How to play Wonderful Tonight | Eric Clapton


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How to play Wonderful Tonight | Eric Clapton

Picture of by Darius Chrobak

by Darius Chrobak

Guitar Couch Lessons

The 1977 ‘Slowhand’ album features one of my favourite Eric Clapton songs – ‘Wonderful Tonight’. Allegedly, this song was written while Eric was waiting patiently for his partner Pattie Boyd to dress up for a party hosted by Paul and Linda McCartney. Well, that’s a productive use of time 🙂

If you don’t know who Pattie Boyd is, well, she was George Harrison’s wife that Eric sneakily stolen from him. Yet, after all that disturbance, they stayed friends, and George Harrison even performed at their wedding – ahh good old times 🙂

On his albums, Eric always worked with the best artists. The backing harmonies on ‘Wonderful Tonight’ are no exception, as they are performed by Marcella Detroit (who later joined Shakespears Sister) and Yvonne Elliman (she had a big number one hit in the 1970’s “If I Can’t Have You”). You can check some song facts here:…

Song Structure:

Verse: G / D / C / D
Chorus: C / D / G / G/Gb / Em / C / D

The arrangement of this song in this lesson is great for beginner guitarists as we focus purely on the chord structure of the song, rather than the original arpeggiated theme. The goal is to put into use the chords G, C and D with a relatively simply strumming pattern.

A Few Tips On How To Practice "Wonderful Tonight"

The transition between chords G and C and C and D is something that causes a lot of trouble, so, as a starting point, you may try to isolate this part.

Some chord changes will require a little bit of time to get used to in order to be ready to implement them in the song. Instead of jumping into deep water and trying to learn the whole song at once, you might want to include a certain part of this song in your daily practice routine.

For example, as a part of your daily warm-up routine, you could practise changing between G and C for a minute or two, followed by changing between C to D. At this time you won’t be playing a full song yet, only these two little blocks. You may repeat that for a few days (or weeks there is no rush) and then maybe combine them into a bigger block and practice as a transition from G to C to G to D.

A great way of improving your timing would be to practice these little blocks to the metronome. Check this link for my own Guitar Couch Metronome. Set the speed to 70 BPM (beats per minute) and simply strum each chord every four clicks. So you would strum G on click one and let it ring over clicks two, three and four, and then change to the C chord and again – strum it on one and let it ring over two, three and four, and so on. So you can say that in this case, each chord lasts for four clicks.

You may notice that once you put the metronome on you will feel instant pressure - welcome to the red light syndrome 🙂 It is common for the bands to perform songs perfectly while rehearsing them, but the moment when they start recording, everything falls apart, and they start making mistakes. In the old days, there would be a red light outside of the studio displaying a message - QUIET - RECORDING SESSION IN PROGRESS - hence red light syndrome 🙂

The chorus part features a quite unusual chord G/Gb (G slash G flat) that sounds pretty strange and tense on its own, but perfect when placed in between G and E minor – please watch the video lesson for a full explanation. Again you may try to isolate this part and practice for a few days going from G to G/Gb to E minor. This is actually quite a popular transition used in many songs, for example in Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ song.

One way to strum this song would be to apply the down – down – up strumming pattern. Please make sure that you are familiar with the chord structure and comfortable with the changes before you start applying the rhythm into this chord progression.

Start from the G chord, strum it down – down – up, then go to the D and again strum it down – down – up and so on. There is a small gap in between the strums so please make sure that you watch the video for the full explanation.

On the chorus part, we would strum exactly the same way except for our little quirky chord batch – G – G/Gb – E minor. You can just strum the G chord once (literally one pick motion from the sixth string across all of the strings), then again G/Gb once (all the way across all strings) and then a full down – down – up strumming pattern on the E minor chord and the remaining chords C and D.

Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ is a really great tune that you can add to your campfire library and pull it out when you need something more romantic 🙂 How do you like it? What is the most difficult part when it comes to playing the song?

Darius | Guitar Couch Lessons


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