Today we´re going to learn how to play 'Love Me Tender' by Elvis Presley on guitar. This is a classic Elvis tune that I played for my sweetheart on Valentine's Day. It's not a hard tune and we´re going to learn it in the same simple fashion in which it was recorded.
'Love Me Tender' features a D, E7, A7, G, and an F#7. Don´t worry about that bar on the F#7, as I´ve got another option in case the bar is too hard. Let's do this!
Learn to Play 'Love Me Tender' Chords
First off, we´ve got a folk-style D chord. I´m going to point out the bass notes as they will be relevant when we go into strumming, later. For the D chord, the main bass note is the open fourth string, which is D. We´re going to alternate that with the open fifth string which is the note A.
Next up we have the E7. I´m playing this in the common easy version with the index on the third string first fret and the middle finger on the fifth string second fret. The bass note here is the low E, and we can alternate it with the A string.
For the A7, we're going to use the open fifth string for bass and alternate it with the open low sixth string.
Next up is the G, and I'm doing a pinky G, which features the middle finger on the fifth string second fret, ring finger on the sixth string third fret, and pinky on the first string third fret. This particular way of fingering the G chord is good depending on which chord you´re coming from and which chord you're going to. However, feel free to play the G chord in any way that is comfortable for you. Here, the bass is on the sixth string, and we can alternate that with the fifth string.
Finally, we have the F#7. The most common way to finger this is with a bar. Bar all six strings using your pinky across the second fret, then place your middle finger on the third string third fret, and your ring finger on the fifth string fourth fret. The bass note is the low sixth string, which is F#.
If doing bar chords is still too hard for you, try the following alternate version.
Place your index on the second string first fret, middle finger on the third string second fret, and pinky on the first string third fret. This is actually a D7 chord. If you´re wondering why we can play a D7 instead of F#7, it is because they share two notes in common. Additionally, the D7 fits well with the melody of Love Me Tender.
Understanding Song Form
One of the things that really help with learning a new song is paying attention to their form at the start. Instead of just trying to play it over and over from the top, by understanding the form, you learn which parts repeat and when, making it much easier to learn.
In this case, 'Love Me Tender' features a very common form or song structure. It is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus. In other words, you only have to learn two parts. Naturally, each verse will have different lyrics, but the chords and strumming pattern remain the same.
Another advantage of paying attention to the form is that you'll notice that the main chord progression repeats over and over. Therefore it is very helpful to just learn that progression before learning the song.
This progression is D, E7, A7, D. The G and F#7 come later. The main progression is actually applied twice in all the verses. Each chord lasts for one bar, or four beats.
Then we go to the chorus, which features the chords D, F#7, G, D, E7, A7, D. Here again all chords last one full bar. Remember that you can substitute the F#7 with the D7 if need be.
I´m going to play this just as Elvis recorded it, fingerstyle on a nylon string guitar. However, feel free to play it with a pick on a steel string in case you wish. The pattern remains the same.
In the basic strum you play the bass note, then strum the high strings, play the alternate bass note and then strum the high strings again.
I´m doing all of this with my thumb, but it would also work with a pick. Each bass and strum falls on downbeats, so the pattern B - D - B - D lasts one bar (four beats). In other words, you play one full circle of the strum per chord (one bar).
Try getting the strum together on just one chord at first. Then go slowly through all the chords with this strum, focusing on accuracy.
Now, Over To You...
Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley is not only a fun song to learn, but also a great exercise for your right hand and seventh chord knowledge. We feature a play-along section on the YouTube video that will be very helpful. Remember to go slowly at first and map the entire song before attempting to play along. As always, have fun and enjoy the process!
Would you like to learn how to learn barre chords faster? Check out the post below!