Guitar lesson for

Dead Flowers

by Townes Van Zandt  •  Lesson #79

Video lesson

Get the sheet music(3 pages)

  • A properly licensed, print-friendly arrangement is available for individual purchase at Musicnotes.com
  • This sheet music was designed & hand-crafted by me (David Potsiadlo) with care, providing you with everything needed to both learn and play this song.
  • On the fence? Here's a video guide I made showing the purchase & print process.
Buy at Musicnotes.com

Patreon supporters: click here to get the 50% off discount code on this purchase

Editor’s notes

In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to pick up your guitar and play “Dead Flowers” in the style of Townes Van Zandt – who plays the version you hear in the final scene of The Big Lebowski. This is originally a Rolling Stones song, but I fell in love with Van Zandt’s version and wanted to share how I play it. I cannot quite fingerpick the way way Van Zandt does, so I show a bit of a strummier version – though I do borrow some of his fun acoustic fills. Check it out and enjoy!

Video timestamps:

Lyrics with chords

See my sheet music for the lyrics, chords, and intro tab.

Editor’s notes

This is originally a Rolling Stones song, but my heart belongs to the Townes Van Zandt cover of it heard in the final scene of The Big Lebowski. At the time I learned this song, the Townes Van Zandt version could only be found on YouTube – it isn’t on any of the streaming music services. I implore you to listen to his version to hear the source material I’m trying to emulate.

Note, I cannot play the guitar in the style that Townes Van Zandt can. He’s doing some very intricate Travis-style fingerpicking. I’m doing a bit of a hybrid between strumming and some accented melodic picking (with my pick). So, all my tabs below are based on my attempt to play like him – though again, it’s in that very different style. I wanted to note all of this before getting to the lesson.

Chords needed

You’ll only need C, F, and G for this song. Here are the standard ways to play these chords:

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

For the F, you have a few additional options to simplify the chord. Do what works for you. I honestly play the Fmaj7 (xx321x) most of the time. This lets you do the main riff hammer-on a bit easier – more on that later. Play what you like.

E |–––1–––––––––––0–––––
B |–––1–––––1–––––1–––––
G |–––2–––––2–––––2–––––
D |–––3–––––3–––––3–––––
A |–––––––––3–––––––––––
E |–––––––––––––––––––––
      F     F   Fmaj7

For the G, you’ll want to be familiar with this position, where the high E string is left open while the B string has a finger pressing the third fret down. Again, more on this later – but in summary, it’ll help you with the main riff.

E |–––0–––
B |–––3–––
G |–––0–––
D |–––0–––
A |–––2–––
E |–––3–––
      G  

Chord progressions

Verse:

"When you're sitting there..."    
C . . . G . . . F . . . C . . .  x4

Chorus:

"Take me down little Susie..."
G . . . G . . . C . . . C . . .  x2

"Send me dead flowers..."
F . . . F . . . C . . . C . . .  x3

"And I wont forget to put flowers..."
C . . . G . . . F . . . C . . .  x1

Main riff

Here’s the very distinctive riff you’ll hear in the intro of this song. This shows the chords you’ll need to play, in addition to the key melody notes you’ll want to integrate into your strumming / plucking / picking. Note, I didn’t learn this as a proper Travis-picking style song (which is how Townes plays it), so had to make do with this simplified arrangement. See my video lesson for reference!

See my sheet music for the intro tab, as played in my video lesson.

Other riffs

There are many of these little flourish riffs heard in the Townes Van Zandt recording of this song – far too many for me to include here. Many of them are clearly improvised and not planned. Below, there are three of the more distinct riffs that I’ve cherry picked and used when I play the song. These can be heard in my video lesson. All of these riffs are played during the chorus, when you’re on C for two full measures and have some time to kill before going back to F (just before each “Send me dead flowers…” lyric).

Transition riff #1

First, you have this one, which is quite circular in sound:

See my sheet music for the tab.

Transition riff #2

Second, you have this one which is basically a quick jump to a F/C, before going back to the C (and then resolving to a full proper F):

See my sheet music for the tab.

Transition riff #3

Third, you have this one, which has a nice walk-down descending sound:

See my sheet music for the tab.

Good luck!

I hope this lesson helped. I had a lot of fun learning this song, and hope you do too.

Get my lessons in your inbox!

Every couple weeks I send out an email newsletter with links to whatever new lessons I've made. Sign up here and stay in the loop!


Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!

If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).

You can also support me on Patreon. For only $5/month you'll get access to a print-friendly PDF of my notes for each new lesson (view free sample).

Thanks!


Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!


Recent video lessons:

📝 My "song" PDFs are now individually purcasheable! I've arranged a licensing agreement with Musicnotes, a service that lets you buy my sheet music arrangements. Patreon supporters get 50% off each purchase. Learn more here »

June 22, 2022

How to Make Drum Tracks Using GarageBand's Beat Sequencer

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #442

A beginner's guide to using GarageBand's Beat Sequencer tool to create custom drum beats! Even if you're a total novice when it comes to drumming (like me), I'll walk you through the basic steps to create rich-sounding drum tracks to play over while practicing or performing.

May 27, 2022

Creating a Fingerstyle Arrangement of Tom Petty's "American Girl"

Practice Log  •  Lesson #438

A few years after learning American Girl the way Tom Petty plays it, I returned to it — this time determined to work out a low-key, easy-going fingerstyle arrangement. Here's how it went!

Patreon PDF

May 22, 2022

Using Triads & Double-Stops to Punch Up a Melody

Practice Log  •  Lesson #436

As part of my Learning Lead Guitar series, I share a realization I recently had showing different ways to fill out melody lines using triads, double-stops, and harmonized sixths.

Patreon PDF

May 19, 2022

Q&A: Learning a Song for a Wedding? Here's My Advice.

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #435

I answer an audience question about how to go about learning a song (with a tricky riff) for a peformance at a family wedding.

Patreon PDF

May 12, 2022

List of My Beginner-Friendly Song Lessons

About

After many requests from y'all, I finally created this list of all my beginner-friendly song lessons! These are grouped by key, allowing you to take the chord shapes you already know and find other songs using those same shapes.

Patreon PDF

May 4, 2022

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

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #431

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.

Patreon PDF

Browse my all lessons

By lesson type

By song decade

By musical genre

By guitar technique

By musical key

By popular artist


← back to lesson list