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.

See my sheet music for the full lyrics, with chords shown in context.

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!

See my sheet music for the chord tabs.

Verse chords

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.

See my sheet music for the chord tabs.

Strumming Patterns

See my sheet music for the strumming diagrams.

Chord Progressions

See my sheet music for the chord progression diagrams.

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