Playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" On Acoustic Guitar
Today we're going to take a look at While My Guitar Gently Weeps by the Beatles. This is a song that uses a descending bass line to create interesting chords. We’ll break this down into two sections.
1: While My Guitar Gently Weeps VERSE
The first section is based around the A minor (Am) chord. You’ll play the A minor chord every measure, but the bass notes will change.
You’ll start by playing a measure of A minor.
From there you'll play the Am chord with new bass notes every measure.
The first is an Am with a G in the bass. Take your pinky and play the third fret of the sixth string (G) while playing the A minor chord. The next chord is almost the same, but you’ll play the second note of the sixth string (F#) with your middle finger. Lastly, take your index finger and play the first fret of the sixth string (F).
You’ll notice that you won’t be able to play the full Am chord as you play the F# and F bass notes. That’s OK. Just play as much of the Am chord as you can, especially the first fret of the second string.
(Check out [1:47] in the video to see the chord shapes I’m using.)
The second half of this first section uses full chords. Play a measure of A minor, then a full G chord. I like using the three finger G here, playing the third fret of the first string with my pinky.
That easily transitions into our next chord, a Dsus4 (D suspended four). You’ll play the Dsus4 into a D Major. 2:14 in the video shows the timing of this.
To play a Dsus4, play a standard D Major and place your pinky on the third fret of the first string.
After the Dsus4 and D you’ll play an E Major to finish the section.
Together, the Verse section could be written this way:
Am - Am/G - D7/F# - Dm/F
Am - G - (Dsus4-D) - E
When you see a chord with a slash, it means you're playing a chord (the first one listed) with a note in the bass (the second note listed). So "Am/G" is an Am chord with a G in the bass.
The Dsus4 and D together make up one measure.
TIP: It's perfectly fine to play the D chord throughout this measure and leave out the Dsus4 altogether. The Dsus4 would be considered an embellishment.
2: While My Guitar Gently Weeps CHORUS
The second section (Chorus) normally uses bar chords, but we’re going to do a version without bar chords. We'll use different voicings of each chord.
The chord progression is A-C#m-F#m-C#m, then Bm-Bm-E-E. The C#m, F#m, and Bm are normally bar chords. But today we’re going to play a non-bar chord version of C#m and Bm, and a partial bar version of the F#m.
The C#m and Bm are the same exact fingerings. The Bm is just moved down two frets.
The F#m bars the first three strings with your index finger. Use your ring finger to play the fourth string. If you’re finding it too difficult to play the first string, just bar the second and third.
Once you’re comfortable with the chords, give section 2 a try. You can do 4 strums per chord just to get you used to them.
The entire Chorus section could be written like this:
A - C#m - F#m - C#m
Bm - Bm - E - E
A Few Bonus Licks
This is totally optional, but you can add a few licks to this progression to add even more color.
The first enhancement would be to use bar chords in place of the C#m, F#m and B chords in the chorus. If you'd like to go for it and could use some help check out my Ultimate Guide to Bar Chords post.
For the second enhancement (lick) you can step down by 1/2 steps in the chorus from C#m, Cm, then to Bm.
The final lick would be to do a bass note step up starting on the open E (lowest) string. This would take the place of the last E chord in the chorus.
I demonstrate these licks starting at [6:18] in the video.
Start by using a very simple strumming pattern. Here's the strumming pattern show the video in the beginning.
Basic Down-Up Strum Pattern:
When you can play through the entire song using this simple strum pattern you may want to improve it a little.
One way would be to use a different pattern on the chorus. This creates a different feel on the chorus and adds variety.
Pop-Rock Strum Pattern (Easy):
I demonstrate this strum at [7:31].
Putting It All Together
We’ve learned this song in parts, and now it’s time to put it all together. This can be a little challenging since you’re used to playing each section independently.
- Take it slow.
- Use a metronome at a slow tempo to make sure you stay on rhythm.
- Once you’re comfortable you can increase the tempo. No more than 5 bpm at a time.
If you’re ready to play through this, jump to [8:33] in the video and we’ll play the song together.
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