Guitar lesson for

Under the Milky Way

by The Church  β€’  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 β€œUnder 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 β€œoption 2” below), and the other capo 5th fret. I’m including β€œoption 1”, which has an Am7 chord, because this Am7 captures the β€œsound” of the β€œCapo 5” Em7 chord. I prefer to play the β€œoption 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 β€œG” becomes an β€œE-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 (β€œoption 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 β€œ1” 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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