Guitar lesson for

A Pirate Looks at Forty

by Jimmy Buffett  •  Lesson #432

Hey there, friends! Excited to share this lesson for “A Pirate Looks at Forty”, the 1974 Jimmy Buffett song that quite a few of you have written in asking for. The lessons on my channel may not suggest as much, but Buffett is one of my absolute favorite musical artists – so it feels great to finally do a proper lesson for one of his songs.

Musically, this song is fairly easy to wrap your head around… it’s a single 12-measure progression that repeats for the entire song. Chord-wise, it can get tricky though with the quick change to the B-minor. But, good news! A new trick I learned the past few weeks: there’s an open (non-barred) version of B-minor which works amazingly well for this song, which I’ll share in this lesson. So, let’s get into it!

Video lesson timestamps:

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Members-Only Bonus Content

Extended Video Lesson

For current members on my Patreon page, I have an extended video lesson where I tackle a few additional aspects of this song. This includes a full play-along cover, where you can hear how I play the entire song (using fingerstyle for the first half, and strumming for the second half). I also show you the vocal melody tabs, verse fingerstyle tabs, and explain how to use the backing track.

Backing Track

I also made a 5-minute backing track to use while practicing this song. This track counts in one measure, and then cycles through the main progression for the entire track. In my members-only video lesson I give a walk-through on how to use it while practicing. The audio file is attached to this song’s post on my Patreon page, which is linked below.

Simpler Options for B-minor

If you have trouble playing B-minor in the typical barre-chord manner — or even if you can play it like that but don’t want to – check out this lesson where I show some easier alternatives. In fact, the second voicing I show in this lesson (x2023x) is what I prefer to use when playing A Pirate Looks at 40. You still get the bass note on the 5th string, as well as the 3rd fret note on the 2nd string – but don’t need to worry about barring anything. Makes it nice and easy! View full lesson notes or get the Patreon PDF »

Fingerpicking Overview: Travis Picking vs. Traditional Fingerstyle

If you’re new to fingerpicking guitar and want an overview of different ways your right-hand fingers play the six guitar strings, this lesson is for you. I made it to explain the difference between “Travis Picking” (where your right thumb & index do most of the work) and one-finger-per-string fingerstyle, which how I tend to fingerpick this song. My video and PDF include some helpful diagrams and example riffs to show you both techniques in action. View full lesson notes or get the Patreon PDF »

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📝 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)

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List of My Beginner-Friendly Song Lessons


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May 4, 2022

Easier Ways to Play B-minor (No Barring Required)

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Two easier ways to play B-minor, using open chord voicings — super helpful to have these in your toolkit. Includes different practice riffs to accompany each chord voicing.

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Yellowstone-Inspired Slides, Syncopation, and Double-Stops

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Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown Chords, Explained

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