Don Maclean - American Pie
American Pie Guitar Tutorial | Complete Practice Guide w/ Play-Alongs
Welcome to my American Pie Guitar Tutorial by Don McLean. This classic strummer uses seven or eight chord shapes, but they’re constantly in a different order – and that’s where the true challenge lies in this song. When you add it all up, it’s like the equivalent of 3 or 4 songs’ worth of chord progressions.
American Pie CHORD CHART / TAB is now published on Musicnotes (direct product links and FULL SONG PLAY-THROUGH are available on my Patreon page)Click here
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 0:00 – INTRO
- 3:36 – CHORUS
- 5:43 – RHYTHM + STRUMMING
- 9:26 – VERSE 2
- 17:25 – INTRO (VERSE 1)
- 21:48 – D CHORD RIFF
- 26:12 – PUTTING IT TOGETHER
- 28:05 – MEMORIZING THE SONG
- 31:18 – PLAY-ALONG
We start off by learning the chorus because that’s the simplest part. It’s two basic progressions sandwiched together. We take a look at the chords, the chord order. We practice it using downstrokes, and then we add a strumming pattern.
I want to make a point about the difference between strumming patterns, and the groove, or feel of the song. So for this one, we’re going to use the same strumming pattern that Don McLean uses on the recording, which is purely alternate down and upstrokes. The whole point of this is to take advantage of this simple pattern and be able to focus on the FEELING of it, on accenting beats, two and four.
Once we’ve completely learned the chorus, we tackle verse two, which is the most complicated and therefore I think we should spend the most time going over it. We break it down in to four separate chord progressions, work through each one individually, practice them with the strumming pattern, and then we move on to the final big chunk of the song.
The intro or verse one uses a rubato time feel, which means you can push and pull time. We’re not going to do that because I think it’s important to be able to do it with the beat first, and then, once you’re comfortable with all the components, you’ll be able to easily stretch and feel the time.
And then, just for fun. I have a riff that we can play on the D chord that’s pretty simple, and is a great way to add a little bit more challenge to this tune in case you’ve felt like you could use a bit more.
After that, all that’s left is a few small changes throughout the tune that need to be addressed, and the final chorus, which is a little bit different than the usual chorus.
It’s also worth taking a moment to talk about memorizing the song, because I think that’s probably the most important thing here. So I wanted to have a whole segment going over exactly what you should do to learn this song and memorize it as quickly as possible.
Following that, we play through the three main sections of the song about the first three minutes of the tune realistically, and that’s it for the lesson. I hope you enjoy it. I know it’s a long one. It’s meant to be a practice guide for you to come back to and just use as you go through the tune.
All the best and happy practicing!
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