer. He teaches guitar to complete newbies at The School of Feedback Guitar in Austin, TX.
So many guitarists just learn their favorite parts to songs. I’ll bet this kid was glad he learned “Jesus of Suburbia” all the way through.
Fortune favors the prepared mind.