“Big Yellow Taxi” was the sole single from Joni Mitchell’s 1970 album, Ladies of the Canyon. Though it didn’t crack the Top 40 (it charted at No. 67 on the Billboard singles chart), that doesn’t accurately reflect its success. Covered by plenty of other acts—including Bob Dylan, Amy Grant, and Counting Crows—“Big Yellow Taxi” became one of Mitchell’s most popular songs.
Mitchell recorded the song in open-E tuning. If you’re concerned about tuning your fifth, fourth, and third strings up to B, E, and G#, respectively, tune down to open D and put a capo on the second fret. This will relieve strain on both your strings and your guitar’s neck. Strum quietly through the first half of each chorus, using Strum Pattern 2. Mitchell’s verse strumming pattern (Pattern 1) relies on a bit of string damping to keep things percussively moving forward. For the Xs in the strum pattern, lift your fretting-hand fingers enough to dampen the strings, and strum through the dampened strings to create a percussive “chuck” sound. Try the intro to sound more like the recording, and add sections from the last four bars of the intro riff to the ends of each verse phrase to emulate Mitchell’s fills throughout.
This article originally appeared in the November 2006 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine and was reprinted in the September/October 2020 issue.
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 September/October 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 69.
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