It might seem incongruous to see “I Feel for You,” a song made popular by the R&B singer Chaka Khan in the mid-1980s, in this magazine. Sure, it’s a classic, but there’s nothing even faintly acoustic about Khan’s version of this Prince tune, with its dominant synth and drum programming. Prince himself had recorded the song for his 1979 self-titled sophomore album, and a newly released demo, which is quite the revelation, finds him singing it while accompanying himself on a steel-string.
Prince, the musical force who died in 2016 at the age of 57, was known to break into pyrotechnical solos on the electric guitar, but the “I Feel for You” demo shows more subtle aspects of the artist’s prodigious command of music, particularly his grasp of fretboard harmony. The song’s fancy chords—13ths and ninths, more of what you’d expect to find on a jazz outing than a pop tune—lend a chic air to the proceedings.
If you’re unfamiliar with the chord grips shown here, I’d recommend taking the time to get to know them, as they’re useful voicings to have in your vocabulary. Try the suggested fingerings, but if any are uncomfortable, feel free to adjust them. For instance, on the F#13sus4–F#13 move, if it’s awkward to fret the sixth string with your thumb, try using your first and second fingers on strings 6 and 4 and barre strings 2 and 3 with your fourth finger for the F#13sus4 chord; keep your first and second fingers in place for the F#13, but play the notes on strings 3 and 2 with your third and fourth fingers, respectively.
Prince’s strumming on the demo is so funky that it practically defies notation, but you can approximate his general approach by moving your picking hand in a continuous, up-and-down 16th-note motion (even when you’re not coming into contact with the strings) and muting the strings with your fretting fingers at strategic points, indicated in the notation and tablature as Xs. For added rhythmic intensity, try slapping the strings percussively with your picking hand on beats 2 and 4.
The four-bar transcription here shows what Prince plays in the first four bars of the demo—a rhythmic figure that also loops throughout the verse. Note that Prince sometimes mutes the 13th (D# on string 2, fret 4) on the F#maj13 chord. Also, check out the R&B-style fill that Prince plays at the end of the figure, which he never does quite the same way twice on the demo. Stop the fourth- and sixth-fret notes with your first and third fingers, respectively, but if you find the fill gets in the way of the groove for you, just omit it and keep strumming.
Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the March/April 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 74.