Guitar lesson for
- 0:00 Playthrough & overview
- 1:36 Chords needed
- 3:45 Verse & Chorus progressions
- 6:10 Strumming patterns
- 11:04 Fancy intro riff
- 15:57 Adding melodic flourish
- 17:39 Farewell
Print-friendly version of this lesson
For a print-ready PDF of this lesson, become a supporter on my Patreon page. For a few bucks a month, you get access to PDFs of all my new lessons.
Lyrics w/ chords
(Capo 4 = Pete Seeger's Carnegie Hall version) (Capo 6 = The Sandpipers 1966 version) INTRO A CHORUS D E A E Guantanamera... guajira guantanamera... A D E A D E Guantanamer----a... guajira guantanamer----a... VERSE A D E A D E Yo soy un hombre sincero... de donde crecen las palmas A D E D E Yo soy un hombre sincero... de donde crec----en las palmas A D E A D E Y antes de morirme quiero... echar mis versos del alm--a [ chorus ] A D E A D E Mi verso es de un verde claro... y de un carmin encendido A D E D E Mi verso es de un verde claro... y de un carmin encendido A D E A D E Mi verso es un ciervo heri--do... que busca en el monte ampar--o [ chorus ] A D E A D E Con los pobres de la tierra... quiero yo mi suerte echar A D E D E Con los pobres de la tierra... quiero yo mi suerte echar A D E A D E El arroyo de la sierra... me complace mas que el mar [ chorus ]
Guantanamera is a song I’ve had on my list for a few years now, and after a couple recent viewer requests it found itself on the top of the list. I first heard it via Pete Seeger, and in spending some time learning it discovered several other fun versions of it (The Sandpipers version is probably my favorite, musically). I’ll teach you the chords (no capo), some easy strumming patterns, and then crank up the difficulty a bit and show you a fancy intro riff as well as a few ways to add flourish while playing. I hope you enjoy!
On capo and chords used
My approach with this lesson is to show you this song with the simplest possible chords, using standard tuning. As such, I’m teaching in the key of A –– and only using the chords of A, D, and E. No doubt, there are more complicated ways to play it (e.g., Pete Seeger looks like he uses drop-D tuning and an E-minor chord) –– but I think the spirit of this song can totally be captured with these 3 chords, so I’m choosing to use them and keep it beginner friendly. Using these chords, here’s where to put the capo if you want to play along with some famous versions of this song:
- Capo 4 to play with Pete Seeger’s Carnegie Hall Concert version
- Capo 5 to play with the Sandpiper’s version
- Capo 6 to play with Pete Seeger’s Sweden 1968 version
Chord shapes needed
The three chords I’m using can be played like this. The strings go from thickest (at the bottom) to thinnest (at the top).
E –––0––––2––––0–––– B –––2––––3––––0–––– G –––2––––2––––1–––– D –––2––––0––––2–––– A –––0–––––––––2–––– E –––––––––––––0–––– A D E
Here’s a birds-eye-view of the chord changes you’ll need in this song. Read these lines from left to right, and then top to bottom. Each measure has 4 beats.
Chorus: "Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera..." | D . . . | E . . . | A . . . | E . . . | | A . D . | E . . . | A . D . | E . . . | Verse: "Yo soy un hombre sincero..." | A . D . | E . . . | A . D . | E . . . | | A . D . | E . . . | D . . . | E . . . | | A . D . | E . . . | A . D . | E . . . |
For starters, begin with all down strums… but if you can, put the accent (emphasis) on the 2 and 4 counts.
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + D D D D D = down strum > > > = accented strum
From there, you can dial it up a little bit by adding an up-strum on the “+” count after the 2 and the 4. Note the accents, which come on the “2 +” and “4 +” parts of the four-count sequence. This is optional, but I find it gives it a nice sound that imitates Pete Seeger.
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + U = up strum D D U D D U D = down strum > > > > > = accented strum
Finally, you can down steady down-up-down-up strumming to really flesh it out -– but keep the accented strums on the “2 +” and “4 +” counts.
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + U = up strum D U D U D U D U D = down strum > > > > > = accented strum
Sandpiper-style intro in open position
As I show in the video lesson, here’s a nice little sequence you can do that imitates the riff you hear at the beginning of The Sandpipers version of this song. It requires a bit of pinky stretching. One bit of advice: this is easier to play if you have a capo on, since the width of each fret is reduced higher up on the fretboard. I usually do capo 5, give or take, if I want to play this.
E ––––0–0––––2–5–2––––4–––––4––2–4––2–– B ––––2––––––3––––––––0––––––––0––––––– G ––––2––––––2––––––––1––––––––1––––––– D ––––2––––––0––––––––2––––––––2––––––– A ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– A D E E
One tricky part with this riff is making the E-major chord work. Here’s a fingering guide. The trick is to use your left middle and index fingers on the 4th and 3rd strings, which free up your left ring and pinky to play the high-E string notes.
E ––0–– E ––2–– <= left ring E ––4–– <= left pinky B ––0–– B ––0–– B ––0–– G ––1–– <= left index G ––1–– <= left index G ––1–– <= left index D ––2–– <= left middle D ––2–– <= left middle D ––2–– <= left middle A ––––– A ––––– A ––––– E ––––– E ––––– E ––––– E E E
Additional information about this song
Financial Times article about this song’s history
Here’s a short article about this song’s history, and the ways it has been adapted over the years. Very cool stuff.
Highest resolution video of Pete Seeger playing this that I’ve found
It looks like he is playing capo 6, in drop-D, using the chords D-G-A. However, to my ear, it sounds like he’s playing A-D-E (with capo 6). Either way, it’s nice we have this video!
The Sandpipers version
I hadn’t heard this version until I started learning this song… it’s definitely my favorite! Check it out:
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 »
- 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
- Copperhead Road by Steve Earle
Feb 7, 2019
- Guantanamera by Pete Seeger
Jan 31, 2019
- "Blue on Black" grooving on D5-Cadd9-G (Warm Up #13)
Jan 26, 2019
- Adding fills to the "Wild Horses" intro (Practice Log #9)
Jan 24, 2019
- Light On by Maggie Rogers
Jan 19, 2019
- Improvised pickin' on The Gambler (Practice Log #8)
Jan 17, 2019
- Faking open chords in key of A
Jan 12, 2019
- My Top Lessons of 2018
Jan 8, 2019
- Heart of Gold by Neil Young
Jan 5, 2019
- Auld Lang Syne (traditional)
Dec 31, 2018
- Faking open chords in key of E
Dec 27, 2018
- Last Christmas by Wham!
Dec 24, 2018
- Please Come Home for Christmas by The Eagles
Dec 17, 2018
- Guitar chords on a ukulele
Dec 13, 2018
- Slap strumming basics (percussive rhythm technique)
Dec 8, 2018
- How to practice with a backing track, feat. Tennessee Whiskey (Practice Log #7)
Dec 1, 2018
- Playing A-major with big fingers or a small fretboard
Nov 27, 2018
- E-major backyard groove (feat. Posters by Jack Johnson)
Nov 21, 2018
- How to play F#m (F sharp minor)
Nov 18, 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.