Guitar lesson for

Sound of Silence

by Simon and Garfunkel  •  Lesson #358

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hello my friends! In this guitar lesson, I will teach you how to play The Sound of Silence, the 1966 classic from Simon and Garfunkel. I will be using a capo on 6th fret, matching how they play it. The song uses fingerstyle in verse 1, and is strummed for verses 2-5, all of which the same chord progression. I’ll teach you everything you need to know to play it: the chord shapes, the progression, how to approach the fingerstyle (beginner & advanced techniques), and a few different ways to tackle the strumming. Lastly, I cap it all off with a full playthrough showing you everything put together in one package.

Because this is such a classic song, I wanted to go deep and be complete – hence this one being a little bit longer than normal. But with my timestamps, I trust you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for quickly. good luck, and enjoy!

Video timestamps:

Lyrics with chords

INTRO
    Asus2

VERSE 1 (fingerstyle)

    Asus2                              G                                        Am    
    ...........Hello darkness, my old friend...... I've come to talk with you again
    Am           C             F           C                             F           C
    ...Because a vision softly--- creeping... left its seeds while I was--- sleeping
            F                                C                 C      Am
    And the vision... that was planted in my brain... still remains
    C             G         Asus2      (Am, single strum)
    ...Within the sound of silence

VERSE 2-5 (strummed)

    Am                                G                                Am
    .....In restless dreams I walked alone... narrow streets of cobblestone
    Am            C         F               C                            F             C
    ...'neath the halo of a--- street lamp.... I turned my collar to the cold and damp
            F                                        C                       C        Am
    When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light... that split the night
    C                   G        Am
    ...And touched the sound of silence

    Am                           G                                 Am                           
    ...And in the naked light, I saw... ten thousand people, maybe more
    Am        C               F           C                         F            C
    ...People talking without--- speaking... people hearing without--- listening
                   F                          C                 C      Am
    People writing songs... that voices never share, and no one dared
    C              G        Am
    ...Disturb the sound of silence

    Am                           G                             Am
    ...Fools, said I, You do not know... silence like a cancer grows
    Am         C                  F            C                            F            C
    ...Hear my words that I might--- teach you... take my arms that I might--- reach you
           F                            C          C    Am
    But my words, like silent raindrops fell...
        C                G        Am
    And echoed... in the wells of silence

    Am                               G                              Am
    .......And the people bowed and prayed... to the neon god they made
    Am         C                    F          C                           F          C
    ...And the sign flashed out its--- warning... in the words that it was--- forming
                            F                                               C
    And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
                 C      Am         C                G        Asus2    Am (single strum, end)
    And tenement halls........ and whispered in the sound of silence

Capo and key

Add a capo 6th fret to play along with Simon and Garfunkel’s album version of this song.

Capo 6th fret  =  Key of A minor
No Capo        =  Key D# minor (which is equal to Eb minor)

Chord shapes needed

Here’s how to play the five chords you’ll need in this song. The trickiest of these may be the F chord, but don’t feel like you need to play for six string barred version of F (which is often quite difficult for beginners). Instead, you can use any of the alternate voicings of the F that I show here – none of which require you to barre any of the strings.

[ See PDF for the chord diagrams and tabs ]

Chords progressions

Tempo is ~105 beats per minute. Each of the five verses uses a nearly identical chord progression, whether you’re playing fingerstyle (verse 1) or strumming (verses 2-5). Notice how in verses 3-5, measures #10 and #15 change their length, based on lyrical context. Also, the A-minor that ends each verse is the same as the A-minor that starts the verse that follows (in all cases, stay on this A-minor for two measures total).

Verse #1 - “Hello darkness, my old friend”

| Asus2           | Asus2           | G               | G               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| Am              | Am      C       | F       C       | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| F       C       | C       | F               | F               | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| C       Am      | C       | G               | Am  (begin verse #2 on this A-minor)
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1

Verse #2 - “In restless dreams I walked alone…”

| Am              | Am              | G               | G               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| Am              | Am      C       | F       C       | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| F       C       | C       | F               | F               | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| C       Am      | C       | G               | Am  (begin verse #3 on this A-minor)
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1

Verse #3 - “And in the naked light I saw…”

| Am              | Am              | G               | G               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| Am              | Am      C       | F       C       | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| F       C       | C               | F               | F               | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| C       Am      | C       | G               | Am  (begin verse #4 on this A-minor)
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1

Verse #4 - “Fools, said I, you do not know…”

| Am              | Am              | G               | G               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| Am              | Am      C       | F       C       | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| F       C       | C       | F               | F               | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| C       Am      | C               | G               | Am  (begin verse #5 on this A-minor)
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1

Verse #5 - “And the people bowed and prayed…”

| Am              | Am              | G               | G               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| Am              | Am      C       | F       C       | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| F       C       | C               | F               | F               | C               |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

| C       Am      | C               | G               | Asus2           | Asus2   Am      |
| 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |
                                              *         **

*  stop strumming on final 2 counts of final G measure,
** start Asus2 picking, strum Am on final 3 count, let ring

Strumming basics

If you’re just starting out, I would first get comfortable doing a single downstrum on the “1” and “3” counts of each measure (four counts total). This will help you get the hang of the strumming (while playing through each verse progression), without initially complicating the strumming pattern.

[ See PDF for strumming pattern #1 ]

Next, I would bring in additional downstrums on the “2” and “4” counts – while also adding upstrums on the “+” (spoken as “and”) counts following those strums. Spoken aloud this would be “Down, down-up-down, down-up-down, down-up-down” which map to beats “One, two-and-three, four-and-one, two-and-three, four-and-one” (etc).

[ See PDF for strumming pattern #2 ]

Strumming with flourish

If you want to level up your strumming and sound like Simon and Garfunkel’s album recording, here are tabs to use for each of the four chords that you strum. The idea here is to release some of the notes on the “+” count following the “2” and “4” beats, and then add them back on the following downstrum.

[ See PDF for the strumming tabs ]

Fingerstyle pattern used

There are two different ways you can approach the fingerstyle pattern used in the first verse. One of them uses your right thumb, right index, and right middle fingers – each of which gets their own “assigned” string for any chord. This approach uses more of your fingers (which is less efficient), but requires less jumping around (which keeps things simpler).

[ See PDF for finger position diagram #1 ]

The second approach uses only your right thumb and right index finger, with your right thumb alternating strings. This approach is more efficient (because you’re only using two fingers on your right-hand) but admittedly can be more difficult – because it demands higher coordination of your right thumb having to switch strings.

[ See PDF for finger position diagram #2 ]

My advice: Spend time practicing both of these techniques! Doing so will allow you to use whichever is more comfortable to you. Ultimately, they are both good approaches is to be familiar with and have under your belt. For more info on these competing fingerstyle techniques, check out my lesson #302 which dives into this exact topic with plenty of examples: https://playsongnotes.com/lessons/302/

Fingerstyle tab, basic version

Here is a basic fingerstyle tab for the entire first verse. Again, this is not note-for-note how Simon and Garfunkel play the song. Instead, this plays the exact chords they’re using, but simplifies a few things (e.g. avoids using barre chords for the F major).

[ See PDF for full tab ]

Fingerstyle tab, how I like to play it

Here’s how I like the finger pick this song. It largely uses the previous tab I showed, but adds a few things to spice the song up a bit. This includes an alternate finger position used for the first measure of G major, and adding walk-up and walk-down in measure 14. Ultimately, I encourage you to come up with an arrangement that works for you, should you want to add flourish in other ways to match your skill level, or match the vibe/sound you’re going for. Make it your own!

[ See PDF for full tab ]

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