This is a detailed tutorial on how to play the guitar riff for Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This tutorial is split into 2 parts. Part 1 deals with the chords and the basic picking pattern. Part 2 deals with the lead in line to complete the guitar riff, and palm muting to get the guitar part sound more like the actual song.
Here is part 1 of the tutorial:
The riff for Sweet Home Alabama uses the chord shapes in this very order: D, Cmaj9, and G. Here is an outline of how each chord will be shaped.
| x 0 0 2 3 x |
(The order of the tabs are from top string to bottom string. | E A D G B E | or | 6 5 4 3 2 1 |. The ‘x’ means that the string is not being used for the chord.)
Place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the G string and your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the B string. Because the bottom E string isn’t used in the riff, an ‘x’ is placed on the string in the tab.
| 0 3 2 0 3 x |
For this chord, place you middle finger on the 3rd fret of the A string, index finger on the 2nd fret of the D string, and your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the B string.
| 3 2 0 0 3 x |
For this chord, have your middle finger placed on the 3rd fret of the top E string, index finger on the A string, and the ring finger on the 3rd fret of the B string.
Before moving on to the picking of the song, be sure to be comfortable switching between the chords. There are two things that can help making these chord switches simple. First, the ring finger never comes off the 3rd fret of the B string in the three chords, so you can keep it on the string during the whole riff. The second thing has to do with the chord change from Cadd9 to G. They both have similar shapes. All you have to do is move your index and middle fingers up one string.
2. Picking Pattern
The picking part of the song is where it gets a little tricky. I will break it down into beats or, in other words, counts. The D and Cadd9 chords are each played with 2 beats and the G holds out for 4 beats.
I’m going to be using tablatures to explain the rhythm. It will be in the form of:
| – - – | – - – | – - – | – - -
The ‘ | ‘ represents each beat and the ‘ – ‘ represents subdivisions of the beat. When writing out the tablatures, I will use letters or other symbols (which will be explained in detail) to take the place of ‘ | ‘ or ‘ – ‘ to represent what is being played on that beat or subdivision.
Here is a tablature to show where each chord lies in the song.
D – - – | – - – Cadd9 – - – | – - – G – - – | – - – | – - – | – - -
You can see that the D chord is played for two beats, the Cadd9 is played for two beats, and the G chord is played for four beats.
Here is the tablature for the picking. The numbers represent ‘string/fret’. So for example, the first set of numbers are ’4/0′. This means that you are picking an open 4th string or D string. When you come across a letter such as the ‘G’ in the tablature below, that means to strum the chord. I split the tablature into three sections. They are sectioned off by what chord shape is being used.
D chord shape:
4/0 – 4/0 – 2/3 3/2 – -
Cadd9 chord shape:
5/3 – 5/3 – 2/3 3/0 – -
G chord shape:
6/3 – 6/3 – G – - – | – - – | – - -
This may be a bit difficult when first learning the riff, so start off really slow. It may not sound as cool as the riff sounds like on the CD when playing it slow, but as you start to play it faster and faster, you will start to hear it come together.