Guitar lesson for

Under the Milky Way

by The Church  •  Lesson #296

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hey friends! In this lesson I’ll teach you how to play the 1988 song “Under the Milky Way” by The Church. The song combines slight hints of late 80s New Wave / alt rock sounds, along with multiple acoustic guitars (one of which is a 12-string). I’ll focus my tutorial on a solo acoustic version, played without capo, that best captures the combined sound of everything you hear on the album version. Chord-wise, things are fairly straightforward: A-minor and a few variations, Fmaj7 (easy!), G, and E-minor make up the bulk of what you’ll be playing. Strumming can be tricky, but I’ll break it down carefully and show a simplified version if you want something more accessible. Finally, at the end of the lesson I’ll do a full playthrough to show you how to put it all together.

Here’s timestamps for my video lesson:

Thanks to Patreon supporter Mark for requesting this one! This tune was a favorite of mine in college, when many of my roommates and I would watch Donnie Darko over and over again – which features a soundtrack with this and many other 1980 songs (here’s the scene with this song being used).

Lyrics with chords

No capo. Key of C (or, A-minor which has the same notes). Tempo = ~136 bpm.

INTRO

    | Am . . . | Am7 . . . | Fmaj7 . . . | G . . . | (x2)

VERSE

    Am                   Am4                Fmaj7   G
    ...Sometimes on this place gets kind of empty
    Am              Am4                   Fmaj7   G
    ...Sound of the breath fades with the light
    Am          Am4          Fmaj7         G
    ...I think about... the loveless fascination
    Am           Am4          Fmaj7   G
    ...Under the Milky Way tonight

    [Full band kicks in with bass... verse chords change slightly]

    [Am] Lower the [Am4] curtain down in [Fmaj7] Memphis [Em]
    [Am] Lower the [Am4] curtain down, alright [Fmaj7] [Em]
    [Am] I got no [Am4] time... for [Fmaj7] private consultation [Em]
    [Am] Under the [Am4] Milky Way [Fmaj7] tonight [Em]

CHORUS
        G                            Fmaj7
        ...Wish I knew what you were looking for
        G                                  Fmaj7
        ...Might have known what you would find

    [Am] And its [Am4] something quite peculiar [Fmaj7] [Em]
    [Am] Something [Am4] shimmering and [Fmaj7] white [Em]
    [Am] It leaves you [Am4] here... [Fmaj7] despite your destination [Em]
    [Am] Under the [Am4] Milky Way [Fmaj7] tonight [Em]

        [G] Wish I knew what you were [Fmaj7] looking for
        [G] Might have known what you would [Fmaj7] find
        [G] Wish I knew what you were [Fmaj7] looking for
        [G] Might have known what you would [Fmaj7] find

SOLO
            | C . . . | G . . . | Am . . . | Am . . . | (x4)

    [Am] And its [Am4] something quite peculiar [Fmaj7] [Em]
    [Am] Something [Am4] shimmering and [Fmaj7] white [Em]
    [Am] It leaves you [Am4] here... [Fmaj7] despite your destination [Em]
    [Am] Under the [Am4] Milky Way [Fmaj7] tonight [Em]

        [G] Wish I knew what you were [Fmaj7] looking for
        [G] Might have known what you would [Fmaj7] find
        [G] Wish I knew what you were [Fmaj7] looking for
        [G] Might have known what you would [Fmaj7] find

    [Am - Am7 - Fmaj7 - Em  x2]

    [Am] Under the [Am4] Milky Way [Fmaj7] tonight [Em]

                            [...play this final line 4x, end]

Intro chords

Getting right to the point, here’s 3 ways to play the intro chords. There are actually multiple guitars heard on the album version: one without a capo (playing “option 2” below), and the other capo 5th fret. I’m including “option 1”, which has an Am7 chord, because this Am7 captures the “sound” of the “Capo 5” Em7 chord. I prefer to play the “option 1” variation for the intro, as it best captures the sound of the recorded version’s intro. See my video lesson for reference!

 No capo (option 1):         No capo (option 2):            Capo 5:                     

e –––0––––3––––0––––3–––     e ––0––––0–––––––0––––3–––     e –––0––––0––––0–––(2)––
B –––1––––1––––1––––0–––     B ––1––––3–––––––1––––0–––     B –––0––––3––––0––––3–––
G –––2––––2––––2––––0–––     G ––2––––2–––––––2––––0–––     G –––0––––0––––0––––2–––
D –––2––––2––––3––––0–––     D ––2––––2–––––––3––––0–––     D –––2––––2––––2––––0–––
A –––0––––0–––(0)–––2–––     A ––0––––0––––––(0)–––2–––     A –––2––––2––––3––––––––
E ––––––––––––––––––3–––     E ––––––––––––––––––––3–––     E –––0––––0–––––––––––––
     Am  Am7 Fmaj7  G            Am Amsus4  Fmaj7  G             Em  Em7 Cmaj7  D   

Strumming the intro & first verse

Am            Am7                 Fmaj7         G
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D   D   D U D U   U D   D U D U   D   D   D U D U   U D   D U D U

Chords for the verse

The first verse uses the same chords as the intro. Once the second verse starts (and the full band kicks in, specifically with the bass) – there’s a few changes. For one, the final chord “G” becomes an “E-minor”. Also, the second chord is played over an F# bass note – which is incredibly hard to pull off via solo guitar, but I wanted to include here. Personally, I use the Amsus4 version (“option 1” above) when singing the verse, as that chord goes well with the vocal melody.

Easy verse chords:             Harder version, with descending bass notes:

e ––0––––––0––––––0––––0–––    e ––0––––––0––––––0––––0–––
B ––1––––––3––––––1––––0–––    B ––1––––––3––––––1––––0–––
G ––2––––––2––––––2––––0–––    G ––2––––––2––––––2––––0–––
D ––2––––––2––––––3––––2–––    D ––2––––––2––––––3––––2–––
A ––0––––––0–––––(0)–––2–––    A ––0––––––x––––––x––––2–––
E –––––––––––––––––––––0–––    E –––––––––2––––––1––––0–––
    Am  Amsus4  Fmaj7  Em          Am  Amsus4  Fmaj7  Em  

Strumming for the verse

Am            Amsus4              Fmaj7         Em
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D   D   D U D U   U D   D U D U   D   D   D U D U   U D   D U D U

A simpler strumming pattern…

If you want something simpler to use while playing this song (intro, verse, etc)… just use this more straightforward pattern. Keep all chord changes on the “1” count. This avoids complicated rhythms & chord changes will make it much tougher to sing & play at the same time.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D   D   D U D U

Chord progression cheat sheet

Intro & verse:

| Am    | Am7   | Fmaj7   | G      |

Verse, after bass kicks in (2nd verse onward):

| Am    | Am4   | Fmaj7   | Em     |

Chorus:

| G     | G     | Fmaj7   | Fmaj7  |

Refrain:

| C     | G     | Am      | Am     |

Chorus and refrain

Chord shapes

Chorus:              Refrain:

e –––3–––––0––––     –––0–––3–––0–––
B –––0–––––1––––     –––1–––0–––1–––
G –––0–––––2––––     –––0–––0–––2–––
D –––0–––––3––––     –––2–––0–––2–––
A –––2––––(0)–––     –––3–––2–––0–––
E –––3––––––––––     –––––––3–––––––
     G   Fmaj7          C   G   Am        

Chorus

Play this twice.

"Wish I knew what you were        looking for..."
G                                 Fmaj7
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D   D   D U D U   U D   D U D U   D   D   D U D U   U D   D U D U

Refrain

Play this 4 times.

C             G                   Am
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D   D   D U D U   U D   D U D U   D   D   D U D U   U D   D U D U

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