Guitar lesson for
St. James Infirmary Blues
- 0:00 Playthrough & greeting
- 2:05 Chords shapes needed
- 6:20 Chord progression
- 6:55 Strumming patterns
- 9:39 Adv. strumming tips
- 13:40 Fills & licks
- 21:02 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
Am E Am Am I went down to the St. James Infirmary Am F E E7 I saw my ba---by there Am E Am Am She was laid out on a cold white table F E Am Am So cold, so white, so fair Am E Am Am Let her go, let her go, god bless her Am F E E7 ...Wherever she may be Am E Am Am She may search this wide world over F E Am Am She'll never find a sweet man like me
Other verses (use same chord progression):
When I die, bury me in my straight-leg britches Put on a box-back coat and a Stetson hat Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain So you can let all the boys know I died standing pat An' give me six crap shooting pall bearers Let a chorus girl sing me a song Put a red hot jazz band at the top of my head So we can raise Hallelujah as we go along Folks, now that you have heard my story Say, boy, hand me another shot of that booze If anyone should ask you You just tell 'em I've got those St. James Infirmary blues
How to play the chords
Here are the chord shapes you’ll need for this song. A few quick tips. First, for the E7, feel free to play a regular E if the 3rd fret note on the B string gives you trouble. Second, for the F, feel free to sub in any simplified voicing (2 options shown below) if the full F barre chord gives you trouble.
Typical chord shapes: Alt. positions for F major: E –––0–––0–––0–––1–––– E ––––––––––– B –––1–––0–––3–––1–––– B –––1–––1––– G –––2–––1–––1–––2–––– G –––2–––2––– D –––2–––2–––2–––3–––– D –––3–––3––– A –––0–––2–––2–––3–––– A –––3––––––– E –––––––0–––0–––1–––– E ––––––––––– Am E E7 F F F
Chord progression for entire song
Repeat this, over and over (read left to right, top to bottom).
Am E Am Am 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + Am F E E7 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + Am E Am Am 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + F E Am Am 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Simplest way is to do all down strums on the quarter notes (1, 2, 3, 4):
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + d = down strum d d d d
Next, you could bring in a strum of only the root note (thickest string of any chord) on the 1 and 3 counts, followed by a full strum (of all strings) on the 2 and 4 counts.
A-minor: E-major: E ––––––0–––––––0––– E ––––––0–––––––0––– B ––––––1–––––––1––– B ––––––0–––––––0––– G ––––––2–––––––2––– G ––––––1–––––––1––– D ––––––2–––––––2––– D ––––––2–––––––2––– etc A ––0–––––––0––––––– A ––––––2–––––––2––– E –––––––––––––––––– E ––0–––––––0––––––– d d d d d d d d 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
You also could bring in up-strums, which I prefer to do in this manner (note this is an 8 count pattern, which is a bit tougher):
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + d = down strum d d u d d u d d u u u u = up strum > > > > = accented strum
Here’s the fills I demonstrate in my video lesson. These are always played on the final 2-3-4 beats of the 2nd measure (on each of the 4 lines).
Fill #1 of 4
E –––––––––––––––––––––––0––– B –––––––––––––––––––––––1––– G –––––––––––––––––––––––2––– D –––––––––––––––––––––––2––– A ––––––––0–3–––0–––––0–––––– E ––0–3–––––––––––3––––––––––
Fill #2 of 4
E ––––––––––––––––––––0––– B ––––––––––––––––––––1––– G ––––––––––––––––––––2––– D ––2–1–0–––––––––––––2––– A –––––––––3–0–––––0–––––– E ––––––––––––––3–––––––––
Fill #3 of 4
E ––––––––––––––––––––––0––– B –––––––1–3––1–––––––––1––– G ––0–2–––––––––2–0–2–––2––– D ––––––––––––––––––––––2––– A ––––––––––––––––––––––0––– E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Fill #4 of 4
E –––3–0––––––––––––––––0––– B ––––––––3–1–––––––––––1––– G –––––––––––––2–0–2––––2––– D ––––––––––––––––––––––2––– A ––––––––––––––––––––––0––– E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Let me know if you have questions. I hope this was helpful.
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 »
- Fingerpicking C-G-Am-F (Vampire Weekend's "Hold You Now")
July 16, 2019
- You've Got a Friend in Me (fingerstyle intro)
July 5, 2019
- Ring finger barre strength exercise
June 26, 2019
- F chord with wrapped thumb (for fingerstyle)
June 21, 2019
- Stairway to Heaven (Interlude) by Led Zeppelin
- Yesterday (full lesson) by The Beatles
June 8, 2019
- An easier way to play F#m (no barre chord required)
June 4, 2019
- Yesterday (cover) by The Beatles
May 27, 2019
- 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)
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.