From the August 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

Sometime in the late 1600s or early 1700s—the exact date isn’t known—the German composer Johann Pachelbel wrote his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo. The piece was initially well received, but as Baroque music went out of fashion, it lay in obscurity for centuries, until a 1968 interpretation by the French conductor Jean-François Paillard led to many other recordings and performances. 

By the 1980s, “Pachelbel’s Canon,” as it’s informally named, was one of the most well-known pieces in the classical canon—at least by the general public. Its stately, repetitive chord progression continues to make it a remarkably common selection for wedding processions.

A recent survey of AG readers suggests that they have either attended or performed at an abundance of weddings, as “Pachelbel’s Canon” was an often-requested selection. Due to popular demand, the composition is presented here for guitar in a compact arrangement that will sound just as good on the steel-string as the nylon-string.


The piece is in the key of D, and the arrangement is in dropped-D tuning, as the open sixth string adds depth and richness on select D chords. That familiar four-bar progression—D–A–Bm–F#–G–D–G–A, two chords per measure—repeats throughout while the melody receives a bunch of variations.

These variations can be played on guitar with pretty standard fingerings—remember to fret the low G with your fourth finger, and the melody notes should fall into place. Things get a little tricky, though, in bars 14–15 and 17–20, where the fretting hand needs to do a bit of gymnastics to play the melody. Follow the suggested fingerings, or work up some of your own. 



This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.