Guitar lesson for
Where Did You Sleep Last Night
PDF print-out of this lesson
If you’d like a print-friendly PDF of this lesson for offline use, view my downloads page. You’ll find it there!
Note, you’ll need to tune down 1/2 step if you want to play along with Nirvana’s version (they’re using E-flat tuning). I decided to use standard tuning in my video lesson above. Take note of this in case you want to play along with Nirvana.
Chord progression used for entire song
The entire song uses this one progression, played over and over again. Here, I show 6 counts per measure. Notice that the measure with the A-major and G-major is split between those two chords (3 counts each)… every other measure has 6 counts on the chord in question.
| E . . . . . | A . . G . . | B . . . . . | E . . . . . |
You’ll want to use this pattern over and over…
Down... up down up down... up down up down... up down up down...
When counted out, it becomes the following (accent the “1” and “4” counts, both of which are downstrums).
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + D U D U D U D U > >
How to play the chords
This song only uses these 4 chords. There are different voicings you could use for each chord below (I’ll get to that), but let’s use these as a starting point. For the A-major, I’ll typically use my index finger to barre the 2nd fret of the D/G/B strings (and not worry about playing the high E-string).
E –––0–––––––––3––––––––– B –––0––––2––––0––––4–––– G –––1––––2––––0––––4–––– D –––2––––2––––0––––4–––– A –––2––––0––––2––––2–––– E –––0–––––––––3––––––––– E A G B
For the E, you have some options. It sounds like Nirvana is playing an E5 or E “power chord” where the G string isn’t ringing… this results in a sound that is neither major nor minor. To do this, I recommend letting one of your ringers rest gently upon the G string so that it muffles the sound (mutes the string). You also could get away with playing an E-minor if you like. Or, if you want to be like the famous blues guitarist Lead Belly who first made this song famous, you can use an E7. It’s up to you.
E –––0–––0––––0––––0––– B –––0–––0––––0––––3––– G –––1–––0––––x––––1––– D –––2–––2––––2––––2––– A –––2–––2––––2––––2––– E –––0–––0––––0––––0––– E Em E5 E7
If the B gives you issues, you can do a B power-chord (B5) or do an open shape to play B7.
E ––––––––––––3–––– B –––4––––––––0–––– G –––4–––4––––2–––– D –––4–––4––––1–––– A –––2–––2––––2–––– E ––––––––––––––––– B B5 B7
Bass note exercise
If you really want to nail down the melodic, bluesey bass notes to add some flavor – start by studying this tab. Learn these notes, be able to play them in time. From here, add the full strumming when you’re able.
E |––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|– B |––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|– G |––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|– D |––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––|– A |––––––––2–––––|––0–––––––––––|––2–––––––––––|––––––––––––––|– E |––0–––––––––––|––––––––3–––––|––––––––2–––––|––0–––––0–––3–|– • ◦ ◦ • ◦ ◦ • ◦ ◦ • ◦ ◦ • ◦ ◦ • ◦ ◦ • ◦ ◦ • ◦ ◦ E A G B E
Walking up to the A-major chord
The most distinctive bass note run in the song is probably walking up to the A-major chord, via this quick little lick. This is hard to pull off (it happens very quick)… the key is to use your left hand’s middle and ring fingers to play the 2nd and 3rd fret of the low-E string and then immediately playing the A-chord.
E |–––0––––––––––––––––––––––––– B |–––0––––––––––––––––––2–––––– G |–––1––––––––––––––––––2–––––– D |–––2––––––––––––––––––2–––––– A |–––2––––––––––––––––––0–––––– E |–––0–––––––––––0h2h3–––––––––
Spicing up the B-major bass note
In Nirvana’s intro (without singing) and in my video lesson, you can see how I go down to the low-E string to spice up the 2nd half of the measure with the B-major chord. I do this by using my left hand’s index finger to play the 2nd fret of the low-E string (while keeping all other fingers in place). Here’s the rough tab I use. Watch my video lesson for context!
E |–––3–––|–––––––––––––––––––––|–––0––– B |–––0–––|–––––––4–––––––4–––––|–––0––– G |–––0–––|–––––––4–––––––4–––––|–––1––– D |–––0–––|–––––––4–––––––4–––––|–––2––– A |–––2–––|––––0––2–––––––x–––––|–––2––– E |–––3–––|–––––––––––––––2–––––|–––0––– G B B E
E A G My girl, my girl, don't lie to me B E Tell me where did you sleep last night E In the pines, in the pines A G Where the sun don't ever shine B E I would shiver the whole night through (use these same chords for the entire each verse) My girl, my girl, where will you go? I'm going where the cold wind blows In the pines, in the pines Where the sun don't ever shine I would shiver the whole night through Her husband was a hard working man Just about a mile from here His head was found in a driving wheel But his body never was found My girl, my girl, don't lie to me Tell me where did you sleep last night In the pines, in the pines Where the sun don't ever shine I would shiver the whole night through My girl, my girl, where will you go? I'm going where the cold wind blows In the pines, in the pines Where the sun don't ever shine I would shiver the whole night through My girl, my girl, don't lie to me Tell me where did you sleep last night In the pines, in the pines Where the sun don't ever shine I would shiver the whole night through My girl, my girl, where will you go? I'm going where the cold wind blows In the pines, the pines The sun don't shine I'd shiver... the whole night through
Thanks for reading! I hope this helped you.
Enjoy this lesson? Buy me a beer!
If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider donating to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it). Thanks!
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:
- Rocky Mountain High by John Denver
July 17, 2018
- When the Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash
June 25, 2018
- We Are the Champions by Queen
June 16, 2018
- My My, Hey Hey by Neil Young
June 9, 2018
- Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses
June 3, 2018
- All Apologies by Nirvana
May 26, 2018
- Gone Till November by Wyclef Jean
May 21, 2018
- Creep by Radiohead
May 11, 2018
- This is America by Childish Gambino
May 8, 2018
- Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
May 6, 2018
- Youth by Shawn Mendes ft. Khalid
May 5, 2018
- 2002 by Anne-Marie
May 2, 2018
- Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson
Apr 29, 2018
- Family is Family by Kacey Musgraves
Apr 27, 2018
- Butterflies by Kacey Musgraves
Apr 24, 2018
- Tennessee Flat Top Box by Johnny Cash
Apr 21, 2018
- September by Taylor Swift
Apr 18, 2018
- Candle in the Wind by Ed Sheeran
Apr 15, 2018
- Stay by Post Malone
Apr 13, 2018
- In My Blood by Shawn Mendes
Apr 10, 2018
- Slow Burn by Kacey Musgraves
Apr 3, 2018
- On the Road Again by Willie Nelson
Mar 8, 2018
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.