In this lesson you’re going to learn how to play the song Stand By Me by Ben E. King. An all time classic! At the very end I have a really cool bonus for you, so be sure to stick around.
Stand By Me is a great song to learn on guitar. It uses what’s called a common chord progression. These are chord progressions that are, well, common! It’s a series of chords that tend to work very well together.
I’ll show you the 4 chord progression and a neat way to get from one chord to another. You can apply this technique to many songs and progressions. I’ll also show you a strumming pattern you can use.
Let’s start with a 4 finger G chord.
You can use another variation of the G chord if you’d like, but I prefer the 4 finger G chord here. It’s a nice full chord and I find it to be easier to play than a 3 finger G chord.
From here we’ll play an Em chord, but a little different.
You’ll leave your index finger on the 5th string 2nd fret. It acts as an anchor to change chords. Place your index finger on the 4th string 2nd fret. You can actually leave your ring finger and pinky where they are too. That would turn it into an Em7 chord.
Our next chord is a variation of the C chord. It’s technically called a Cadd9.
You can think of it as a G chord, but your index and middle fingers go up one string. If you played the Em7 chord you can use your ring and pinky fingers where they are as anchors. You can try the Em and Em7 to the Cadd9 and see what works best for you.
The last chord is a D.
I’m going to leave my ring finger on the 2nd string 3rd fret and again use it as an anchor. These anchor notes make changing chords much easier, quicker, and cleaner.
The bass note is the D string (4th string). You can hit the A string below it, but I like it better with the D note on the bottom.
How To Play Stand By Me on Guitar
So let’s go through the chord progression. If these chords are new to you, I’d encourage you to practice the chord changes a few times. Give the G chord a strum, change to the Em (or Em7), then the Cadd9 and then the D.
This song has eight bar segments that repeat over and over. A bar is another name for a measure. Each bar (or measure) has 4 beats to it.
The chords aren’t quite equal when it comes to strumming. Here’s what the pattern looks like, with each chord being a measure:
Did you notice how the G and Em each get two measures, but the C and D get one measure? The second line ends with two more measures of G. This looks like the G is going to be played for too long, but it makes perfect sense in the context of the song.
Start by strumming each chord once per measure. It will be strum-two-three-four strum-two-three-four.
(check out 5:00 in the video to hear how it sounds)
Adding A Strum
If you’re good so far, let’s add in a strum. Check out 6:07 for a really cool strum that adds a lot of rhythm to the song.
Once you have the strum down, check out 8:01 in the video to play along.
You know I couldn’t do a Stand By Me lesson without that iconic riff. Jump to 10:02 in the video for a step by step demonstration with tabs.
As a note, I learned this song by listening to the original Ben E. King version. His version is a full step up. If you want to play along to the recording you can put a capo on the second fret. You’ll play the exact same chord shapes, they’ll all sound one step higher in pitch.
I hope you were able to learn something new today. If you enjoyed this lesson subscribe to my YouTube channel to get access to a lot more video lessons like this. Let me know in the comments there or here if there are any other songs you’d love to learn!