Guitar lesson for

Simple Man

by Lynyrd Skynyrd  •  Lesson #56

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

In this lesson, I show you how to play the song “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd on an acoustic guitar. I’ll show you how to play the chords needed, the strumming patterns, the distinctive riffs (easy and intermediate versions), and also the picking pattern heard in the intro of the song. Tabs and chord charts are included. Note, I’ll be playing in standard tuning (note, you must tune down one-half step to play along with the Lynyrd Skynyrd version).

Video timestamps:

Chords you’ll need

Three chords for the entire song!

E –––0––––3––––0–––
B –––1––––0––––1–––
G –––0––––0––––2–––
D –––2––––0––––2–––
A –––3––––2––––0–––
E ––––––––3––––––––
     C    G    Am  

Chord progressions

Same chord progression for the entire song! One measure of C, one measure of G, two measures of A-minor. Repeat that, literally, for the entire song. Whether you (or your pals) are strumming, picking, soloing, or playing the jazz flute – these are the chords you’ll want to be living in.

C . . . G . . . Am . . . Am . . .

Strumming pattern

If you’re super new to guitar, start with downstrums on the “1” and “3” counts only:

>       >       >       >  
↓       ↓       ↓       ↓      
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Then, taken a tad further with difficulty, I recommend this:

>       >       >       >  
↓       ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓       ↓   ↓ ↑
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

The riff

By “riff” I’m referring to the distinctive fill you hear played by the lead guitar / bass / whatever. This is probably played in many ways, by many instruments, over the course of the song… and I’m not interested in providing an exact recreation of what each instrument does. Rather, I’d prefer to give you the building blocks to (1) learn the simplest possible version of this riff, (2) learn a slightly more intermediate version of the riff, so you can (3) take the song wherever you want to go with your future practicing. In summary, think of my notes here as a launchpad – and not as a complete canonical archive of complete truth. The former is going to be far more helpful to most people.

A final note: pay attention to the counting. Notice how you’re “counting into” each new measure (of four beats) by playing the walk-up notes on the “four and” at the end of each measure. See my video lesson for a pretty thorough walkthrough of this counting stuff.

Simple version

Start with this one, especially if you’re newer to guitar. All riff notes occur on the lowest two strings, which is nice.

E ––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
B ––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
G ––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
D ––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
A ––––0––2––|––3–––––––––––––––––3––2––|–––––––––––––––––––––––2––|–
E ––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––3–––––––––––––––––3–––––|–
   +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +    
               C                          G                         

               1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +
               Am                         Am

Intermediate version

Taken to the next level, here’s a slightly more difficult version to play (that sounds more complete). The walk-in notes are a bit more complicated (you sometime use the D string, you sometimes start walking in on the half-beat before the “4 and”, etc). There’s also an opportunity to strum or pick the full chord used in each measure – which I show in parantheses here. Again, listen to my video lesson to see this in action.

E ––––––––––|–––––––(0)––––––––––––––––|–––––––(3)––––––––––––––––|–
B ––––––––––|–––––––(1)––––––––––––––––|–––––––(0)––––––––––––––––|–
G ––––––––––|–––––––(0)––––––––––––––––|–––––––(0)––––––––––––––––|–
D ––––––––––|–––––––(2)–––––––2––0–––––|–––––––(0)–––––––2––0–––––|–
A ––––0––2––|––3––––(3)–––––––––––––3––|–––––––(2)–––––––––––––3––|–
E ––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––3––––(3)––––––––––––––––|–
   +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +
               C                          G

               1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +
               Am                         Am

Picking pattern

Alright! Finally, the picking pattern. This is what you hear in the intro to the song, and throughout the verse. This is challenging to learn in its own right (memorizing the pattern for each measure; getting your picking up/down direction polished; not accidentally hitting the other strings; etc). If this is your thing, learn it! If you’re not sure this is your thing, learn it anyway! If nothing else, it is a good practice exercise. Just the same, you could strum the song 100% and never bother with this.

E ––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
B ––––––––––|––––––––––––––1–––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
G ––––––––––|–––––0–––––––––––0–––––0––|––––––––––––––0––––––––0––|–
D ––––––––––|––––––––2–––––––––––2–––––|–––––0–––––––––––0––––––––|–
A ––––0––2––|––3––––––––3––––––––––––––|––––––––2–––––––––––2–––––|–
E ––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––3––––––––3––––––––––––––|–
   +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +
               C                          G

               1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +     1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +
               Am                         Am



    C . . . G . . . Am . . . Am . . .   (with riff, play 4x)


     C        G              Am
Mama told me..... when I was young
           C        G           Am
Come sit beside me..... my only son
           C        G             Am
And listen closely..... to what I say
           C              G                  Am      
And if you do this, it'll help you... some sunny day

    [ intro riff x 2, with heavy lead guitar ]

              C      G                 Am
Oh, take your time..... don't live too fast
              C      G                Am
Troubles will come..... and they will pass
              C      G                 Am
You'll find a woman.... and you'll find love
             C                    G             Am
And don't forget, son... there is someone up---- above

             C       G            Am
    And be a simple------ kind of man
           C          G                     Am
    Oh, be something..... you love and understand
               C       G          Am
    Baby, be a simple---- kind of man
                  C               G             Am
    Oh, won't you do this for me, son... if you can

    [ intro riff x 1 ]

[ repeat C-G-Am-Am progression for remaining verse & chorus sections]

Forget your lust for the rich man's gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied

    And be a simple kind of man
    Oh, be something you love and understand
    Baby be a simple kind of man
    Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can (Oh yes, I will)

[ intro riff, with solo ]

Boy, don't you worry, you'll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied

    And be a simple kind of man
    Oh, be something you love and understand
    Baby be a simple kind of man
    Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can

    [ repeat chorus, fade out, end ]

Hope that helps!

Let me know how things work for you when learning this song! Hopefully well. Hit me up with any comments / questions / etc.

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