Guitar lesson for

Clay Pigeons

by John Prine  •  Lesson #294

Video lesson

Get the sheet music(4 pages)

  • A properly licensed, print-friendly arrangement is available for individual purchase at Musicnotes.com
  • This sheet music was designed & hand-crafted by me (David Potsiadlo) with care, providing you with everything needed to both learn and play this song.
  • On the fence? Here's a video guide I made showing the purchase & print process.
Buy at Musicnotes.com

Patreon supporters: click here to get the 50% off discount code on this purchase

Editor’s notes

Hey friends, here’s a brand new guitar lesson & attached PDF chord sheet for “Clay Pigeons” as covered by John Prine (originally written by Blaze Foley). In this lesson I’ll start off by showing you a no capo, “easy strum” version of the song – using only the common G C D chords. In the second half of the lesson, we’ll put a capo on the 3rd fret and learn the exact fingerstyle Travis picking tab that John Prine plays on his 2005 album “Fair and Square”. As always, I’ll break everything down step by step. Here’s a list of what I teach in this tutorial, along with timestamps if you want to jump ahead:

Easy-strum version (no capo)

Travis Picking (fingerstyle, capo 3)

I recorded this on Monday, and John Prine passed away the following evening while I was doing the editing :( Obviously, horrible news. It’s my hope that this lesson helps you enjoy his music & share it with others via guitar.

Lyrics with chords

Add capo 3rd fret to play along with John Prine.

See my sheet music for all the lyrics, with chords shown on top of them.

Intro tab

My suggestion for learning this, especially if you’re new to Travis picking: first, focus on just the right thumb, which will be playing alternating bass notes on the 6th and 4th strings. Only after you’re comfortable with this, add the right index (and possibly right middle) fingers, which will be playing the notes on the thinnest 3 strings.

See my sheet music for the full intro tab.

How to play the chords

If you’re just strumming, you can use these typical voicings. However, if your aim is to play fingerstyle in the fashion of John Prine, see the chords I show further below.

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

To play fingerstyle, the first two chords you’ll want to learn are the G and C (technically, the C is a “C/G” - but we’ll refer to it as a C for simplicity going forward). The great part about these two chords, is that your left ring finger stays in the exact same position for both chords. The only “transition” you do is putting your left middle & index fingers down for the C, and then lifting them up again for the G.

E ––––––                        E ––––––    
B ––0–––                        B ––1–––  <= Left index finger
G ––0–––                        G ––0–––    
D ––0–––                        D ––2–––  <= Left middle finger
A ––––––                        A ––––––    
E ––3–––  <= Left ring finger   E ––3–––  <= Left ring finger
    G                               C     

Next, let’s add this D chord (technically, it’s a D/F# – but again, let’s keep it simple and refer to it as D). This one is trickier, because you’ll need do a bit more finger re-positioning than you will when playing the C & G. First learn this chord by itself, then practice going from the G or C to this chord, and back again. If this chord totally stumps you, ignore it and follow the rest of the lesson only using the G and C chords.

E ––––––
B ––1–––  <= Left index finger
G ––2–––  <= Left ring finger
D ––0–––
A ––0–––
E ––2–––  <= Left middle finger
    D

Fingerpicking the verse

During the verse, you’ll want to keep up the Travis picking but slightly dial down the flourish. Here’s the tab I like to use. This may not be 100% what John Prine plays, but it’s close enough. Again, the main idea is to keep your right thumb chuggin’ along like an engine, whilst adding occasional notes with your right index and/or middle fingers – just to flesh things out a bit, and make sure things don’t sound too empty & minimal. Feel free to improvise, or otherwise deviate away from these tabs! These are just simple suggested starting points.

See my sheet music for the verse tab.

Strumming pattern

If you want to strum instead of playing fingerstyle, here’s a few tabs I recommend trying out. Use what works for you! For both these patterns, I tend to play only the bass note (of whatever chord is being played) on the “1” count of that measure.

Pattern #1:       1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
                  D   D U   U D U       "Down, down up, up down up"

Pattern #2:       1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
                  D   D   D U D U       "Down, down, down up down up"

Chord progressions

Just for context, here’s the chord progressions used in the intro, verse, and chorus of this song.

Intro:     | G      | G      | C      | C      |
           | G      | G      | D      | D      |
           | G      | G      | C      | C      |
           | G      | D      | G      | G      |

Verse:     "I'm going down to the Greyhound station..."
           | G      | G      | C      | C      |
           | G      | G      | D      | D      |
                                       ...repeat

Chorus:    "And get back in the game, and start playing again..."
           | G      | C      | G      | D      |

Get my lessons in your inbox!

Every couple weeks I send out an email newsletter with links to whatever new lessons I've made. Sign up here and stay in the loop!


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).

You can also support me on Patreon. For only $3/month you'll get access to a print-friendly PDF of my notes for each new lesson (view free sample).

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:

📝 My "song" PDFs are now individually purcasheable! I've arranged a licensing agreement with Musicnotes, a service that lets you buy sheet music. Patreon suppoters get 50% off each purchase. Get the latest info here »   (last updated July 1, 2021)

January 12, 2022

Melody Exercise: "You Are My Sunshine" by Johnny Cash

Practice Log  •  Lesson #411

See the process of figuring out the melody notes for this classic song, all of which are found within chords the song uses (A, D, and E). An essential skill!

Patreon PDF

January 8, 2022

How to learn a song that's played in open tuning?

Practice Log  •  Lesson #409

I'd never messed with Open D tuning until this video! Patreon supporter Michael asks about learning a song that isn't in standard tuning, and I show him how I'd go about it.

Patreon PDF

December 21, 2021

Groovy Triad Improv w/ Basic Fills (Key of A Major)

Warm-Up Exercise  •  Lesson #405

A fun 8-measure exercise where I take a common chord progression, swap in triad chord shapes, and add some basic licks & fills between chords.

Patreon PDF

December 14, 2021

How to Recognize Chord Shapes within Guitar Tabs

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #404

The must-know technique of "reading tabs backwards" in order to find the chord shapes within any riff (making it easier to play).

Patreon PDF

November 24, 2021

Combining Strumming with Walk-downs (Key of C)

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #401

In this video I answer a patron question about how to add a walking bassline to a fully strummed chord (in the Key of C).

Patreon PDF

October 14, 2021

How to Tune Half-Step Down (E-Flat Tuning)

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #394

A quick guide to tuning all your strings down 1/2 step (E-flat tuning), which is a very common alternate tuning used in many songs.

Patreon PDF

Browse my all lessons

By lesson type

By song decade

By musical genre

By guitar technique

By musical key

By popular artist


← back to lesson list