How to play Sweet Home Alabama
The main chord progression consists of three major chords. Those are D major, C major, and G major. These chords repeat throughout the entire song, apart from the occasional F power chord at the end of the chorus and in the third verse.
The chords themselves are very basic and easy for beginners to learn, but between the chords, there are occasional licks and fills that are a little more intricate and challenging.
The fills-in intro uses a combination of hammer-ons and pull-offs and open strings.
These fills happen throughout the song, and they sound great and really impressive. These techniques are great for beginners to learn as they have a wide range of applications.
If you listen to the original recording, you may notice that the intro chords are played with some light palm muting. You do this by resting the palm of your right hand on the strings right next to the bridge of your guitar.
This changes the way the strings ring out, thus changing the tone. Palm muting is a really handy technique that is used frequently in rock music to add dynamics and variation to one’s playing.
The next section is an interlude that comes before the chorus. This part is probably the most challenging part of the song (apart from the guitar solo).
The chorus of the song features the same chords as the verse, but they are power chords rather than chords in the open position (at the bottom of the neck). Power chords consist of only the root and the fifth of the chord, for instance, G and D. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy and a lot of fun to play.
When learning any song, it’s important to start out slow. Don’t worry about playing it up to speed when you’re starting out, just play through the chords and licks at your own pace. If you can’t do the licks and fills right off the bat, just focus on getting the chords down first.
Let’s take a look at the tabs for the opening riff.
Intro to Sweet Home Alabama Tab
The opening 4 bars of Sweet Home Alabama are played like this:
G|———-2———–0–|——-0—-0———-2^0–|———2———-0—|——0–0-2^0 0 4^0—5/-|
As you can see in the tab above, the D chord isn’t a full D major chord, but rather just the foot, fifth, and octave. Similarly, the C major chord isn’t a full C major, but a C9. They are also played as broken chords rather than strummed full chords.
The fills that feature hammer-ons and pull-offs, mainly between the open A, D, and G strings and the second fret, have some variation with each repetition.
When the band played live, these fills were largely improvised and varied even more. You can try out different fills and see what sounds good to you.
Below, you can see the tab for the interlude section that comes before the chorus. This section is a single-note riff rather than chords, but the riff still outlines the main progression of D, C, and G major.
The next section of the song is the chorus, which consists of the same chord progression, D, C, and G, but using power chords. These power chords alternate between the first and the fifth, and the first and the ninth of the chords.
In other words, on the D chord, you’ll play the fifth fret on the A string and the seventh fret on the D string, followed by the ninth fret on the D string.
This pattern of switching between power chords and ninth chords happens for all the chords in the chorus. This is a common trope in many blues and rock songs from the era.
The following section is an instrumental passage featuring the first guitar solo of the song. The same chords repeat throughout the instrumental passage and the rest of the song, apart from those brief F power chords we’ve previously mentioned.
These F power chords are played on the third fret on the D string, and the fifth fret on the G string occurs in the third verse too, after the line “In Birmingham they love the Governor” when the backing singers sing, “Boo, boo, boo”.
You can see the tabs for this verse below.
Those brief F power chords are the only deviation from the normal chord progression in the entire song.
The rest of the song just repeats the same sections as above, with minor variations on those hammer-on fills we talked about.
The great part about this song is its simplicity. Although it uses the same three chords throughout, there is enough variation in rhythm and feel for the song not to feel overly repetitive.
About Sweet Home Alabama
Sweet Home Alabama is a 1974 song by the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was part of the band’s second full-length album titled Second Helping, and it was the main single from this record.
Sweet Home Alabama is considered a true classic and one of the best songs of all time. It is a very popular song for beginner guitarists to play because the chord progression is very simple and straightforward.
We hope you have fun playing this classic Southern rock song, and that you’ve found our explanation and tabs helpful.
Remember, it’s helpful to listen to the original recording and try to play along, but if you can’t quite play it up to speed, try playing it slower without the backing track.
Take your time and enjoy the process!