Guitar lesson for

LA Freeway

by Guy Clark  •  Lesson #101

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to play “LA Freeway” by Guy Clark. In this lesson, I focus primarily on the fingerpicking riff heard in the intro and verse of the song. I’ll explain the chord shapes needed and show you how to practice this song, step by step, to be able to play it fully. I hope this is helpful!

Video timestamps:

Capo 2nd fret

To play along with Guy Clark (and my video lesson), you’ll need a capo on the 2nd fret.

Chord progressions

From a high level, the song looks like this. Three chords are all you’ll need – assuming we suppose that D, D7, and D7/F# are all the same thing. If you want a strum-along version, use these progressions and you’re good to go.

Intro/Verse/Outro

    G . . . G . . . C  . . . C  . . .
    G . . . G . . . D7 . . . D7 . . .

Pre-Chorus

    G . . . D7 . . .

Chorus

    C . . . D . . . G . . . C . . .
    G . . . G . . . D . . . D . . .

Chord shapes (simple)

If you want easy, simple-as-possible versions of the chords, use these shapes. These will let you strum along with the song without any problem. Note, I’ll cover the more advanced chord voicings (used for the riff further down on this page).

E –––3–––0–––2–––2––––
B –––3–––1–––3–––1––––
G –––0–––0–––2–––2––––
D –––0–––2–––0–––0––––
A –––2–––3––––––––––––
E –––3––––––––––––––––
     G   C   D   D7  

Chord shapes used in the riff

If you want play any semblance of the riff heard in the intro and verse, you’ll want to play these chords as follows. The reason why: so your hands are in the appropriate position to play the melodic notes you will need to add as per the riff. See my video lesson for reference.

E ––––––––
B –––3––––   <-- left pinky finger
G –––0––––
D –––0––––
A –––2––––   <-- left middle finger
E –––3––––   <-- left ring finger
     G

E –––3––––   <-- left pinky finger
B –––1––––   <-- left index finger
G –––0––––
D –––2––––   <-- left middle finger
A –––3––––   <-- left ring finger
E ––––––––
     C

E ––––––––  
B –––1––––   <-- left index finger
G –––2––––   <-- left ring finger
D –––0––––
A –––0––––
E –––2––––   <-- left middle finger
   D7/F#

Learning the intro & verse riff

1. Understand the structure

First, understand the timing of things. You’ll be on each chord for two measures (i.e., 8 counts). Understand that the following is the core structure – or “skeleton”, if you will – of this riff. All the flourish we’ll add later is the muscle and skin, etc. Such a weird metaphor, but hey.

E ||–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
B ||––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––1––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
G ||––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
D ||––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
A ||––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
E ||––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
      G                                   C
      1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +     1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

E -|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––||
B -|––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––1––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––||
G -|––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––||
D -|––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––||
A -|––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––||
E -|––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––||
      G                                   D7/F#
      1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +     1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

2. Add the melody notes

Using the chord shapes above as a starting point, next work on the main melody notes. Keep your left hand in the chord-shape positions. See my video for reference here.

See my sheet music for the tab.

3. Add the repeating bass note of each chord

If you want to get extra fancy, can you alternate the bass note for each chord (e.g., jump from the 6th string to 5 string, repeating over and over… this is tough but sounds great).

See my sheet music for the tab.

4. Add filler notes

Finally, insert additional filler notes where you can, if you wish. Basically, the idea is to always be playing something – to create a nice and full sound.

See my sheet music for the tab.

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