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


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


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


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!

New Chart: “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson

RickyNelson-GreatestLoveSongs-coverToday'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.

Here's the chart.

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.

New Chart: “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond

NeilDNext up: A chord chart of Neil Diamond's classic singalong song, "Sweet Caroline."

Click here to go to the chart.

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.

Have fun!

New Chart: Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men

omamThe first chart of my 30 Charts in 30 Days series is “Little Talks,” a song chosen by Mark DiFlorio’s drum student Tess for the Spring 2013 Coffee Shop Jam.

Here’s the chart.

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.