Guitar lesson for

Auld Lang Syne

by (traditional)  •  Lesson #203

Video Lesson

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Editor’s notes

With New Years just around the corner, I wanted to learn this very timely traditional song - Auld Lang Syne. This video shows a relatively simple way to play it, involving strummable chords with a melody that weaves through each of the 8 measures. I’ll teach the chords, explain the melody, talk about some of the difficult transitions - all with tabs to help you through it. I hope you enjoy! Happy New Years to you and yours - here’s to many more years of music for all of us.

Guitar arrangement

Here’s the arrangement I’m using in my video lesson. This is 8 bars, which can be repeated over and over again if you want to play additional verses and/or choruses. Your job is to either strum, pluck, or fingerpick the chords - adding melody notes as you desire. For your ending, the final measure should be the C chord only (without the G). If you are repeating the 8 bars, the final measure should include the G chord on the final 2 counts - which creates a nice “turn around” to setup the C in the first bar.

 "Should  old acquaintance  be forgot     and never brought to  mind..."
E ––––––|–––––––––––––0–––|–––––––––––––0–––|–––––––––0–––3–––|–5–––––––5–––5–––|–
B –/5–3–|–1–––––0–1–––––––|–3–––––1–3–––––3–|–1–––––1–1–––––––|–4–––––––4–––––––|–
G ––––––|–0–––––––0–––––––|–0–––––––0–––––––|–0–––––––0–––––––|–5–––––––5–––––––|–
D ––––––|–2–––––––2–––––––|–0–––––––0–––––––|–2–––––––2–––––––|–3–––––––4–––––––|–
A ––––––|–3–––––––3–––––––|–2–––––––2–––––––|–3–––––––3–––––––|–––––––––––––––––|–
E ––––––|–––––––––––––––––|–3–––––––3–––––––|–––––––––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––|–
          C                 G                 C                 F7      F#dim7
    4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   

 "Should  old acquaintance  be forgot     and auld    lang      syne"
     E –|–3–––––0–0–––––––|–––––––––––––0–––|–––––––––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––|–
     B –|–1–––––––1–––1–––|–3–––––1–3–––––3–|–1–––––––––––––––|–1––––––––––/5–3–|–
     G –|–0–––––––0–––––––|–0–––––––0–––––––|–2–––––2–2–––0–––|–0–––––––0–––––––|–
     D –|–2–––––––2–––––––|–0–––––––0–––––––|–2–––––––3–––––––|–2–––––––0–––––––|–
     A –|–3–––––––3–––––––|–2–––––––2–––––––|–0–––––––3–––––––|–3–––––––2–––––––|–
     E –|–––––––––––––––––|–3–––––––3–––––––|––––––––(1)––––––|–––––––––3–––––––|–
          C                 G                 Am      F         C       G
          1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   

          ...repeat the 8 bars for each verse.               –|–1–––––––––––––––||     
             To end the song, replace the final              –|–0–––––––––––––––||      
             measure with this, which plays only             –|–2–––––––––––––––||    
             the C chord (and not the G).                    –|–3–––––––––––––––||  
                                                                1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +     

Chord guidance

For a few of these chords, I want to call out some tips that will help you on your way - specifically with finger positions.

G major chord

For the G major chord, notice how you’re not really ever putting a left-finger on the 1st string (high E string). Also, you’ll often need to remove the 2nd-string-3rd-fret note, in order to play the 2nd-string-1st-fret. As such, you’ll want to use your pinky on the 3rd fret of the 2nd (B) string. This sets up your index finger to be in place at the same time.

E –––––                               E –––––
B ––3–– <= left pinky                 B ––1–– <= left index
G ––0––                               G ––0––
D ––0––                               D ––0––
A ––2–– <= left middle                A ––2–– <= left middle
E ––3–– <= left ring                  E ––3–– <= left ring
    G                                     G*

F7 and F#dim7 chord

For the F7 and the F#dim7, the main thing to call out is that the thinnest 3 strings will use the exact same notes (and fingers). All that changes between these two chords is which fret your left index finger is playing.

E ––5–– <= left pinky                 E ––5–– <= left pinky
B ––4–– <= left middle                B ––4–– <= left middle
G ––5–– <= left ring                  G ––5–– <= left ring  
D ––3–– <= left index                 D ––4–– <= left index
A –––––                               A –––––
E –––––                               E –––––
    F7                                  F#dim7

If the F7 section gives you trouble, use this voicing. I got this via Justin Sandercoe’s lesson. You can ignore the F#dim7 chord altogether.

E ––5–– <= left pinky
B ––x–– <= (muted by left ring)
G ––5–– <= left ring  
D ––3–– <= left index
A –––––               
E –––––               

Switching from the C to F7

The most difficult part of this song, for me, is switching from the C to the F7. Here’s one important tip when practicing this - which is your right pinky is staying on the high-E string for both chords! Specifically, it’s moving up from the 3rd fret to the 5th fret (of the high E-string). This is a helpful thing to keep in mind, as it is one less finger that needs to switch strings. Here’s a simple deconstruction of this progression to practice - do it slow over and over again, until you can do it without mistakes. From there, slowly speed it up until you can play it at the pace of the normal song.

E –––3–––5–––   <= left pinky stays on this string for both chords!
B –––1–––4–––
G –––0–––5–––
D –––2–––3–––
A –––3–––––––
E –––––––––––
     C   F7  

F major chord

Don’t let the F chord in the 7th measure throw you off. You don’t need to do any barring! Here’s two ways to play it. The first way (left) shows you a 4-string version, where you’re only playing the thickest four strings. However, if this voicing is too difficult - try the right version - which ignores the 6th (lowest) string. This lets you only worry about 3 strings, which is much easier to switch to in a hurry. In a pinch, I’ll use this version so I can be sure I stay in time (especially when playing with people singing).

E –––––                               E –––––
B –––––                               B –––––
G ––2–– <= left middle                G ––2–– <= left middle
D ––3–– <= left pinky                 D ––3–– <= left pinky
A ––3–– <= left ring                  A ––3–– <= left ring  
E ––1–– <= left index                 E –––––       
    F                                     F*    


Here’s the English translation of the lyrics, in the “minimalist” translation as per Wikipedia:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

    For auld lang syne, my dear,
    for auld lang syne,
    we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
    for auld lang syne.

And surely you'll buy your pint cup!
and surely I'll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we've wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there's a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o' thine!
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


Good luck!

Let me know if you have questions. I hope this was helpful.

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