Guitar lesson for

Harvest Moon

by Neil Young  •  Lesson #92

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

In this lesson I’ll show you how to play “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young. This is a beautiful gem of a song. It uses drop-d tuning (I’ll explain this), and some very creative voicing of the D-chord. I’ll show you the chords needed, explain the strumming patterns, and of course show you tabs for all of the above. I hope you enjoy! This song was a true pleasure to learn.

Lyrics w/ chords

112 beats per minute, key of D. Drop-d tuning optional.


D-riff #1 (played 4 times... see PDF for tab)


Em                           Em                        D-riff #2       D-riff #2
...Come a little bit closer....... hear what I have to say......................
Em                              Em                             D-riff #2       D-riff #2
...Just like children sleepin'...... we could dream this night away

G                                   G                           D-riff #1    D-riff #1
...But there's a full moon risin'...... let's go dancin' in the light  
G                                     G                             D-riff #1    D-riff #1
...We know where the music's playin'..... let's go out and feel the night


    A7sus4                                 A7                               (A7sus4)
    ........Because I'm still in love with you..... I want to see you dance again
    A7sus4                                 A7                       D-riff #1
    ........Because I'm still in love with you..... on this harvest moon

Em                           Em                        D-riff #2       D-riff #2
...When we were strangers......... I watched you from afar
Em                           Em                            D-riff #2       D-riff #2
...When we were lovers............ I loved you with all my heart

G                               G                           D-riff #1    D-riff #1
...But now it's gettin' late...... and the moon is climbin' high
G                               G                         D-riff #1    D-riff #1
...I want to celebrate............ see it shinin' in your eye

    A7sus4                                 A7                               (A7sus4)
    ........Because I'm still in love with you..... I want to see you dance again
    A7sus4                                 A7                       D-riff #1
    ........Because I'm still in love with you..... on this harvest moon

Drop-D tuning

The tabs below assume you’ve tuned your low-E string down to a “D” note (aka drop-D tuning). See my video lesson for reference here. A quick cheat to do this: use your 4th string (which is also D, though an octave higher) as a reference note. Lower the low-E string until the 6th string sounds the same as the 4th string. Then, you can play a D chord with all six strings (i.e., 000232) and it sounds great!

My approach to these tabs

The tabs below aren’t going to attempt to capture the timing, individual down-strums & up-strums, and other such subtleties. If you’re looking for that type of tab, search and you’ll likely find what you’re looking for (example). In my opinion, you have to learn the chord shapes (below) and trust your ear. Practice. Listen to Neil Young play this (album version, and live versions). Listen to covers of it. Find a groove and style that works for you.

Ultimately, there are only four main guitar sections needed – and they overlap quite a bit with the chord shapes needed. While it is hard to execute with Neil Young precision, it isn’t a lot to memorize. So print this out, write it down, memorize it, take it slow, work out a version that works for you – and most importantly, have fun! For this is a beautiful song and we’re lucky to have it.

Song structure

Sequence #1:

(Song intro and after each chorus)

<!-- [ See PDF for tab ] -->

e ––––0–––––––0–––––––9–––––
B ––––10––––––12––––––10––––
G ––––11––––––11––––––11––––
D ––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––
A –––(0)––––––––––––––––––––
D –––(0)––––––––––––––––––––
      D-riff #1

Sequence #2:

"Come a little bit closer... hear what I have to say..."

<!-- [ See PDF for tab ] -->

e ––––0––––   –––(2)––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––––0––––   ––––3––––––2––––––2––––––3––––
G ––––0––––   ––––2––––––2––––––2––––––2––––
D ––––2––––   ––––0––––––0––––––2––––––4––––
A ––––2––––   ––––0––––––0––––––0––––––0––––
D ––––2––––   ––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––
      Em          D-riff #2

Sequence #3:

"But there's a full moon rising, let's go dancing in the light..."

<!-- [ See PDF for tab ] -->

e ––––3––––   ––––0–––––––0–––––––9–––––
B ––––0––––   ––––10––––––12––––––10––––
G ––––0––––   ––––11––––––11––––––11––––
D ––––0––––   ––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––
A ––––x––––   –––(0)––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––5––––   –––(0)––––––––––––––––––––
      G           D-riff #1

Sequence #4:

"Because I'm still in love with you, I wanna see you dance again..."

<!-- [ See PDF for tab ] -->

e ––––0––––   ––––0––––
B ––––3––––   ––––2––––
G ––––0––––   ––––0––––
D ––––2––––   ––––2––––
A ––––0––––   ––––0––––
D –––––––––   –––––––––
    A7sus4        A7  

Diving into the two main guitar riffs

So, I want to flesh these out a bit to aid you with strumming help. Shown below is how each riff aligns with the rhythmic counting – mainly, noting where the accented strums should be. Note, you can feel free to insert additional strums as you wish! My advice is to take things gentle, subtle, and conservatively – this song is one where you don’t want to over-do it.

D-riff #1

This is heard during the intro, during sequence #3, and after each chorus.

<!-- [ See PDF for tab ] -->

v = down strum
^ = up strum

e ––––––––0–––––0––––––––––––––9–––––9–––––9–––––9–––
B ––––––––10––––12–––––––––––––10––––10––––10––––10––
G ––––––––11––––11–––––––––––––11––––11––––11––––11––
D ––––––––0–––––0––––––––––––––0–––––0–––––0–––––0–––
A –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    v     v     v              ^     ^     ^     ^  
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  

D-riff #2

This is heard within sequence #2.

<!-- [ See PDF for tab ] -->

v = down strum
^ = up strum

e –––––––(2)––––––––––––––––––(2)––––––––––––––––––––
B ––––––––3––3––3––3–––––3–––––2–––––2–––––2––3––2–––
G ––––––––2––2––2––2–––––2–––––2–––––2–––––2––2––2–––
D ––––––––0––0––0––0–––––0–––––0–––––2–––––2––4––2–––
A –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––0––0––0–––
D ––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    v     v  ^  v  ^     ^     ^     ^     ^  v  ^
    1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  

Good luck!

Thanks for reading! I hope this helped you.

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