‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd is a fantastic example of how to turn a few simple chords into a rock anthem. Not only does it feature a great sounding and instantly recognisable arpeggio pattern, but also a memorable melody and lyrics.
The lyrics were inspired by the passing of vocalist Ronnie Van Zant’s grandmother. In the song, Ronnie reflects on his grandmother’s legacy and life lessons taught by her. Lyrics like: ‘Mama told me when I was young, come sit beside me, my only son …” are not only memorable but also carry a great message: “… take your time… don’t live too fast, troubles will come, and they will pass …”. I always felt really touched by this song and enjoyed teaching it to my students for these reasons.
You can read a little bit more about Lynyrd Skynyrd history here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…
‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd is a fantastic example of what you can do with just three chords C, G and A minor played over and over again. The genius of the song lies in the arrangement of these chords, let’s have a closer look at the arpeggiated intro and verse theme.
Make sure you are familiar with the chord changes. If you are a beginner, add these chords to your warm-up routine and practice them in isolation before attempting to add a strumming or arpeggio to them.
Simply repeat the progression C – G – Am over and over again for two to three minutes every day, by strumming each chord once and saying the name of the chord out loud (that will link the chord’s shape and sound in your memory). This will then prepare you to play the main theme of the song whilst also avoiding the frustration most beginners feel such as not being able to change the chords fast enough or having them not sound right and muted.
The reason is that when you strum a chord, some muted notes will still blend with the other notes from the chord, while arpeggios will reveal all of your mistakes.
When trying to learn an arpeggio like the one from ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd, it is helpful to look for patterns that will help you memorise it. When you have a closer look, you can see that there is a repetitive pattern played over the C, G and A minor chords.
So let’s break down the arpeggio. The first part will be played over chord C by picking the strings in the following way: five – three – four – five, followed by two – three – four – three. Try to play that a few times until you fully memorise it. You can also play this pattern over empty strings (without holding the chord) to save your fretting hand and then add the chord C once you memorise the pattern.
Now we will move to the chord G. It is actually the same pattern played one string up. So what you need to do is to shift everything up by one string – that means that the jumps between the strings will be the same, except that we will now start from the sixth string – six – four – five – six flowed by three – four – five – four.
The next chord is A minor, and we will play the same pattern as we played over the C chord once again: five – three – four – five, followed by two – three – four – three.
Now the last chord is A minor 7. To turn the A minor into an A minor 7 chord, just add your little pinky finger on the third fret first string to the A minor shape and finish off the arpeggio by playing the following pattern: five – two – three – four followed by one – two.
I hope you can see that once you break it down into little chunks, it is actually quite easy to memorise the arpeggio. Take it slowly, don’t rush and remember to work on ‘Simple man’ in isolation before joining all of these pieces together.
For your reference, here is a full arpeggio of this song, including a little two-note ‘tag’ at the beginning – please watch the video for the in-depth explanation.
How do you like ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd? It is definitely one of my favourite songs to play in a casual situation, it ‘simply’ sounds great 🙂
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