Guitar lesson for
City of Stars
About this lesson
Welcome to my guitar lesson for an acoustic version of “City of Stars,” specifically the duet version that is the 9th track of the La La Land soundtrack. This lesson will show you a relatively “strum-along” version of the song, which uses some strumming and some fingerpicking. Some important notes:
- Capo on the 3rd fret. I’m doing this so you don’t need to use crazy barre chords, which are much harder to play. If you don’t have a capo, you can use the notes/tabs/chords I’m showing you, but you won’t be able to play along with my video (or the soundtrack) and be in the same key.
- This isn’t meant to be a super-precise recreation of the piano version, note-for-note. There’s a lot of subtlety and complexity to the piano soundtrack version, and this arrangement most certainly does not intend to capture all the intricacies. My lesson will, however, get to the spirit of things.
Here’s all the chords you’ll need for this song. For the “7th” chords (Bm7, F#7, A7, etc) you can, if you prefer, play the normal version of those chords. I’ll include both normal and “7th” versions here just so you have them.
E –––0–––0–––0–––2–––2–––2––––2–––2–––2–––2–––3––– B –––0–––2–––2–––3–––3–––2––––2–––3–––2–––1–––0––– G –––0–––2–––0–––4–––2–––3––––3–––2–––2–––2–––0––– D –––2–––2–––2–––4–––4–––4––––2–––0–––0–––0–––0––– A –––2–––0–––0–––2–––2–––4––––4–––––––––––––––2––– E –––0–––––––––––––––––––2––––2–––––––––––––––3––– Em A A7 Bm Bm7 F# F#7 D Dmaj7 D7 G
Now that you have the chords, here’s how you’ll distribute them across the verse and chorus. Pay attention to the patterns in the progression below! For instance:
- In the verse and chorus, you always start each 4-measure sequence with the same chord (Em in the verse; G in the chorus).
- In the verse and chorus, you always end the final sequence with a Bm => Bm/A walkdown.
- In the verse and chorus, the first 3 sequences (out of 4) transition to the same 2nd chord of A7 (in the verse and chorus).
- In the verse and chorus, the final sequence (out of 4) always transitions to a F#7 (in both verse and chorus).
Here’s what they look like:
Em . . . A7 . . . Bm7 . . . Bm7 . . . Em . . . A7 . . . D . . . D . . . Em . . . A7 . . . D . Dmaj7 . D7 . . . Em . . . F#7 . . . Bm . . . Bm/A . . .
G . . . A7 . . . F#7 . . . Bm7 . . . G . . . A7 . . . Bm7 . . . Bm7 . . . G . . . A7 . . . F#7 . . . Bm7 . . . G . . . F#7 . . . Bm . . . Bm/A . . .
Note, I only like to fingerpick the intro and the first couple lines of each verse. I strum the rest of the song. If you want to fingerpick the entire song, feel free – apply a similar pattern to what I’m showing below for all chords. These riffs below are ones that match the piano (on the soundtrack), so I’m calling out the tabs specifically.
I prefer to play the intro like this. Put your left hand in an E-minor position and repeat this as desired (use your pinky for that 3rd fret note on the B string):
E –––––––––0––––0–––––––– B –––––––0––––––––3––0––– G –––––0––––––––––––––––– D –––2––––––––––––––––––– ...repeat as desired A ––––––––––––––––––––––– E ––––––––––––––––––––––– Em
To play the riff an octave lower, you can do this. I don’t care for this, typically (feels too cramped) – but if it works for you, run with it.
E ––––––––––––––––––––––––– B ––––––––––––––––––––––––– G ––––––––––––––––––––––––– D ––––––––––2––––2––0–––––– ...repeat as desired A ––––––––2––––––––––––2––– E –––0––3–––––––––––––––––– Em
I fingerpick the first line of each verse with this riff. The trick here is to lift up your middle finger (on the B string) so that the barred 2nd fret sounds on the second half of each Bm7.
"City of stars, are you shining just..." E –––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– B –––––––––0–––––––––––––|–––––––––2––––––––––––– G –––––––0–––––––0–––0–––|–––––––0–––––––0–––0––– D –––––2–––––––––––2–––––|–––––2–––––––––––2––––– A –––––––––––––––––––––––|–––0––––––––––––––––––– E –––0–––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– Em A7 "...for me?" E –––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– B –––––––––3––––3––2–––––|–––––––––3––––3––2––––– G –––––––2–––––––––––2–––|–––––––2–––––––––––2––– D –––––4–––––––––––––––––|–––––4––––––––––––––––– A –––2–––––––––––––––––––|–––2––––––––––––––––––– E –––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– Bm7 Bm7
I fingerpick the second line of each verse with this riff. It’s similar to the Bm7, but you resolve to a D instead of a Bm7. Same deal with using your index finger to barre the 2nd fret, and applying your middle finger to the 3rd fret of the B string. Check out my video lesson to see this in action.
"City of stars, there's so much that I..." E –––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– B –––––––––0–––––––––––––|–––––––––2––––––––––––– G –––––––0–––––––0–––0–––|–––––––0–––––––0–––0––– D –––––2–––––––––––2–––––|–––––2–––––––––––2––––– A –––––––––––––––––––––––|–––0––––––––––––––––––– E –––0–––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– Em A7 "...can't see." E –––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– B –––––––2––3––––3––2––––|–––––––2––3––––3––2–––– G –––––2––––––––––––––2––|–––––2––––––––––––––2–– D –––0–––––––––––––––––––|–––0––––––––––––––––––– A –––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– E –––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––– D D
Lyrics with chords
INTRO Em VERSE 1 Em A7 Bm7 City of stars.... are you shining just for me? Em A7 D City of stars... there's so much that I can't see Em A7 D Dmaj7 D7 Who knows? ...I felt it from the first embrace I shared with you Em F#7 Bm Bm/A That now our dreams... they've finally come true VERSE 2 Em A7 Bm7 City of stars... just one thing everybody wants Em A7 D (Dmaj7) There in the bars... and through the smokescreen of the crowded restaurants Em A7 D Dmaj7 D7 It's love..... yes, all we're looking for is love from someone else Em F#7 A rush, a glance, a touch, a dance CHORUS G A F#7 A look in somebody's eyes, to light up the skies Bm7 To open the world and send it reeling G A Bm7 A voice that says, I'll be here, and you'll be alright G A F#7 I don't care if I know, just where I will go Bm7 'Cause all that I need is this crazy feeling G F#7 Bm Bm/A A rat-tat-tat on my heart... I think I want it to stay FINAL VERSE Em A7 Bm7 City of stars... are you shining just for me? Em F#7 Bm City of stars... you never shined so brightly
Thanks for reading! I hope this helped you.
Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!
If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).
Subscribe to my YouTube channel
Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!
Recent video lessons:
📝 Print-friendly PDFs now available for all new lessons I make, including all those listed below. Get a free sample »
- How I change my acoustic guitar strings
May 19, 2019
- "My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight" (fingerstyle intro) by John Prine
May 17, 2019
- Outlaw fingerstyle warmup ("Sleeping on the Blacktop") by Colter Wall
May 11, 2019
- First Call (horse racing / military bugle wake-up call)
May 4, 2019
- Imagine by John Lennon
May 2, 2019
- Jenny of Oldstones from Game of Thrones
Apr 23, 2019
- Wildflowers by Tom Petty
Apr 20, 2019
- Breezy strumming on E-Bsus4-Asus2 (Warm Up #18)
Apr 18, 2019
- How I composed a fingerstyle guitar arrangement (Practice Log #12)
Apr 13, 2019
- If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett
Apr 10, 2019
- Triad exercises w/ A, D, & E (Warm Up #17)
Mar 30, 2019
- Travis picking finger technique (Practice Log #11)
Mar 22, 2019
- Let Him Roll by Guy Clark
Mar 17, 2019
- Plush by Stone Temple Pilots
Mar 15, 2019
- Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Mar 9, 2019
- Adding flourish to C-F-G-Am
Mar 7, 2019
- The Gambler by Kenny Rogers
Mar 3, 2019
- Always Remember Us This Way from A Star is Born
Feb 28, 2019
- Cowboy chords & walking bass lines (Warm Up #16)
Feb 23, 2019
- Improv blues guitar in A-minor
Feb 21, 2019
- St James Infirmary Blues
Feb 16, 2019
- Barre chord strength & Smells Like Teen Spirit (Warm Up #15)
Feb 14, 2019
- Faking open chords in key of D w/ major & minor triads (Warm Up #14)
Feb 10, 2019
Monthly email updates
If you want to keep posted of new lessons over email, sign up for my newsletter. I'll email once a month with a digest of all my new videos. I promise: no spam.